One prevailing recent trend about the Grand National is that the winner of the world’s most famous steeplechase has been a horse competing in its second season over fences in four of the last five years.
The exception was Tiger Roll, who in winning the Aintree showpiece for a second time, did more than simply belie that stat. When he first tasted victory in the Grand National in 2018, however, the Gigginstown House Stud owned star was a second season chaser.
While Tiger Roll bids for a historic hat-trick that would eclipse equine icon Red Rum and is the one bookmakers fear, the dangers may well come from those racehorses who were novices over fences last season. Such types have less mileage on the clock than plenty of his old Aintree rivals.
One For Arthur, Rule The World and Many Clouds all fitted that profile and were Tiger Roll’s predecessors as worthy Grand National winners. Which second season chasers should have trainer Gordon Elliott worried as he prepares his horse for a tilt at sporting immortality?
As the winner of the 2019 National Hunt Chase for novices over fences and amateur riders, Ben Pauling trained seven-year-old Le Breuil is of obvious interest. He proved his stamina on soft ground at the Cheltenham Festival when winning that gruelling Grade 2 race over almost four miles.
Le Breuil toughed it out in a battle with Discorama, prevailing by half-a-length and handler Pauling has identified the Grand National as his main target for the new jumps season.
“He looks tailor made for it,” the trainer told the Sporting Life. “He stays the trip very well and he’s an exceptionally good jumper.”
The National Hunt Chase courted plenty of controversy. Cheltenham stewards had a few jockeys hauled before them over their race riding, but Le Breuil did absolutely nothing wrong in winning the event under crack amateur Jamie Codd.
While his earlier novice chase form doesn’t match that, it could just be that Le Breuil needed a true stamina test to bring out the best in him. Ante post odds of 40/1 are quoted for him in the online horse racing betting at 888Sport for the 2020 Grand National.
Kim Bailey trained eight-year-old Rocky’s Treasure enjoyed a very productive novice campaign in which he won four of his eight starts, and placed on three other occasions. After quickly notching a hat-trick in minor events, he chased home the highly-regarded Santini in a Grade 2 at Newbury.
Rocky’s Treasure finished in front of Le Breuil in that contest during the Winter Carnival, then jumped the opposition off their feet at Doncaster next time out. He made all in another Grade 2 there and absolutely bolted up.
While he then had no easy task under a penalty tackling the stiff fences at Warwick when eased in grade to Listed level, Rocky’s Treasure was at a big disadvantage. He also found giving lumps of weight away very difficult in the Grimthorpe Handicap Chase back at Doncaster.
By that stage of the season, Rocky’s Treasure had a lot of races under his belt. Bailey is targeting the Becher Handicap Chase at Aintree in December, with the aim of giving his horse vital experience of the Grand National fences. If taking to the unique spruce covered obstacles, Rocky’s Treasure could be a contender.