Paddy Brennan prevails as Spud proves a hot potato

BY his own admission, Paddy Brennan struggled to handle the disappointment of defeat when Cue Card fell at the third-last fence in last year's Cheltenham Gold Cup. He did not even speak to owner Jean Bishop after the race.

Chase The Spud and Paddy Brennan, left, going on to win the Midlands Grand National ahead of Mystree and Robert Dunne (Picture: PA).

Brennan was more phlegmatic after Colin Tizzard’s stable star came to grief at the same obstacle in last Friday’s renewal, won by Jessica Harrington’s Sizing John, who was paraded at the trainer’s stables in Ireland last night. Unlike 2016 when full of running, Cue Card appeared to be tiring when crashing out.

While victory on Fergal O’Brien’s Chase The Spud in the Betfred Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter on Saturday will not compensate the jockey for Cue Card’s fall, and what might have been, he was more philosophical.

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Eider Chase winner Mysteree, trained by Michael Scudamore and ridden by Robbie Dunne, had looked the likely winner when going on at the third-last.

However, Chase The Spud dug deep, as Mysteree’s Eider exertions took their toll, and Brennan’s mount prevailed by a length and a half in this four-mile marathon.

Warrantor was five lengths away in third place, with top-weight Houblon Des Obeaux fourth and Sue Smith’s Blakemount fifth.

“For three-quarters of the way I didn’t think I was going to win, but I kept it in my mind there might only be a few finishers and I saved the race for the end,” said the winning jockey.

“I’m so proud of the horse. Cheltenham was fine – it just didn’t go our way. It’s nice to get a big one (on Saturday).”

Reporting Cue Card to be none the worse for his heavy fall, Aintree’s three-mile Grade One chase on the opening day of the Grand National meeting is a possibility.

Scudamore was proud of Mysteree, saying: “We managed to beat him a couple of lengths or so at Haydock earlier in the season.

“The weights have turned around and he’s come back and done us, but I’m very proud of our fella.”

Harry Fry is thinking of races such as the Hennessy Gold Cup next season for American after his hugely talented, but fragile performer won Uttoxeter’s three-mile handicap chase after connections chose to swerve Cheltenham’s RSA Chase.

Jumping superbly for Noel Fehily still buoyed by his Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase wins, American took the lead after the fifth-last fence and steadily pulled clear of the highly-regarded Rock The Kasbah.

Fry said: “He needed the soft ground to run at Cheltenham and it would have been a different story, full stop, but there was not enough rain for him there.

“He thrives on those conditions and he jumped for fun. He is an exciting novice chaser. He is just so fragile and can only run when conditions suit, but he is capable of performances like that. It is his knees that are the problem and it’s just a case of keeping him in one piece.”

Fry is keen to let the dust settle on the Cheltenham Festival before committing to future targets with his vanquished pair of Neon Wolf and Unowhatimeanharry.

Neon Wolf was hot favourite for Wednesday’s Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, but was outbattled by the ultra-game Willoughby Court in the hands of David Bass.

Unowhatimeanharry was odds-on for the Stayers’ Hurdle the following afternoon and while he was far from disgraced, he ultimately came up short and passed the post in third place behind the Ruby Walsh-inspired Nichols Canyon.

Fry said: “We will give all the Cheltenham horses a week to 10 days off and see how they come out of it.

“In an ideal world, Neon Wolf would have won, but he ran very well and we have an exciting horse on our hands.

“Without doubt, he will be jumping a fence next year, as he looks a chaser through and through. He is a nice one to look forward to.

“Naturally, I’m disappointed with Unowhatimeanharry, but he was just not good enough on the day.

“His best form is on slower ground and, like Neon Wolf, softer ground would have made a big difference, but that is racing.”