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IWILLDOIT returned in some style when adding Warwick's Classic Chase to his 2021 Welsh National success and this most progressive sort can defy an 8 lb hike in the weights to make it 5-6 over fences. Guetapan Collonges (second choice) and French Paradoxe both arrive on the up too so could emerge as the chief threats if their stamina holds out, while former winners of this event Truckers Lodge and Time To Get Up could outrun their odds too now they have fallen in the weights.
Guetapan Collonges may be one of the favourites for for Saturday’s Boulton Group Midlands Grand National – but trainer Charlie Longsdon is worried that the race may come too early in his career.
The JP McManus-owned seven-year-old has won four of his eight starts over fences and will be reunited with Jonjo O’Neill Jr, who steered him to victory at Warwick in November. Subsequently a fine fourth to Iwilldoit in the Classic Chase at that same track over a testing three miles and five furlongs, he bounced back to winning ways under Brian Hughes at Uttoxeter last month.
Four and a quarter miles in likely soft ground will be a step into the unknown for both himself and many of his rivals, but Longsdon feels he should cope.
“He is still an improving horse and you’d think this type of race would suit him,” said the Oxfordshire-based handler. “It is in the back of my mind that in a year’s time he might be better, because he would be a bigger, stronger horse. He is still quite a weak horse. I know he is at the top of the market, but he has still got to reverse form with the likes of Iwilldoit.”
Having already won a Welsh Grand National and a Classic Chase, the Sam Thomas-trained Iwilldoit must carry the burden of 12st, whereas Guetapan Collonges has a more attractive weight of 10st 5lb.
Longsdon added: “He has a nice weight and he is certainly the type who will do well in races in the future. He ran lovely and learned a lot at Warwick. This is another step up and it will be soft ground, which he will like. He has still got to stay four miles and two (furlongs), which will be tough for anyone. The horse is improving and he will be a nicer horse next year. I hope he could be a Grand National horse in the future – he certainly looks that kind of horse.”
The Two Amigos gave Nicky Martin the biggest success of her training career when lifting the Welsh National at Chepstow over Christmas following a string of consistent performances in staying handicaps. Although only eighth in this contest in 2021, Martin feels the 11-year-old’s chance are improving with every drop of rain that falls.
She said: “Fingers crossed, I hope it keeps raining. He’s in good form and as long as it keeps raining, he’ll be fine. He loves these sort of races. He is in good order and he’s quite big odds for what I’d thought he’d be.”
French Paradoxe hopes to give the Mick Fitzgerald Racing Club syndicate owners another day to remember. The eight-year-old is three from six over the larger obstacles and scored with some ease at Newcastle on is last run in January for trainer Oliver Signy.
“Now the rain has come, we are looking forward to it,” said the Upper Lambourn handler. “We think it is a big advantage. It is going to be a gruelling test, but at Newcastle he was easing down after they had gone a strong gallop to start with. Hopefully, he will be there or thereabouts. He should have won his last five chases but obviously he fell twice at Ffos Las and it didn’t go according to plan.
“Otherwise, he has worked very well. Gavin (Sheehan) has been very pleased with his schooling and while he hasn’t been over this trip before, with everything he has done, you’d hopefully expect him to get the trip.”
Secret Reprieve seeks a first success since winning the delayed Welsh National of 2020 for trainer Evan Williams and owner William Rucker in January of 2021.
The lightly-raced nine-year-old has shown more like his old form in a couple of races this term, finishing well when second to Farinet at Chepstow in early December and latterly when a staying-on third to Rapper at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.
Williams says he still needs to see more to become the horse he thought he always promised to be, however. He hasn’t shown any form like when he won the Welsh National. We are just hoping he can recapture that form,” he admitted.
"He looked to be showing more of his spark last time, but we just need to be moving on a bit from there, don’t we? Fingers crossed we can. I have no reason why he hasn’t done what we had hoped. We can only think he put a lot into that Welsh National win. We have 100 per cent always thought he was a Grand National horse, but you’d have to say that we are long way from where we thought we’d be – there’s no doubt in that. I thought we could have sprung forward, but we haven’t. There we are, we’ll have a go on Saturday and see where we are.”
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