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FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED FROM THIS WEEKEND’S RACING

18th January 2021

The weekend’s action from Warwick and Market Rasen threw up plenty of clues as to who might land some even bigger spoils later in the jumps season.

Here Graham Clark takes a look at five things we learned on Saturday afternoon.

COMING TO THE BREUIL NICELY

Those looking for Randox Grand National clues in the Classic Chase at Warwick will have been drawn to the performance of third placed Le Breuil, who, judging by his finishing effort, looked tailor-made for Aintree.

Although the Ben Pauling-trained nine year old could not quite get on terms with winner Notachance and runner-up Achile, he will have gone down as a potential Grand National candidate given the manner in which he stayed on.

Having spent much of last season in the doldrums following his victory in the 2019 National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival this was the latest sign that Le Breuil is steadily working his way back into form. 

Le Breuil will require a little bit of assistance from the handicapper to sneak into the bottom of the weights at Aintree, but if he does he looks likely to be a live player given his appetite for a severe test of stamina.

Although the Ben Pauling-trained nine year old could not quite get on terms with winner Notachance and runner-up Achile, he will have gone down as a potential Grand National candidate given the manner in which he stayed on.

Having spent much of last season in the doldrums following his victory in the 2019 National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival this was the latest sign that Le Breuil is steadily working his way back into form. 

Le Breuil will require a little bit of assistance from the handicapper to sneak into the bottom of the weights at Aintree, but if he does he looks likely to be a live player given his appetite for a severe test of stamina.

ADRIMEL AS TOUGH AS THEY COME

If you like tough and robust novice hurdlers look no further than Adrimel, who took his form to new heights in the Ballymore Leamington Novices' Hurdle at Warwick.

Leading from the front the Tom Lacey-trained six year old does not know the meaning of the word defeat, as highlighted when fighting off all challengers to make it three from three over hurdles in the Grade Two.

The step up to two miles five appeared to be a positive, while the addition of cheek pieces appeared to help the six year old jump much fluently, which will be required at the major spring festivals.

A return to the Cheltenham Festival almost certainly beckons for Adrimel, who finished down the field in last year’s Weatherby’s Champion Bumper, but at what trip remains to be decided.

Both the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle over 2m 5f, and the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle over three miles are under consideration. However, with the ground likely to be quicker than anything he has encountered over hurdles so far, the latter might prove to be the better option. 

IMPERIAL COULD BE A STAYERS’ HURDLE DARK HORSE

Fergal O’Brien made no secret as to the high regard he holds Imperial Alcazar in, and those estimations went up even further at Warwick following his victory in a Pertemps Qualifier.

A Grade One entry in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival suggests O’Brien believes the seven year old is a good deal better than a handicapper, which judging by his performance at the weekend could easily be proved right.

Though the Stayers’ Hurdle division is one which has been dominated by a handful of horses in recent seasons, it has been known to throw up its fair share of shock results, including last year’s 50-1 winner Lisnagar Oscar.

Imperial Alcazar still has plenty to find with the likes of genuine graded race performers Paisley Park and Thyme Hill, but with both age on his side and further improvement to come he could tempt O’Brien – who has never had a Festival winner - into taking the plunge at the top table. 

EILEENDOVER A STAR IN THE MAKING

When it comes to the most impressive winner of the weekend there was only one candidate - the Pam Sly-trained Eileendover, who maintained her unbeaten record upped to Listed company in the Alan Swinbank Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.

Having made light work of her rivals on her debut at Huntingdon and again next time out at Wetherby, the daughter of Canford Cliffs disposed of a useful field on her first start over an extended two miles.

It appears that Eileendover has inherited some of the qualities of Sly’s  1000 Guineas winner of 2006, Speciosa - who she is a granddaughter of - and the sky looks to be the limit.

Talk of an outing in the Champion Bumper at the Festival had been mentioned following the victory, but with Sly less keen on the idea it could be that we next see her Aintree instead in the Grade Two bumper designated for fillies and mares.

PIRATE PROVES HIMSELF TO BE KING, FINALLY

Plenty will have had their fingers burnt backing Sky Pirate in recent months but the Jonjo O’Neill-trained gelding finally looks to have found his niche over fences. 

The drop back to two miles appeared to work the trick at Cheltenham and the eight year old backed that up with a second victory over the trip in the Edward Courage Cup at Warwick.

Entering the race rated 145, a mark in the 150s can now be expected to appear next to the name of Sky Pirate following his latest success, which elevates him into graded race company. 

The Grand Annual at the Festival looked the most obvious target for Sky Pirate with the guaranteed fast pace he wants almost certain to be on offer. However, as he still retains his novice status an outing at Grade One level in the Arkle could now be on the agenda.

Although Shishkin will be a tough nut to crack in the premier two mile novice chase of the season it would come as no surprise should Sky Pirate run into a place at a track he has performed so well at in the past.

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