JAMES Reveley has always held Always Right, winner of the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster nearly a year ago, in the highest of regards.
When told that the lightly-raced chaser had been allotted just 10st 10lb in the John Smith’s Grand National, the Saltburn jockey’s reaction was short and to the point: “Nice weight!”.
Yet, after Always Right pulled up in Wetherby’s Rowland Meyrick Chase on Boxing Day after an inexplicably poor run, John Wade’s horse will attempt to rebuild his reputation – and repay Reveley’s faith – in today’s Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock.
Though second top weight behind the Paul Nicholls-trained veteran Neptune Collonges, Sedgefield-based Wade is still hopeful of a big run. “He’s really well and I’m looking forward to a nice run from him,” he said.
“He had a bit of a virus on him later after he ran disappointingly at Wetherby on Boxing Day. The run was too bad to be true so there had to be something there. He’s in good fettle now.”
This three-and-a-half mile marathon was, in fact, won by Reveley on his father Keith’s Rambling Minster in 2008 – though it did not end in a fairytale Aintree win because the horse failed to take to the National’s unique demands.
Today’s favourite is Richard Lee’s Welsh National winner Le Beau Bai, who will relish the stamina-sapping conditions.
However, Mandarin Chase winner Rey Nacarado, running from out of the weights and the mount of Malton’s Andrew Tinkler, is considered a major player by his trainer Charlie Longsdon.
“We’re 5lb out of the handicap so we’ve got that to find, but we think he is an improving horse,” he said yesterday.
Malcolm Jefferson’s King Fontaine has won twice at the track and has slipped back down to his last winning mark following some disappointing efforts that means he’s unlikely to make the National’s 40-runner cut
He is set to go off a big price but Jefferson would not be surprised to see his nine-year-old run a huge race. “One of these days he’s going to win a big race,” said the Norton handler.
Elsewhere, Cheltenham clues will be in abundance as the top trainers see their charges undergo final prep races.
Nicky Henderson has elected to run Binocular, rather than Grandouet, in today’s Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton after the latter suffered a slight setback.
Meanwhile Kauto Stone – a half-brother to the legendary Kauto Star – will look to confirm his reputation, and place at the head of the Ryanair Chase betting market, in the Betfair Ascot Chase.
He could not have been more impressive on his first start for Paul Nicholls at Down Royal in December. He spread-eagled a decent field in a Grade Two there and then lost nothing in defeat when second to outstanding two-mile chaser Sizing Europe in the Tingle Creek over a trip short of his best.
“Obviously I’ve been very happy with his first two runs this season and the form is working out very well,” said Nicholls. “I’m looking forward to running him at Ascot en route to the Ryanair, which will be the race for him at Cheltenham.”