Doncaster’s Grimthorpe Chase is still recognised as a Grand National trial so it was a little disappointing to see just seven runners line up for the 2023 renewal on Saturday, March 4th.
Only Sporting John is entered for the Aintree marathon itself, and the Philip Hobbs runner only comes in at number 63 in the official weights at that.
It’s too early to say whether the race is experiencing any kind of terminal decline, but my own theory is that there are simply not enough UK staying chasers around to contest it at this juncture in the racing calendar.
It is run just before the Cheltenham Festival, and those that do run are now highly unlikely to get into the top 40 berths in the Grand National due to the current Irish dominance of the Aintree feature.
The Grimthorpe takes place each year in late February/early March, and this tough test of stamina in recent years brought us winners such as The Last Samuri and Definitely Red, who both went on to be the bookmakers favourites for the Grand National.
So what alternative races are the Grimthorpe entries being targeted at if not the Grand National?
This was the lay of the land prior to the Grimthorpe Chase taking place:
- Sporting John: Coral Handicap Hurdle (25/1), Grand National (66/1)
- Windsor Avenue: (none)
- Castle Robin: Ultima Handicap (16/1), Kim Muir Handicap (16/1)
- Neville’s Cross: (none)
- Cooper’s Cross: Ultima Handicap (20/1), Magners Plate Handicap (20/1)
- Undersupervision: (none)
- Moroder: Midlands Grand National (50/1)
How The Action Unfolded
Moroder sprang somewhat of a surprise in this year’s renewal after opening up a general 33/1 poke in the early morning prices before going off an 18/1 chance as the tape fell.
Trained by Seamus Mullins, the nine-year-old gelding had clocked up an impressive four-timer at the end of last season but had started this season off in woeful form.
Last season’s Grimthorpe winner Undersupervision was pretty much looking a cert to collect the top prize again under a strong front-running ride from Sam Twiston-Davies, but James Best on Moroder had different ideas as they jumped the last side by side.
In a dog-fight to the line it was Moroder who just got the verdict over the brave Twiston-Davies-trained horse to oblige by a neck, with Windsor Avenue a further 10 lengths back in third.
An elated Best roared his approval to the crowd and punched the air in emphatic fashion as he was led back into the winner’s enclosure.
Understandably the Grimthorpe Chase panned out better for some than others. Plans are up in the air for Moroder, who is unlikely to take up his Midlands Grand National (now 20/1) entry with that race coming up “too soon after a hard race here”, according to the trainer’s son James.
Meanwhile, Nigel Twiston-Davies said of Undersupervision: “He’s run a really good race and nearly done it again. He’ll go for the Scottish National now.”
Sole Grand National entry Sporting John was beaten 24 lengths into fifth place, and his chances of lining up at Aintree, or even making the cut, I would say, stand at minimal to zero.
His Cheltenham engagement looks his most likely next target at this stage.
Fourth-placed Castle Robin was eased out to 25/1 for both of his Cheltenham entries which actually makes him an appealing each-way bet now for The Festival.
Great Yorkshire Chase (Sky Bet) winner Cooper’s Cross was sent off the 15-8 favourite and was found to have bled from the nose. He’ll return once he’s 100% again said connections.
Written by Steve Mullington