Grand National Trial Tips: The Lord can strike again

It's likely to be particularly testing at Haydock on Saturday afternoon.
It's likely to be particularly testing at Haydock on Saturday afternoon.

Nick Seddon previews Saturday’s Grand National Trial at Haydock Park, which will be run in particularly attritional conditions if surviving any further knocks from Storm Dennis…

Haydock’s Grand National Trial has a pretty miserable record when it comes to producing a bona fide contender for Aintree, and although each of Freebooter, Party Politics and the great Red Rum have won both races during their careers, no horse has ever managed to follow up at Aintree in the same season. 

This year’s renewal feels more like a trial than usual, however, and provided it survives any inspections on Saturday morning, seven of the 11-strong field will line-up with an entry for the Grand National on their itinerary. 

One of those horses is the Colin Tizzard-trained Elegant Escape, who will have to concede 5 lb to the field here. A top-class staying chaser on his day, Elegant Escape has produced some excellent efforts in this sphere over the last couple of seasons, finishing a fine third under a big weight in the Ladbrokes Trophy back in November. However, he hasn’t managed to get his nose in front since striking in the 2018 Welsh Grand National at Chepstow - finishing a solid sixth in that race last time - and although he will likely give this a good go, this is a big ask off his current mark.

Another who’s been shown no mercy by the handicapper is Vintage Clouds, who’s been hit with an 11 lb rise in the weights for his commanding win in the Peter Marsh over three miles here last month. It seemed likely that he’d swerve an engagement at Aintree this year after two unhappy outings over the National Course, but it’s no secret that Trevor Hemmings has a longstanding love affair with the Grand National, and the race is now seemingly back on his agenda. He’s been a remarkably consistent type for the Sue Smith team in this sphere, for all that he perhaps doesn’t win as often as his talent entitles him to, and he’ll be on the premises once again - particularly if handed another attacking ride like he was last time out. 

Yala Enki was a dominant winner of this race two years ago in similarly tough conditions, recording a 54-length success. He’s been switched to the Paul Nicholls yard this season, and like plenty from Ditcheat, he’s been cannily campaigned in his three starts for his new trainer - finishing an excellent third in the Welsh National in December, before winning a valuable contest at Taunton last time. It looks as though a Grand National bid is firmly on the cards for him this season, and although he’s 11 lb higher than when winning this two years ago, he arrives here in good heart, and conditions will suit.

One horse who lines up on a particularly attractive mark is the 2017 Grand National hero One For Arthur, who’s been ticking over quite nicely in his two starts so far this term, catching the eye when fifth in the Becher Chase last time. The cancellation of Thursday’s card at Kelso means he heads here instead, and he has to have a fine chance now he's back down to his National-winning mark, though it’s likely that he’s been trained with the view to peaking in April - and this is simply tuning him up.

Two more with strong form in the staying chasing sphere are The Two Amigos and Ballyoptic. The former is one of four in this who are without an entry at Aintree, but he’s a ‘National’ winner in his own right, winning the Plumpton equivalent in January 2019. He’s failed to win since, falling in last year’s renewal of this race when well-supported, but he’s been shaping well in his three starts so far this term and there could be a bigger performance to come yet. Ballyoptic has long been a stayer with great potential, and he looked as though he was finally starting to live up to it when winning the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in November, taking some notable scalps in the process. However, he’s struggled in two starts since, including in the Betfair Chase at this venue, and his mark looks steep enough at present.   

Previous course form is a big bonus at Haydock, particularly when the going becomes particularly testing, and one horse who’s quickly becoming a specialist at this venue is the improving Lord Du Mesnil - who picked up two valuable successes here in the space of 10 days over the festive period. The seven-year-old took quite a while to click into place for the Richard Hobson team, but he arrives here on the back of a hat-trick of wins, and having improved a whopping 32 lb on official ratings. He looked a staying chaser to follow when winning The Last Fling Chase over course and distance in December, and while this is a step up in class, he could well be up to the task. 

Selection

Grand National Trial, Haydock Park, Saturday 15th February 2020 - back Lord Du Mesnil at 5/1

Tip

Grand National Trial
Lord Du Mesnil silk

Lord Du Mesnil

placed
Grand National Weights

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