Grand National Trial Day | Soaring to Glory at Ascot

Grand National Trial

Last week marked a good day for the column ahead of Grand National Trial Day this weekend.

Emitom obliged at 9/2 and Our Champ grabbed a place with William Hill at 33/1, though the day could have been better if Hometown Boy continued his good progress in the penultimate contest at Newbury.

Both Ascot and Haydock look interesting on Saturday, so let’s dig in.


1:37 Haydock – Zhiguli @ 7/2 with William Hill – 2pt Win

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Six runners, heavy ground, and a lack of pace look like ideal conditions for Zhiguli to return to the winners’ enclosure at Haydock.

Trained by Gary Moore, who is running at a 24% strike rate, the nine-year-old is down to a mark of 124 which is two pounds below his last winner mark (March 2023).

The man of the moment, Caolin Quinn, is also in the saddle to steal a further three pounds, so there’s no excuse for his handicap mark today.

On paper, it looks as if he and Top Ville Ben are the only horses who like to run from the front, though the latter has failed to win on his last 12 attempts and his age of 12 would carry a small weight of negativity.

With the first-time cheekpieces applied to keep him focused after his slightly sluggish start in a match race against Quel Destin in early December, the heavy ground should offer no problems considering he won on Lingfield heavy in January 2022 and he is one of my stronger fancies of the day.


1:50 Ascot – Kilbeg King @ 3/1 with William Hill – 1pt Win

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I’ve always had a soft spot for Anthony Honeyball’s Kilbeg King, and today he tries his hand in a winnable Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase.

Based on novice hurdle form, Apple Away is the one with the best form, but Kilbeg King travelled eye-catchingly well in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase on Boxing Day before seeing out his run well.

Il Est Francais set a strong pace alongside Hermes Allen, so Sam Twiston-Davies was able to sit in behind and make his move around the home turn at Kempton.

Unfortunately, he ran into two very smart ones that day, but there’s a potential that both Brave Kingdom and Apple Away could do something similar to Il Est Francais and Hermes Allen as both like to run from the front.

If that is the case, the race could set up nicely for this improving nine-year-old and the fact he is racing here and not in the Swinley Handicap Chase (that he received an entry for) or next week’s Coral Trophy Handicap Chase is interesting.


2:05 Wincanton – Colonel Mustard @ 9/2 with BetVictor – 1pt Win

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The swing in weights between Rubaud and Colonel Mustard from their last meeting at Ayr is 17lbs, a key piece of information that makes me want to side with Colonel Mustard in the Kingwell Hurdle.

The nine-year-old’s stint over fences wasn’t a fruitful one, so today’s return to hurdles is appreciated and the horse has had sufficient time – 78 days – between runs to hopefully allow a nice reintroduction to the smaller obstacles.

Trainer Mrs Lorna Fowler told the Racing Post that they have had the Kingwell Hurdle “earmarked since before Christmas” and that the Champion Hurdle is next on the radar if all goes well today.

If you ignore his last two runs, both of which were over a trip that is probably too far for him, his form when third to State Man in the Grade 1 Paddy Power Champion Hurdle at Punchestown, second in the 2023 Morebattle Hurdle (while giving weight away to recent Betfair Hurdle runner-up L’Eau Du Sud), and third to State Man in the 2022 County Hurdle is the best in this race.

He handles soft conditions – he even skipped last year’s Betfair Hurdle due to quick ground – and today could see him put in a nice round at Wincanton.


2:25 Ascot – Soaring Glory @ 18/1 with William Hill – 1pt EW

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In what is an open-looking £50,000 handicap hurdle at Ascot, I’m taking a chance on Soaring Glory at the prices.

He is on an 11-race losing streak but as such has dropped 17 pounds in the handicap to a workable mark of 132.

With a course form record of 1231, one of which was a success in the 2021 Bateaux London Handicap Hurdle, the test of Ascot suits and better ground is also on the preferred list.

A rekindling of form is required, but he is still relatively unexposed at the two-and-a-half-mile trip having finished third at Aintree in May behind Boombawn, who had form with Teddy Blue and Knappers Hill as a novice hurdler, and Hang In There, who has improved 13lbs over fences since the run.

Today could be the day to catch Soaring Glory, especially due to the form of the Jonjo O’Neill yard (32% strike rate).


3:15 Haydock – Full Back @ 18/1 with BoyleSports – 1pt EW

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On his first run back for 434 days, Full Back put in a pleasing performance during the Fleur De Lys Chase at Lingfield before his fall at the fifth-last.

Priced at 100/1, he was unlikely to win especially because of the long lay-off, but he jumped consistently well until the fall – the tumble itself was not due to technique, he just got in too tight and failed to put out the proper landing gear.

The nine-year-old returns to handicap company today for the Grand National Trial off a mark that is two pounds below his last winning effort in a fair race on soft ground at Cheltenham over 3m2f – this race is his only handicap chase contest to date on soft ground.

Although the horse has been a non-runner on soft ground before, his Authorized half-sister, the Willie Mullins-trained Implicit, won her maiden hurdle on heavy ground and the dam, Quatre Bleue, won once on very soft as well as once on soft during her racing career.

He also has form as a novice chaser on soft ground – notably his success in January 2021 in deplorable conditions at Exeter – so there’s no reason to suggest he will hate this ground.

If he handles the conditions, his handicap mark will allow him to go well today.

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