Still time for Sun to shine
Channel 4 commentator Simon Holt retains the faith with Sun Cloud in the Betfred Midlands Grand National on Saturday.
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Having tipped SUN CLOUD, a faller when travelling well in the Eider Chase at Newcastle last month, it seems only right to give him another chance in Saturday's Betfred Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter.
Malcolm Jefferson's improving stayer was in touch with the leaders when making a surprise exit at the 15th of 23 fences that day and, while his departure was too early to be sure what would have happened, he had moved equally easily on his previous start when hacking up at Catterick.
The Jefferson team still seem to be going well - they should have had a winner at Cheltenham on Tuesday with Attaglance - and, receiving lumps of weight from Harry Topper and bang on his handicap mark off 10 stone, Sun Cloud warrants another chance.
Wyck Hill was the eventual winner of the Eider, landing a bit of a touch for connections in the process, and should again be thereabouts despite an 8lb rise in the weights. In truth though, there were plenty of horses covered by relatively few lengths at the end of that four-mile marathon suggesting perhaps that the form isn't too strong, and maybe Sun Cloud would indeed have given them all something to think about.
The fascinating ingredient in the race has to be Harry Topper who has gone up another 5lb in the ratings since beating the non-staying Al Ferof at Newbury last time.
Kim Bailey's gelding would have run in the Gold Cup this week had the ground at Cheltenham been soft enough and takes his chance here purely because conditions will be to his liking.
It looks a big task under 11st12lb over nearly four-and-a-quarter miles but Harry Topper's presence has forced several rivals to carry more than their long handicap weight and the seven-year-old has always looked as if he could gallop all day. He is difficult to rule out and I am sure will make a bold bid despite the weight.
Other soft ground lovers here are the Venetia Williams pair Summery Justice and Emperors Choice who both need an extreme test such as this but have taken rises in the ratings for recent wins.
The last-named was left second when Red Rocco fell at the last behind his easy-winning stable-companion Rigadin de Beauchene at Haydock last time while Summery Justice outstayed his rivals in a seven-runner veterans chase at Newbury.
The other horse who catches the eye is the Willie Mullins-trained Are Ya Right Chief who looked to be crying out for as much yardage as possible when third in the Grand National trial at Punchestown in early February. That form doesn't look too special but it could be significant that Ruby Walsh is staying over to ride him after a long week at the Festival.
Like Mullins, David Pipe's horses have been going well this week and it will be interesting to see if there is a market move for Goulanes who looked a promising stayer last season. After two lifeless efforts this term, he has slipped 8lb in the weights and could be a threat if returning to his previous form as could the now well handicapped veteran West End Rocker returning from an absence.