Fly buzzing for National glory
ANIBALE FLY can give the Cheltenham Gold Cup form the ultimate boost by winning the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree.
Tony Martin’s Irish raider made eye-catching late progress to take third place behind the dominant duo of Native River and Might Bite at the Festival last month.
That was a classy effort and was a timely tonic after his fall in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February. Anibale Fly crashed out at the second-last fence that day, when still in contention of a place at least.
His style of running suggests he will suited by the way the National will pan out. He can be held up and will hopefully avoid trouble before his stamina and ability kick in on the second circuit.
Added to that, the JP McManusowned gelding is proven in competitive staying handicaps, as he showed when winning the 28-runner Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Anibale Fly is eight years old, the same age as two of the last three winners - Many Clouds and One For Arthur - and therefore should be at the peak of his powers.
He may be near the top of the handicap, but he is used to carrying big weights and has the class to carry him through.
While his owner enjoyed National glory with Don’t Push It eight years ago, trainer Martin is well overdue a change of luck after little went the way of past runners such as Hollybank Buck, Davids Lad and Gallant Oscar.
Martin is unlikely to have a better chance of lifting the world’s greatest steeplechase than with Anibale Fly, who has what it takes to etch his name on to the illustrious roll of honour.
Another McManus horse, Regal Encore, could run into a place at a big price after showing his liking for the race 12 months ago when he put in strong late work to snatch eighth place.
That performance convinced connections to target the National again and that aim was reinforced when he was a fine third to Total Recall in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury.
Though he flopped at Ascot on his next run, which came too soon, he bounced back with victory back at Ascot in February.
Seeyouatmidnight looks sure to out-run his odds after qualifying at the 11th hour.
Third in the 2016 Scottish Grand National, Sandy Thomson’s pride and joy has been sidelined for the majority of the last two campaigns and his participation was in doubt, as the rules state a horse must run over fences in the current season to warrant a place at Aintree.
The bad winter almost scuppered the best-laid plans, but thankfully Thomson found an opportunity in the nick of time at Newbury, where he blew away the cobwebs with an encouraging effort over a much shorter trip. Seeyouatmidnight has sound each-way claims.
Baie Des Iles is fancied to give the excellent Katie Walsh a great spin. Trained by her husband, Ross O’Sullivan, the grey mare had an excellent prep outing when third in the Grand National Trial at Punchestown.
She jumps and stays well and looking further back in her career, she was sixth in the Irish National when she was only five years old.
Away from the main event, Old Guard can take top honours in the Ryanair Stayers Hurdle as he arrives here fresh after sidestepping the Cheltenham Festival.
He beat Lil Rockerfeller in the National Spirit Hurdle on his most recent outing, relishing slightly quicker ground than he had encountered during the deep winter, and he should be in the mix again if the weather is favourable.
Petit Mouchoir was simply outclassed by Footpad at Cheltenham, but is the obvious choice in the Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase in the absence of his old rival.