Grimthorpe Chase: Yala Can Bounce Back
Despite a field of just six runners in last year’s renewal of the Grimthorpe Chase, it very nearly provided the perfect trial for the Grand National, as the winner The Last Samuri went on to finish second at Aintree five weeks after.
The Last Samuri looks set to take his chance again this season, and after running a career-best third in the Becher Chase from top weight last time, he has realistic hopes of doubling up in the race despite now being 12 lb higher in the weights than this time last season. The Becher has worked out well with the winner Vieux Lion Rouge now 10/1 favourite for the National itself after a game win in the Haydock’s Grand National Trial, and The Last Samuri is entitled to be vying for favouritism for the Grimthorpe again this season.
The horse that usurps him as favourite with most bookmakers is Definitly Red, who was an impressive winner of the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day. He was in the process of running below his best when unseating his rider in the Peter Marsh last time, however, potentially finding that outing coming too soon. He remains lightly raced over fences and is worth another try at beyond three miles (jumping let him down in the National Hunt Chase at the Festival on sole try at this sort of trip), though backing him as favourite given that he disappointed on his last start is not overly appealing.
Yala Enki had even less time than Definitly Red to recover between his penultimate and last run – just nine days in fact – and at around double the price of the favourite, makes some appeal. We haven’t seen Yala Enki since he was well beaten by Definitly Red in the Rowland Meyrick in late-December, but with that being the last of three quick-fire runs that he'd had before the New Year, he could have benefitted from a break. It makes more sense to focus on Yala Enki‘s impressive win in the Tommy Whittle at Haydock when assessing his chances here, and given that he is yet to tackle beyond three miles (which should suit) and has only had two starts over fences for Venetia Williams, he could well have more to offer yet. He is also entered in the Ultima Handicap on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, but he is seemingly best suited by testing ground, and with that in mind this seems a much more likely option.
Looking Well ran his best race to date when second in the Sky Bet Chase last time but will need more again after another 5 lb rise in the weights, while Sego Success has dropped below his last winning mark and will be suited by this sort of test, though he does need to bounce back from a poor effort in the Classic Chase last time. Present Man has an early jockey booking and would have some sort of chance, but will need to improve now back in a handicap following some good efforts in graded races. Knock House would be interesting if running to the sort of form that saw him finish fourth in last season’s Kim Muir for Mick Channon, but hasn’t shown much for Donald McCain in two starts so far this season.
Overall this is shaping up to be an interesting renewal of the Grimthorpe. Definitly Red needs to bounce back from a poor effort last time and is worth opposing as favourite with that in mind, while connections of The Last Samuri will surely have one eye on the Grand National here. Like the favourite, Yala Enki also needs to put his last run behind him, but he was facing an even quicker turnaround last time and has been given a lengthy break since. Unexposed both over fences and over this sort of trip, he is worth chancing.
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‘There is no semblance of any anti-Irish bias,’ said Phil Smith, extinguishing fired-up forces with one hand and expunging higher-up horses with the other, a marked man as the marks man, in an impossible position as the partial peacemaker in racing’s ratings rivalry between nations.