Fly buzzing for National glory

South Wales Echo - - SPORT -

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.

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