GRAND NATIONAL runner-up The Last Samuri is set to swerve Saturday’s feature bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.
Retired jockey Jason Maguire – racing manager to the horse’s owners Paul and Clare Rooney – says connections favour the JNWine.Com Champion Chase at Down Royal on the same afternoon.
The reason, he said, was the likely presence at Wetherby of defending champion Cue Card who won three Grade One prizes last season and was vying for the lead of the Cheltenham Gold Cup when falling heavily at the third last.
“I imagine we’re going to Down Royal,” he said.
“The Charlie Hall looks a very hot race. There are a lot of good horses in there.
“He’s 15lb wrong with Grade One horses.”
Maguire confirmed that the 2017 National remains the ultimate target for the Kim Bailey-trained and David Bass-ridden horse who led over the final fence at Aintree last April before the now retired Rule The World’s withering late run changed the outcome of the world’s greatest steeplechase.
Yet, given The Last Samuri was well-handicapped for Aintree because the big race weights were determined before his win in Doncaster’s Grimthorpe Chase, the lightly-raced eight-year-old will need to keep improving if he is to remain competitive off his new mark this season.
“The National is the target and he seems to be in good form. He seems to have improved again,” confirmed Maguire.
“We thought we were going to win going to the Elbow and then the agony of being passed on the run-in.
“Rule The World and The Last Samuri got racing quite early in the straight and that played into the hands of the winner. That’s racing.”
The winner of more than 1,000 races, Maguire cheated death when he lacerated his liver in a fall at Stratford in March 2014 before nerve damage aggravated by a fall at Catterick early last year forced him into retirement.
However he’s relishing his role with the Rooneys who have 80 horses in training.
“Racing was brilliant, and nothing replaces that, but this is the next best thing,” said Maguire, who can often be found at the final obstacles imploring his horses, and riders, to victory.
“I sort the entries, go racing, sort out problems.
“I’m kept very busy, don’t worry.
“I like going to the sales, we have plenty of young stock which Richie McGrath, who used to ride, breaks in and sorts out the pre-training.”
Watering was continuing at Wetherby yesterday to ensure good ground for the two-day Charlie Hall fixture which begins tomorrow.
Yet, while conditions will suit some horses, Harry Fry says he will not risk Unowhatimeanharry – winner of the Albert Bartlett Hurdle at the Cheltenham Hurdle – in the bet365 West Yorkshire Hurdle.
In other racing news, Colin Tizzard – the trainer responsible for the aforementioned Cue Card – says all options remain open for Thistlecrack after the World Hurdle winner made an imperious steeplechase debut at Chepstow on Tuesday.
Ridden by Tom Scudamore, the exhilarating Thistlecrack is set to reappear at Cheltenham on November 12 before connections decide whether to stick to novice company or contemplate an audacious tilt at Kempton’s King George Chase on Boxing Day which Cue Card won last year.
Tizzard said: “He was absolutely fine this morning and we couldn’t have dreamt for it to have gone any better.
“I know it wasn’t a big test, but the whole day was absolutely perfect and Scudamore was right on the button.
“He’ll go to Cheltenham, all being well, for the three-mile novice. All I can say is everything will be considered (for Thistlecrack), no more than that.”
Meanwhile, North Yorkshire trainer David O’Meara is set to be double-handed at next weekend’s Breeders’ Cup meeting in Santa Anita, California.
He expects Mondialiste – winner of Chicago’s Arlington Million – to go for the $4m Breeders’ Cup Turf while Suedois will line up in the $1m Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.