After another emotional weekend at Cheltenham, the dust has begun to settle. Nicky Henderson’s stable star Sprinter Sacre was retired after a glistening caterer before Simonsig’a resurgence was tragically cut short after a fall on Sunday. It shows the lows of the game and my thoughts are with all at Seven Barrows.
Looking to the future, Nicky will have a number of big runners to try and have some small silver lining, with My Tent Or Yours and Vyta Du Roc looking to hold major claims shortly.
However today I’m looking slightly further ahead, bypassing even the Cheltenham Festival. The Grand National is a race for the nation, that the purists aren’t too keen on overly investing it.
With 30 fences and four and a half miles to travel, there is plenty that can go wrong but with recent moderation, fallers are rarer than ever.
So, it may be worth taking a small punt on a horse that looks tailor made for the race, given his class and scope to enjoy a stamina sapping trip.
That horse, is last years Cheltenham Gold Cup third, Don Poli. Having won twice at the Cheltenham Festival precious to that, including a staying-on effort in the RSA Chase, he’s proven he has tons of ability, though it’s always been fairly obvious that he’s not a horse blessed with raw speed.
Often referred to a ‘boat’, Don Poli stays on gamely in nearly all of his races, shown to full effect in last years Gold Cup, when he was woefully outpaced before rattling up the hill to take third.
A true test looks ideal for him and connections gave him a spin at Aintree last year, where he looked a sitting duck for the strong travelling Many Clouds (that years Grand National winner), before out battling him despite saddle problems.
It may have been a run to test out suitability for the track with a future Grand National run in mind and given Gigginstown often have a strong hand in the race (won it last year with Rule The World), it looks likely that Don Poli will have his season plotted around Aintree in April.
He has moved to Gordon Elliot’s yard after Michae O’Leary moved his horses from Willie Mullins and this may not be a bad thing with Aintree in mind.
Elliot sprung on to the scene as an exuberant young trainer as Silver Birch won the Grand National back in 2007, in a campaign that showed he could get one ready for its big day.
Mullins had struggled with Iuck and finding the ‘right horse’ at Aintree, so a move to Elliot could be a blessing for his National chances.
His last run is a slight concern, given he failed to show any remnants of last seasons quality but he was hampered and he is sure to strip fitter for that effort.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him revert to hurdles for a spell and maybe try his hand in a couple of big chases, which could see his mark slip for a crack at the big one in April.
Don Poli is currently available at 25/1, which seems fair at this point in time and bet365 are already offering five places.
Selection: Grand National – Don Poli @ 25/1 (Various)