John An­thony looks at the two races over the Grand Na­tional fences at Ain­tree on De­cem­ber 8

Racing Ahead - - CONTENTS -

John An­thony pre­views Ain­tree’s Dec 8 meet­ing

BLAKLION can de­fend his Becher Chaser crown for trainer Nigel Twis­tonDavies. Two of his three spins over these Grand Na­tional fences have gone well with an ex­cel­lent fourth in the 2017 Grand Na­tional be­fore that Becher suc­cess.

It was his abil­ity to see out the marathon trip in the bot­tom­less ground that cost him there more than any fail­ings in his jump­ing.

He would prob­a­bly get the Na­tional trip in quicker con­di­tions but this looks his best chance of a big-race win this sea­son and Twis­ton-Davies will have him ready.

It’s best to for­get his run in this year’s Na­tional when he was brought down at the first fence. Sim­i­lar com­ments ap­ply to his poor ef­fort in the Bet365 Gold Cup in April which was an af­ter­thought fol­low­ing his bad luck at Ain­tree.

He clearly loves these fences and this dis­tance should be ideal, with him show­ing form on de­cent and test­ing ground.

He has a slightly higher mark than when win­ning but that’s not the big­gest is­sue — it’s more about a horse’s abil­ity to stand up to this chal­lenge.

Abo­li­tion­ist is be­ing aimed at the Grand Na­tional by Dr Richard New­land and he’ll be hop­ing for a good show on this de­but over the big fences.

He came back from a long break to win a hur­dles race around here on his de­but for the yard af­ter mov­ing over from Ire­land.

That tells you he’s in good heart and won’t be lack­ing for fit­ness. It was an im­pres­sive win by 10 lengths but he shoul­ders a lot more weight as a chaser and you’re al­ways slightly wary of how a horse will han­dle this jump­ing chal­lenge.

There will be no prob­lem get­ting home for a horse that won the Le­in­ster Na­tional at Naas in 2017. He then fin­ished third in the Ir­ish Grand Na­tional of the same year the last time he jumped a fence. He has yet to un­seat or fall in a long jump­ing ca­reer so there’s ev­ery chance he’ll cope with these fences.

Bal­ly­op­tic has strong cre­den­tials af­ter los­ing the Scot­tish Na­tional in a photo fin­ish last time out in April.

He ear­lier fin­ished an ex­cel­lent fourth in the RSA Chase at Chel­tenham which hints at his class and there could be more to come in this sec­ond sea­son over fences.

Al­though he has won a mi­nor race on good ground, his best ef­forts have come with plenty of cut.

He’s an­other with the Grand Na­tional as his tar­get so a good ef­fort here would put him right in the reck­on­ing for April’s big one.

It might seem strange to con­sider a horse that has yet to win over fences but there are few more con­sis­tent chasers in train­ing than Theatre Ter­ri­tory.

Her form fig­ures speak for them­selves with her never be­ing out of the first three in seven starts over fences.

Again she jumped well on her come­back run at Chel­tenham last time when beaten a length over the 3m dis­tance.

She showed his lik­ing for these fences when fin­ish­ing third of 27 in the Topham Chase last sea­son and looks to be on a fair enough mark.

Sam Wa­ley-Co­hen is likely to be in

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