AINTREE hero Pineau De Re will stick to hurdles prior to his Crabbie’s Grand National defence next April.
Trainer Dr Richard Newland has identified a race at Carlisle on Sunday week for the 11-year-old, who finished unplaced on his comeback at Cheltenham last month.
“Pineau is a genuine candidate for next year’s Grand National but these days there are 40 horses in the handicap which means a very competitive race so it is not going to be easy,” said Dr Newland.
“However, I am an eternal optimist and I am optimistic about him as I do think he is a very classy horse. It was a good win last season and I think the form is solid.
“Because Pineau missed two years due to an an injury, he has only run 36 times and is pretty lightly-raced for a horse of his age.
“He is 11 but acts like he is three and has plenty of enthusiasm still.
“I hope we can win a little hurdle race with him before going back to Aintree.
“We hope to have two Grand National runners next year with Royale Knight, who is having a bit of a break now as he is better fresh.”
Dr Newland, who runs a healthcare business alongside his racehorse stables near Worcester, said he is keeping an open mind about jockey arrangements.
Though Leighton Aspell was aboard Pineau De Re at Aintree, he could be claimed by Oliver Sherwood after winning last Saturday’s Hennessy on Many Clouds.
“We are a small yard and the top jockeys tend to have a lot of strong allegiances. I don’t know if Leighton will be available but we will definitely consider him,” added Dr Newland after he booked Daryl Jacob, rather than Aspell, for Pineau De Re’s comeback race.
“Let’s get nearer the time and see who is available. We have links with lots of jockey but no No 1. I am trying not to worry too much about it as there are lots of jockeys who have ridden for us who would be ideal on the horse – he is not a difficult ride.”
Wetherby winner Cole Harden will head to Ireland for the Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 28.
Warren Greatrex’s youngster won the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby on his reappearance, beating At Fishers Cross and Medermit, before performing with credit in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday under champion conditional Gavin Sheehan.
While he finished in front of the previously unbeaten More Of That, Alan King’s Medinas turned the Wetherby form around on 8lb better terms.
“Initially you are disappointed because you have it in your head you have one to beat and you beat that one and get done by something else,” said Greatrex. “I’d say that was a step up on the Wetherby run and we had to give the winner 8lb. He has every chance of getting better and better. I thought he had it won three out but then Richard Johnson loomed up.”
Sunderland footballers John O’Shea and Wes Brown will be hoping for a change of luck when their horse Top of the Glas reappears at Catterick in today’s juvenile hurdle at the North Yorkshire track.
The Brian Ellison-trained three-year-old was a fast-finishing runner-up at Wetherby seven days ago and connections signalled their determination by booking Tom Scudamore for the ride today.