Anthony Honeyball is looking forward to testing the credentials of his progressive eight year old Sojourn in Saturday’s William Hill Grand National Trial at Haydock Park, with 15 horses going forward for the Grade Three contest following today’s five-day confirmation stage.
Sojourn is lightly-raced over fences, making just four starts to date, but has impressed in his two outings so far this season, which included a fine effort to finish second in the Betfair Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase at Haydock in December.
And Honeyball feels that things are finally coming together for Sojourn, after a few niggling issues during his career.
He said: “He’s had an issue or two each season really and last year only had the two runs, but they were two really nice runs and he’s got better every season.
“This season he’s progressed again, and won his first start at Carlisle really well. He’s proven a liking for soft or heavy ground and we very much felt we wanted to lay him out for five or six weeks for the Tommy Whittle, and he ran a cracker in that.
“In previous seasons we had a few soundness issues, so giving him another nice long break won’t do him any harm. Each season he seems to be taking his races a little bit better and it’s just great vto have him at this level for his owner, who’s been really patient.
“He’s got the course form, and I don’t think the distance will be a problem. We’ll ride him similarly to last time really and just creep into it, and I’d imagine he’d get the trip. This looks a good race for him, and we’re looking forward to running him.”
Another with this race on his radar is the Welsh Grand National runner-up The Two Amigos, who finished fourth in this race last year for the Nicky Martin team.
The nine year old is one of six who will head to the race from Chepstow, alongside Captain Drake (fourth), Lord Du Mesnil (ninth), Cloudy Glen (11th), Ramses de Teillee (12th) and Springfield Fox (pulled-up).
The Two Amigos has now hit the frame on each of his last four outings following his Chepstow run, and Martin is hopeful of another good display on Saturday.
She said: “He’s in fine form. I think with the ground not being quite as testing (at Chepstow) he recovered a lot quicker, and he’s in very good order.
“He deserves a big win, he’s always there or thereabouts! He was fourth in this last year and he fell the year before, but that wasn’t really his fault. He just clipped the top of the fence, so as a small horse he just tumbled over.
“We’re also entered in the Eider because the weather’s just so up in the air at the moment, but I’d be quite hopeful about his chances (on Saturday). I always thought he wanted heavy, but he’d pretty much go on most things over this trip, and fingers crossed that Saturday might be our day.”
Meanwhile, Ramses de Teillee would be tasked with carrying top weight if lining up here, though he also has the option of a run at Kelso on Friday.
David Pipe said: “Ramses is in good form. He was slow at the first at Chepstow last time and he wasn’t really at the races.
“He will either go to Kelso on Friday or Haydock on Saturday. Ground conditions will be suitable wherever he goes and he seems really well in himself.”
Saturday’s card also features two Grade Two contests, including the William Hill Rendlesham Hurdle, which serves as an important pointer for next month’s Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at The Festival™ supporting WellChild.
Headlining the 13-strong list of entries is last year’s winner Emitom, and his trainer Warren Greatrex is hopeful of a good performance after trying the larger obstacles.
He said: “We are reverting back to hurdles following a spell chasing. He has had his wind done and he is working very well.
“He seems to have his mojo back and seems in great nick. The chase races were good and he jumped well but he was a bit lacklustre and whether his wind was just affecting him I’m not sure.
“We will go to Haydock this week and see what happens but he seems in good form and his work is as good as ever. If he was to go on and win a Stayers’ Hurdle then we probably wouldn’t go back over fences, but if he didn’t win that we probably would look at going back over fences with him.”
Other horses with Rendlesham Hurdle entries include On The Blind Side, Unowhatimeanharry, West Approach, Thomas Darby and the Graded-winning chasers Itchy Feet and Ballyoptic.
Meanwhile, 13 have been entered for the Grade Two Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle, including the Paul Nicholls-trained Young Buck.
William Hill Grand National Trial
- Ramses de Teillee (FR) 9 11st 12lb David Pipe
- Lord du Mesnil (FR) 8 11st 9lb Richard Hobson
- Notachance (IRE) 7 11st 6lb Alan King
- The Two Amigos 9 11st 4lb Nicky Martin
- Perfect Candidate (IRE) 14 11st 2lb Fergal O'Brien
- Fagan 11 11st 2lb Alex Hales
- Cloudy Glen (IRE) 8 11st 2lb Venetia Williams
- Sojourn (IRE) 8 11st 2lb Anthony Honeyball
- Newtide (IRE) 8 11st 1lb Kim Bailey
- Captain Drake (IRE) 8 11st 0lb Harry Fry
- Achille (FR) 11 10st 12lb Venetia Williams
- Springfield Fox 8 10st 12lb Tom George
- Potters Legend 11 10st 8lb Lucy Wadham
- Just Your Type (IRE) 9 10st 6lb Charlie Longsdon
- Enqarde (FR) 7 10st 6lb Dr Richard Newland