After partnering La Bague Au Moi to a high-profile win at Newbury’s Hennessy meeting, Bannister suffered a broken wrist shortly afterwards that left the promising conditional, an integral member of trainer Warren Greatrex’s stable in Lambourn, on the sidelines for a key part of the National Hunt season.
However Bannister – whose family own the Coniston Hall estate near Skipton and whose father Nick is on the Haydock committee – is back to fitness and came off the pace on the Greatrex-trained Magic Memory to land Challenger Series Mares’ Handicap Chase Final for trainer Warren Greatrex and 3lb claimer Harry Bannister.
“She was good at Fontwell the other day,” said Bannister. “It was a big step up in grade for her but she’s done it well and is very tough.
“It’s taken a while for her to get the hang of chasing but she jumped very well. Warren has done a lot of work with her and it’s paid off.”
Grand National hero One For Arthur is to follow a familiar campaign next season.
Like the current campaign which culminated in Aintree glory earlier this month, the horse could have a prep race at Kelso before returning to Merseyside for the becher Chase over the National fences.
Trainer Lucinda Russell suggested the horse, ridden by Derek Fox, would then use Warwick’s Classic Chase – which the combination won in January – as a prep race for the National.
Meanwhile Cumbrian trainer Jimmy Moffatt reports stable star Highland Lodge to be none the worse for his Aintree exertions. Pulled up by jockey Henry Brooke at the final fence, he says next season’s campaign will revolve around the Becher Chase which the horse won in 2015 before being denied on the line last December by Vieux Lion Rouge.
Moffatt is not convinced the veteran, now 11, has sufficient stamina for the National’s four and a quarter miles.
Harry Fry believes his previous successful visit to Ireland will stand Fletchers Flyer in good stead when he takes on the might of the Gigginstown House Stud battalion in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse.
Fletchers Flyer lifted a competitive handicap chase at the Punchestown Festival last April and has been specially prepared for today’s showpiece. The only other British-trained runner in a maximum field, dominated by 14 horses wearing the Gigginstown colours, is the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Shutthefrontdoor who lifted this prize in 2014.
Meanwhile jockey Robbie Power, who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Sizing John for Jessica Harrington, hopes Our Duke can overcome his relative inexperience. “He has a chance, lack of experience is against him,” he said. “He’s only a novice but, saying that, novices do have a great record in the race.”