Deep ground at Haydock Park is not for every horse but Lord Du Mesnil relishes attritional conditions and looks worth backing ante-post at a general 12-1 for the Grand National Trial at the Lancashire venue on Saturday.
Connections of the eight-year-old are entitled to be dreaming of glory at Aintree in April because he stays all day, jumps soundly and is guaranteed a run after being allotted 10st 6lb in the world’s most famous race. A wet spring would be a bonus given his penchant for testing going.
Lord Du Mesnil will definitely get his ground this weekend and, only 2lb higher than when runner-up in last year’s renewal, is clearly weighted to go close. He was unfortunate to bump into a revitalised Smooth Stepper 12 months ago, when the pair drew well clear of two solid staying yardsticks in Yala Enki and The Two Amigos.
He had previously won the Tommy Whittle and The Last Fling (when he thumped Perfect Candidate) that winter at Haydock and clearly has a soft spot for the Lancashire venue. Not that the eight-year-old is a one-tricky pony, though, as he subsequently beat all bar Ravenhill in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
It looks like this season has been all about Aintree in April for him, as he began the campaign with a sighter over hurdles before running over a trip palpably short of his best in the Grand Sefton in December. That outing was surely designed to give him some experience of the Grand National fences.
On his latest start, he was beaten about 20 lengths in the Welsh Grand National but he was not far behind the leaders three out before being left behind on ground, officially good in places, that was not slow enough for him. Eased 3lb and back on heavy terrain at his favourite track, I’ll be disappointed (and poorer) if Richard Hobson’s charge is out of the frame.
The race has attracted 15 entries but I can see it cutting up, to a degree, as several are also engaged in the 3m Listed Handicap Chase at Ascot, while several others have the option of waiting another week for the Eider at Newcastle.
To my mind, the Ascot race looks a better fit for Enqarde, Newtide and Cloudy Glen, quoted at 6-1, 15-2 and 10-1 respectively for the Haydock race.
I like the Classic Chase one-two, Notachance and Achille, but I'd be wary of backing either at this stage as both are also in the Eider, a race worth marginally more than the Grand National Trial. Potters Legend, Just Your Type and Springfield Fox are also in the Newcastle marathon.
Richard Hobson told us more about Lord Du Mesnil after his Last Fling win last year
Notachance, raised 7lb for his Warwick success, is also in at Ascot on Saturday but a drop back in distance seems unlikely given he looks all about stamina. If he does run at Haydock he will be a big threat but that’s reflected by him being no bigger than 5-1.
Rather than have all my stake on Lord Du Mesnil, I’m also going to have a smaller each-way bet on Sojourn.
He’s lightly raced and showed he was still going the right way when runner-up in the Tommy Whittle here last time, having previously won in great style at Carlisle.
Anthony Honeyball’s improver is effectively 5lb higher than last time as he’s been pushed up 2lb and Rex Dingle, already pencilled in to ride, has since lost his 3lb claim. But there could still be more to come and, like Lord Du Mesnil, he thrives on heavy going.
BetVictor make him only 5-1 but Betfair and Paddy Power are more cavalier, offering a generous 15-2.
How To Bet £20 ante-post on the William Hill Grand National Trial
£5 win and £5 each-way on Lord Du Mesnil at a general 12-1 (three places at a quarter the odds)
£2.50 each-way on Sojourn at 15-2 with Betfair and Paddy Power (three places a at a quarter the odds)Fancy winning a 50" television, a 12-month Racing TV subscription, a Reclining Armchair plus much more? Click here to enter our Ultimate Cheltenham At Home competition!
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