Grand National hope Jonniesofa leading the way for rejuvenated Rose Dobbin

Tue 19 Nov 2019

Rose Dobbin is keeping her fingers crossed that her recent purple patch of form won't be ending soon as she targets the Betfair Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle on November 30 with Jonniesofa.

This month’s victory for Jonniesofa at Ayr came after a 672-day lay-off for the talented but injury-plagued chaser.

Meanwhile, promising five-year-old Le Cheval Noir was also scoring after a long break when he provided the Northumberland stable’s fifth winner from 32 runners by doubling his unbeaten career tally in a Kelso bumper, following his Irish point-to-point debut.

Both victories should signpost a campaign ahead which appears to be a world away from Dobbin’s travails last season.

Her string was so badly out of form by the end of 2018-19 that the only answer was to halt operations in April to rid the yard of a virus.

She is now able to plan ahead with confidence again, however.

“We’re very happy,” said Dobbin. “It was quite a nervous autumn, to see what form they all came out in.

“But on the whole, most of them have run really well, so I couldn’t be happier.

“The nerves have definitely been relieved by a few winners.”

Among them, Jonniesofa is perhaps the brightest yet most fragile star – but the nine-year-old has recovered encouragingly from the exertions which powered him to a 16-length victory at Ayr, and the hope is he will bid for his sixth win from just 11 rules starts at the end of this month.

“He’s come back in good order, and we’re very happy with him,” said Dobbin.

“I think we’re probably going to run him in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle.”

It has been a long road for horse and trainer since injury first struck at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival.

Dobbin said: “He injured himself in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham a few years ago.

“He came back from it, then it went again a couple of years after that Haydock race (in December 2017).

“It’s a suspensory ligament – which are pretty prone to re-injuring easily – so we just have to keep our fingers crossed that we can keep him in one piece for the whole of the season.

“Soft ground is crucial, because he does just hit the ground very hard – and I think that was the problem at Cheltenham. It was lovely, safe, good-to-soft ground – but obviously it wasn’t soft enough for him.”

Dobbin and her husband Tony are the stars of this week's Racing TV's This Racing Life, which will be broadcast for the first time at 2000(GMT) on wednesday.

The trainer says on the show: "Our hope this year is to get Jonniesofa to the Grand National.

"It may sound audacious because he hasn't run in many chases (two wins from three starts), but he's a tough horse that could be the type to jump around Aintree. While he's sound, touch wood, this should be the year we try it.

"He's a great horse to have and, in between his injuries, he's managed to win us a few races. If he can get us to Grand National, that would be an absolute dream."

Le Cheval Noir should also be out again soon, with a hurdles debut beckoning.

“I was absolutely chuffed with his run,” said his trainer.

“He looked really gutsy, as he did in his point-to-point apparently. He was very tough that day (as well).

“He was very difficult to train last year, but he’s come back home a different horse now and looks a really nice prospect.

“He looked a million dollars at Kelso, and then his run matched that.”

Le Cheval Noir has recovered well too.

Dobbin added: “We’re going to go over hurdles now. I haven’t found a novice for him yet, but he’ll go straight over hurdles – he’s a very good jumper.

“He actually ate up after his bumper – which surprised us. He’d be the type that might not have eaten up, so we’ll just see how he is over the next couple of weeks.

“If he keeps some condition on him, there’d be no reason to hang around for too long (before his hurdles debut).”

It was only after the son of Le Fou had arrived in her keeping 18 months ago that Dobbin noticed he is a nephew of Barton – a prolific winner of yesteryear, on whom her husband Tony scored seven times as a jockey, including a Grade One hurdles defeat of subsequent Gold Cup great Best Mate.

She said: “It’s just a coincidence, a happy coincidence – we were very happy to see that name in his pedigree.

“He’ll be a yard favourite if he wins us lots of races – and going by Saturday’s performance, we think he will."

Watch This Racing Life live at 2000(GMT) on Wednesday on Racing TV to find out more about the team at Hazelrigg Racing

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