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Eight horses that caught the eye in defeat at the Randox Grand National meeting

By Harry Allwood@H_Allwood1
Tue 13 Apr 2021

Harry Allwood kept a close eye on the racing action at the 2021 Randox Grand National meeting at Aintree and selects eight horses who caught the eye in defeat.

Horse: HITMAN

Race: Third in the Sss Super Alloys Manifesto Novices' Chase (1.45pm, Thursday)

A horse that has always been held in high regard by Paul Nicholls, Hitman ran another promising race in this Grade One contest on Thursday.

The former French recruit travelled like the best horse in the race, and despite a couple of mistakes, his jumping was good overall.

Nicholls said on Racing TV afterwards that Hitman “is not the finished article yet” and is sure his youngster “will strengthen up” next season, which was no suprise as the five-year-old looked a shade weak in the finish, although he did race exuberantly early on, which would not have helped his cause.

Interestingly, the 11-times champion trainer also said Hitman has plenty of speed and may be an ideal horse for the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter ahead of a tilt at the Tingle Creek next season.

He’s only going to improve as he gets older and is a hugely exciting chaser for the future.

Horse: SULLY D'OC AA

Race: Second in the Close Brothers Red Rum Handicap Chase (4.40pm, Thursday)

Having looked as though he was going to fail to land a blow up the home straight, Sully D’Oc AA stayed on strongly to finish second in this two-mile contest over a trip that is probably shorter than ideal.

It took a while for Anthony Honeyball's charge to hit top gear, and he was unable to catch the winner who got first run on him under an astute ride from Josh Moore.

Sully D'Oc AA had previously caught the eye on his first run following a break at the Cheltenham Festival where he didn’t get the clearest of runs, and his performance at Aintree was another career-best effort.

The only downside to this run is that he has been raised 5lb by the handicapper, but he is on the upgrade, and is only a seven-year-old, so it's unlikely he will have finished improving yet, especially when he steps back up in trip again.

Horse: MISTER COFFEY

Race: Fourth in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (1.45pm, Friday)

Mister Coffey ran a race full of promise in the Betfair Hurdle in February where he shaped as though he would benefit from a step up in trip and looked unlucky not to finish closer at Aintree on Friday on his first start over 2m4f.

The son of Derby winner Authorized met plenty of traffic problems up the home straight before staying on strongly to snatch fourth, and although it is hard to say if he would have beaten the winner, he would have surely finished a place or two closer had he endured a clear run.

The six-year-old also raced keenly throughout the contest, and it was a surprise he finished off the race as well he did following those exertions.

Mister Coffey has been raised a pound for this run, and on this evidence, he is surely capable of landing a nice prize over this trip off his new rating.

Horse: DUSART

Race: Third in the Betway Top Novices' Hurdle (2.20pm, Friday)

Dusart went into plenty of notebooks when he defeated Betfair Hurdle winner Soaring Glory on his debut in November, but an injury kept the exciting youngster off the track until Aintree on Friday.

The half-brother to the highly-talented Simonsig was being cajoled along a long way from home, but stuck to his task well, and the lack of experience, and a recent run, would have been against him.

It would be a surprise if connections do not consider running their six-year-old again this season, given he has only had two starts, and he is sure to be sent over fences next season.

This may not have been the strongest Grade One, but I expect Dusart will turn out to be the best horse in the race and he clearly has a bright future, judged on the promise he has shown so far.

Horse: ESPOIR DE ROMAY

Race: Fell in the Betway Mildmay Novices' Chase (2.50pm, Friday)

It is hard to say if Espoir De Romay would have beaten Chantry House had he not fallen at the second last, but it would certainly have been close between the pair, as neither had been asked for their full effort.

Whatever the outcome, Espoir De Romay was in the process of producing a career-best effort and had his rivals in trouble a long way from home having produced an exhibition round of jumping up until his departure.

Admittedly, some of his rivals are likely to have been feeling the effects from their exertions at the Cheltenham Festival, including Chantry House, but nevertheless, Espoir De Romay proved here that he is worth campaigning at this level next season.

This was just his ninth career start, and he surely has more to give, especially over this trip.

Horse: RESERVE TANK

Race: Pulled up in the Eft Systems Handicap Hurdle (1.45pm, Saturday)

This may not look the most obvious eyecatcher on paper, but Reserve Tank had travelled powerfully throughout the race before he was hampered twice in quick succession on the bend at the end of the home straight and was eased by Robbie Power once his chance had gone.

A dual Grade One winner over hurdles, Reserve Tank showed plenty of promise over fences before he was injured at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, and was not seen again until finishing fifth at Fontwell in February.

Colin Tizzard’s gelding never really travelled in the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, and I expect he bounced following his comeback run in the National Spirit Hurdle.

There were definitely more positive signs at Aintree, and it is wise to think he would have played a part in the finish given how well he was travelling before he was impeded.

He’s not one to give up on yet, and as an added bonus, he’s been dropped another 3lb following this run.

Horse: THOMAS DARBY

Race: Third in the Ryanair Stayers Hurdle (3.35pm, Saturday)

Thomas Darby produced arguably a career-best effort on his first start over three miles in the Ryanair Stayers Hurdle on Saturday.

The eight-year-old travelled strongly into contention, and found only Thyme Hill and Roksana, both Grade One performers, too good, but pulled clear of the remainder.

Olly Murphy’s classy hurdler has shaped as though the step up to this trip would suit on more than one occasion, and it would be a surprise if connections do not campaign him over three miles next season.

This opens up plenty more options, and there’s a chance he could have more to offer over this new trip.

Horse: PEKING ROSE

Race: Second in the Weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk Standard Open National Hunt Flat (6.20pm, Saturday)

He may have been sent off at 50-1, but Peking Rose ran a huge race to finish half a length behind Knappers Hill in the Grade Two Bumper on Saturday and was closing on the winner towards the line.

The youngster came under pressure entering the home straight where he ran green and appeared to become a shade outpaced before staying on again in the final two furlongs.

This run signalled a step up in trip would be on the horizon and, being related to a number of winners who stayed further than two miles, his breeding also suggests he will improve for an extra few furlongs.

He clearly has plenty of ability, and the Fergal O’Brien team have an exciting youngster on their hands.

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