GORDON ELLIOTT has already enjoyed a season to remember courtesy of his Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Don Cossack.
Now the County Meath handler, out of luck at Aintree last weekend, hopes to land the Coral Scottish National with Cause Of Causes.
Owned by JP McManus and the mount of Barry Geraghty, the horse will have to carry top weight of 11st 12lb after winning the Kim Muir Chase at Cheltenham last month.
The horse’s second successive win at the National Hunt festival, Elliott believes it could be a blessing that Cause Of Causes didn’t make the 40-runner cut for the Grand National.
“He’s been a great servant and any horse that wins twice at Cheltenham has to be some horse,” said Elliott last night. “He missed out on getting into the Grand National, but that could have been all for luck the way the ground worked out as he’d want much better ground than that.”
The same applies to Cartmel trainer Jimmy Moffatt’s Highland Lodge who was eliminated from the National despite winning last December’s Becher Chase over the iconic Aintree obstacles.
The mount of Middleham jockey Henry Brooke, connections know that a strong performance in today’s four-mile stamina test will boost their chances of earning a handicap mark that is sufficient to qualify for the 2017 National.
“He’s fit and well. I’m very happy with him and looking forward to him running,” said Moffatt. “He’s A1. He went for a racecourse gallop a couple of weeks ago and he’s great. I think he’s better than he was last week.”
Scottish hopes rest with Sandy Thomson’s top novice Seeyouatmidnight who is being stepped up in trip after unsuitably quick ground scuppered the horse’s chance of winning the Grade One RSA Chase at Cheltenham last month.
“You never know about four miles until you try, hopefully we’ve brushed his jumping up as he has been getting a bit low, almost blase,” said Thomson.
The race features Malton trainer Malcolm Jefferson’s Sun Cloud and Sue Smith’s Straidnahanna.
Guiseley trainer Samantha Drake’s career continues to gather pace courtesy of steeplechaser Attimo who was a gutsy winner at Southwell yesterday.
The horse’s second win in six days following a win at Sedgefield last Saturday, Attimo was ridden by the trainer’s fiancée Jonathan England who was celebrating his 25th birthday yesterday. In the vanguard throughout, Attimo just held off the challenge of Mondo Cane in a thrilling finish.
Drake and England then completed a double courtesy of Violoniste.
Meanwhile, Bertenbar’s win at Fontwell took North Yorkshire jockey Andrew Thornton to within nine of his 1,000th career success.
Karl Burke expects Toocoolforschool to come on a significant amount for his seasonal return at Thirsk today.
A former winner of Newbury’s Mill Reef Stakes, the horse disappointed last year. “He was obviously disappointing last year. There was no major issues, just lots of niggling little training setbacks,” said Leyburn-based Burke.
It will be the second year in succession Balty Boys has contested the seven-furlong contest.
He represents Malton trainer Brian Ellison whose Definitly Red prevailed over steeplechase fences at Ayr yesterday under Thirsk-based jockey Danny Cook who continues to enjoy a career-best season.
Today’s scheduled Newbury meeting has been switched to Chelmsford because of waterlogging at the Berkshire track.