A NEW quest for Grand National glory begins at Doncaster today when David Bass and The Last Samuri line up in the Grimthorpe Chase.
The Kim Bailey-trained steeplechaser won this race last year and was on course to land the National before Rule The World’s withering late flourish on the famous run-in where lifelong dreams are won and lost.
Even though it took Bass time to come to terms with the disappointment of defeat, the 28-year-old reports The Last Samuri to be fitter and stronger than before.
He’ll need to be. The horse’s proven form means top weight against progressive performers like Malton trainer Brian Ellison’s National hope Definitly Red and Looking Well who was second in January’s Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster for the in-form Nicky Richards stable.
There’s every likelihood The Last Samuri will have top weight for the 2017 National – only Carlingford Lough has a stiffer task after the latest defections – but the horse showed his liking for Aintree when carrying a welter burden to finish third to Vieux Lion Rouge and Highland Lodge in the Becher Chase.
“It’s a lot more difficult this year because we have got to carry 11st 12lb and give a lot of weight to horses that are progressing,” Bass told The Yorkshire Post. “That said, the Becher form is turning out to be very good and the horse is improving – he’s in really good form but Definitly Red is a big danger.”
What top horses like Paul and Clare Rooney’s steeplechaser means to all jockeys becomes clear as Bass talks about the 2016 National. “It’s still quite painful,” he says. “Now it’s nearly a year on, I look at it a bit differently.
“I was lucky to ride a horse that took to it so well. To ride a horse like that, it’s a privilege. He loves his job, he jumps and he tries very hard. It’s a privilege to have a horse like that in my career, but he was unlucky to bump into a better handicapped one than us on the day.”
Asked if he was aware of Rule The World closing under teen jockey David Mullins, Bass said he was concentrating on Vics Canvass who was in closest proximity over the last two fences before the daunting 514-yard run-in with its kink in front of the packed stands.
“Going to the Elbow, I fought off Vics Canvass and I honestly thought I would win because I knew Samuri would keep going. He did keep going to be fair to the horse, but Rule The World also picked up. I was in front the whole way to the Elbow.” His voice tails off before Bass adds: “We got beat by a better horse on the day.”
Despite The Last Samuri carrying top weight today, Bass has spent the past 48 hours shedding the pounds in order to make 10st 4lb to ride Markov in the opener. He hopes it’s worth the sacrifice. Normally a very lean 10st 7lb, it will be his lightest weight in six months. “Quite a lot of exercise, sweating, not eating a lot. It’s the first race so I can refuel for The Last Samuri,” he says matter of factly. “It’s part of the job I suppose. I try and not moan about it too much.”
He’s also looking forward to his likely rides at the Cheltenham Festival – they include the classy novice chaser Charbel in the Arkle Trophy who faces the unenviable task of taking on the precocious Altior. Bass also singles out Bailey’s Robin The Raven in the Champion Bumper – “he worked this morning and he worked very well” – and Ben Pauling’s Willoughby Court in the Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle. “The more rain the better for him,” he said.
For many, just getting a ride in such illustrious races is an achievement. For David Bass, he now wants to be winning them.