Three to watch in the Grand National Trial
With less than a month until the Cheltenham roar goes up, spring in this year’s National Hunt season is now in sight.
Whilst a trip to Gloucestershire is now very much on the mind for trainers, jockey and indeed punters alike, it is also only two months until the Randox Grand National.
As the first steps toward Aintree near then, this weekend sees the Grand National Trial Handicap Chase over 3m4½f at neighbouring Haydock Park.
With the winner pocketing just shy of £57k a number rides may yet also be teasing a trip over the most famous horse race on the planet in April, so who are we looking out for in Saturday’s contest?
Bristol De Mai
In the first of Saturday’s picks to watch, Bristol De Mai may not have the best form to go on, but the veteran gelding’s record at Haydock is supreme.
Though Nigel Twiston-Davies’ 12yo may not go in Aintree’s showpiece, another trip around the neighbouring Merseyside racecourse could bring further fortune.
As a six-time former winner on the trip but with just one outing this season, this could be a final fling this year with the old monsieur looking to win big before retiring.
With just one National appearance in 2021, three further runs in the Betway Bowl across Grand National weekend are already in the rear-view mirrors; that could again be his destination one more time.
What better way to approach a trip to Liverpool than with an eye-catching journey at Haydock?
Though three of the last six have resulted in being pulled up well off the pace, as marginal second favourite to compatriot Fontaine Collonges here, we think Bristol De Mai is a good 6/1 price with William Hill.
As we glance slightly further down the racecard, for better value, Grumpy Charley might suit.
After James Bowen took the reins at Warwick last month – when pulled up – Bryan Carver jumps into the seat here, where the last time he did, the Irishman rode Charley to victory at Newbury when moving up in trip on New Year’s Eve – the gelding’s fifth win but a first over increased distance.
Carver has won with Grumpy Charley on four of those occasions, but of quiet caution, the only other time the pair have rode at Haydock was in December 2020.
On that day, however, the 8yo was a massive 33/1 runner-up to Adrimel in the Introductory Hurdle.
Though Grumpy Charley has a chequered record to say the least, trainer Chris Honour will be eyeing a strong contest for the British son of Shirocco here.
A massive 66/1 price currently for the National when he goes likely again, as Noble Yeats sensationally proved in 2022, that need not be a factor.
Nor should it be to go very well this weekend at 18/1 with PaddyPower.
For our third and final pick, is it time for Snow Leopardess to show her colours?
Though the next two races will shape whether the grey mare makes a second National appearance in April, having made her debut at Aintree last year, the now 11yo was pulled up early at a price of 10/1 where many punters had fancied her to do very well.
A nine-time winner on the track, Snow Leopardess’ biggest win to date is surely the Becher in December 2021 at Aintree but has a potential bigger win in the locker.
A 16/1 shot with bet365, if she performs this weekend, a return run out in the National looks likely after making the trip to Cheltenham for the Glenfarclas next month.
Without a win this term in four, Snow Leopardess was in the shake-up coming home sixth in the Handicap Trial of that very race last month, but is now the time ready for this lady in waiting to make her move?