The Haydock Grand National Trial is a race that traditionally takes place soon after the Grand National weights are revealed. Due to this, horses can run in the race without fear of being penalised by the handicapper for the big one in April.
This usually means a competitive race and clues for Aintree but this year there was not so many for punters to get hold of. The Irish Grand National Trial is usually run before the weights are released. This means few horses target it, in fear of being put up in the weights if they run well. However, a double abandonment pushed the race to a day after the weights were revealed, so much was expected from this contest too, but that also failed to deliver.
Grand National Trial at Haydock
The Grand National Trial at Haydock was won by Smooth Stepper. This horse doesn’t have a Grand National entry and even if he did have one, he wouldn’t get in the race. A low weight certainly helped him and he ran really well, relishing the step up in trip and being one of just six finishers.
In second place was Lord Du Mensil, a horse that is proving to be a Haydock specialist this season. He was the only one to remain in touch with the winner, with Yala Enki 20 lengths back in third place.
11-year-old Smooth Stepper springs a surprise to claim the Unibet Grand National Trial Handicap Chase ahead of Lord Du Mesnil 👏
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) February 15, 2020
Lord Du Mensil does have a Grand National entry, although at just a seven-years-old there is no rush with him at all. He may to go Cheltenham and being a novice means that he can run in the National Hunt Chase or the RSA Chase. He has an entry in both.
If we don’t see him at Aintree for the big one this year, I expect we will next season.
Yala Enki is another with a Grand National entry, and he is far more likely to run. The Paul Nicholls runner didn’t really look like landing a blow here though. He will need to be much better to get involved at Aintree.
Vintage Clouds is worth a mention, finishing 5th. This was a disappointing run considering how well he won at this course last time out. He hates the Aintree fences, but the owner Trevor Hemmings wants to run him in the race. So after some debate, it looks like he will now head to Aintree.
Irish Grand National Trial
The Irish Grand National Trial was held at Punchestown. Nineteen runners started the race but just six finished. That tells you all you need to know about the kind of test it was.
A @bartlemyp2p 4YO Mares Maiden winner for Denis Murphy's @BallyboyStables IFYOUCATCHMENOW wins the €100,000 Grade B Grand National Trial at Punchestown for Willie Mullins.#IrishPointers https://t.co/7klrJLjkgb
— p2p.ie (@irishp2p) February 18, 2020
The race is unlikely to throw up a Grand National runner, let alone the winner but there is a horse to take from the event. The winner Ifyoucatchmenow may never get a rating good enough to get into the National but should look set to turn into a very good staying chaser.
This race was 3m4f on bottomless ground and she needed every inch of the trip to get home. If it’s not the Aintree National, something like the Irish National or other staying events could be in her grasp over the next few years, and she is only seven.