Friday, February 14, 2020

Haydock's Grand National Trial

There hasn't been an awful lot of racing this week and my bank balance looks all the better for it.

Tomorrow's cards hang in the balance with Storm Dennis threatening to bring heavy rain and strong winds; early morning inspections are scheduled at Ascot, Haydock, Wincanton and Lingfield.

The going at Haydock is currently heavy, soft in places on the hurdle course.

Eleven have been declared for the Unibet Grand National Trial Handicap chase at 3.15; Ballyoptic's preferred engagement is in the 2.25 at Ascot.

Course and distance winner Yala Enki finished third in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow over Christmas with The Two Amigos fifth, Elegant Escape sixth and Pobbles Bay eighth; this evening Paul Nicholls' charge heads the market but has been raised 15 pounds for winning at Taunton last month.

The Two Amigos raced enthusiastically from the front in the Welsh National and only faded coming to the last; the slightly shorter trip here may help.

There's a school of thought that Elegant Escape hit one up the home straight and that scuppered his chance. He faces a stiff task off top weight and his jumping is often littered with niggling errors; he underwent wind surgery last month.

Quoting Evan Williams in Straight from the Stable - Weekender 12-16.02.20:

"[Pobbles Bay] is a nice stayer but I think it is fair to say the handicapper has him where he wants at the moment. I thought he ran a lovely race in the Welsh National last time out when eighth, but in truth he wasn't good enough. We will look at the Haydock Grand National Trial next as the track and trip will suit him."

Both Pobbles Bay and Smooth Stepper race from out of the handicap.

Vintage Clouds won the Peter Marsh here four weeks ago (Geronimo third). He jumped with some zest that day, the best I've seen from Sue Smith's charge for some considerable time, but he has gone up 11 pounds while Geronimo is now one pound lower and weighted to reverse the form. All that said, Ryan Mania was hard at work some way from home on Geronimo...

Lord Du Mesnil won over course and distance last time out and the time before beat Vintage Clouds into third in the Tommy Whittle. On his seasonal debut at Stratford in October he started off a mark of 115; tomorrow he starts off 147 with Paul O'Brien able to claim three. No seven-year-old has won this in the past ten years.

One For Arthur won the National off this mark (148) three years ago and clearly retains ability; he underwent a wind operation in December and now sports cheekpieces for the first time. It looks as though connections are using this as a stepping stone to the Aintree showpiece in April so it's difficult to gauge how fit the horse is; last time out he finished just under seventeen lengths behind Walk In The Mill in the Becher Chase.

I'm not convinced Steely Addition will stay this trip in these conditions.

A rushed post. One For Arthur(10/1) is of interest each-way but, given the weather warnings, I'll wait until tomorrow before making any decision.

1 comment:

GeeDee said...

It was something of a shock to see Ascot, Lingfield and Haydock all survive Storm Dennis but there was a much bigger shock in store in the Grand National Trial with Smooth Stepper (33/1) staying on after the last to collect the spoils, one and a half lengths ahead of Lord Du Mensil (6/1).

Alex Hales' charge ran the sort of race I'd dared to hope One For Arthur (12/1) might - mid division and and then slowly picking off opponents up the long home straight.

One For Arthur (12/1) ran in snatches, jumped to his left on occasions and started to lose ground at the back of the field on the final circuit. He was eventually pulled up before the 15th fence and was subsequently found to have a fibrillating heart; he had also lost his left hind shoe.

Smooth Stepper has contested two veterans' chases this season but it mattered not a jot as the gelding recorded his first victory since leaving Sue Smith's yard in November 2018. I still retain a soft spot for this one who did me a favour at Kelso a couple of years ago:

11/4f Yala Enki came home third, over 20 lengths behind the winner.