HENRY Brooke reports horse of a lifetime Highland Lodge on track for a third tilt at the Becher Chase over Aintree’s Grand National fences.
Victorious in 2015, the biggest win in the Middleham jump jockey’s career, the horse was narrowly beaten in last year’s renewal by Vieux Lion Rouge.
Yet, with this year’s Randox Health Grand National proving too much for the chaser’s stamina after being run on fast ground in a mini-heatwave, the main target for Highland Lodge – trained at Cartmel by Jimmy Moffatt – is the shorter Becher Chase this December.
“Unfortunately, he just doesn’t stay the Grand National trip,” the Tadcaster-born rider said in an interview with Racing UK. “He went there in great form but on the day he didn’t get home and the ground made it even harder for him.
“He’s like a spring chicken at present, I’ve been to Jimmy Moffatt’s and he’s ready to go. I’d love to get the ride on him in the Becher again.”
Now 11, Highland Lodge was purchased by Patricia and David Thompson – owners of the Cheveley Park Stud – prior to this year’s National in the hope the horse could replicate their Aintree triumph in 1992 with Party Politics.
It’s not their only acquisition; the Karl Burke-trained Unfortunately will carry the colours of Cheveley Park Stud for the first time in the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday week.
The Society Rock colt saw off the exciting filly Heartache, among others, when landing the Group Two Prix Robert Papin at Maisons-Laffitte on his penultimate start and proved that performance was no fluke when claiming Group One glory in last month’s Prix Morny at Deauville.
He will bid for further top-level honours on the Rowley Mile and Leyburn-based Burke is delighted to welcome Cheveley Park into his stable.
“I’m delighted. It’s a great deal for everybody and it’s great to be training for people like Cheveley Park,” said the trainer. “The horse is in very good form and he’s a special colt. I hope he can continue to be lucky for his new owners.”
Popular warrior Tapis Libre goes into battle for a 70th time today when he attempts to defy top weight in the big race at Beverley.
Trained by Jacqueline Coward in Dalby, the nine-year-old gelding has already had a vintage season.
Tapis Libre teamed up with Coward’s cousin, Joanna Mason, to win the Queen Mother’s Handicap at York, after which the same partnership struck gold for a third time in the Ladies’ Derby Handicap at Epsom in July.
Now attention turns towards claiming top honours in Beverley’s £10,000 contest. Coward said: “I could do with a few more like him in the yard – he’s such a little legend.”