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Press Release 15th December 2023 Cheltenham

By Graham Clark

Latenightpass (7-2 Favourite) showed the benefit of his debut second over Cheltenham’s unique Cross Country course last month when he went one better in today’s Glenfarclas Crystal Cup Cross Country Handicap Chase.

Already a winner over the Grand National fences at Aintree having taken the 2022 Randox Foxhunters’ Chase, the nine year old was always in a prominent position in the extended three miles and five furlongs contest and pulled clear on the run in to score by four lengths from Francky Du Berlais.

A return to Aintree now beckons for Latenightpass – this time for the Randox Grand National itself.

Winning trainer Dan Skelton said: “I thought coming away from last time that he acquitted himself very well, but to be fair I don’t really know the horse that well.

“Tom (Ellis) trains him, and throughout all this Bridget (Skelton) has done all the work on him. It has just been my name on the licence. He has been a massive addition to the team. Not all of them take to it, but he did. We jumped (around here) in between races and he loved it. That gave me reason to think that he should at least back his run up. I don’t know much about the ground for him, but perhaps it suited him being a little softer.

“I think (coming here in between races) is vital because confidence is vital in this race. They have to switch off and know what they are doing and then switch off to get the trip. In my opinion that is how you win that race. He dragged her to the front, but she knows him so well. She sat on him until the last, and that is someone who knows their horse well and he scooted away then.

“I’d say it is blindingly obvious (to have a go at the Grand National). I wouldn’t say he was superior there as you have the likes of Galvin and Minella Indo who you meet off level weights at The Festival. I think it is very acceptable to come there for The Festival to run against them without the expectation that you are going to beat them off level weights. I think Silver Birch run in the cross-country race before winning the Grand National. I’m not saying we should be favourite for the Grand National, but I think he more than deserves his chance.

“He has got experience (over the Aintree fences), he stays the trip well. When you come out of hunter chases you don’t know if you belong in a higher grade. I think he has probably now suggested twice that is the truth.”

Winning rider Gina Andrews told ITV Racing: “He is just an unbelievable little horse. He gave me one of the best days of my career and he has given me another one today.

“That is his forte – he travels really strong which makes my life a lot easier as he knows what I want, when I want. He took to the fences so well.

“He is the horse of a lifetime for us. He was bred by my mother in law and trained by Tom (Andrews’ husband) in point to points. He went to Dan’s two weeks’ before he ran last time and my sister (Bridget) deserves all the credit as she has done all the work with him.

“You have to consider the last time he ran it was his first run of the season and his first run over these fences ever. He took to it so well and you thought he must improve for another run. I’m delighted.”

Back in fourth under top-weight of 12st was the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Minella Indo, who pleased his rider Rachael Blackmore on his first start over the course.

Blackmore said: “With the schooling he had done at home, we were hoping he would put in a jumping performance like that. He had to carry lot of weight around there so I thought it was a really good run. He took to those fences very well and he was a very enjoyable ride around them.

“He was definitely competitive from the second last, but it is a long way up the hill. I’ve often thought at that stage of the race before you are in with a shout and then you are not. It is after the last it can all change, but he ran a super race.

“Henry and the Maloneys (owners) will decide all that (if he comes to The Festival for the cross country), but I very much enjoyed riding him.”


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