Bal­ly­op­tic ‘needs to brush up on jump­ing’

Western Morning News (Saturday) - - Football Sport - BY GRA­HAM CLARK

Bal­ly­op­tic will look to earn him­self a tilt at Grand Na­tional glory in the Ran­dox Health Becher Chase at Ain­tree next month.

The Nigel Twis­ton-Davies-trained eight-year-old was a high-class stay­ing hur­dler a cou­ple of sea­sons ago and rounded off a promis­ing first cam­paign over fences by fin­ish­ing a nose sec­ond to Joe Far­rell in the Scot­tish Grand Na­tional at Ayr in April.

Jockey Sam Twis­ton-Davies is look­ing for­ward to see­ing Bal­ly­op­tic tackle the fa­mous Na­tional fences at Ain­tree for the first time on De­cem­ber 8.

He said: “It was a mas­sive run from him up at Ayr and the plan is to go get some ex­pe­ri­ence over the Na­tional fences, so that is why he was taken out of the Lad­brokes Tro­phy and will go to the Becher.

“He has got to brush up on his jump­ing, but there is no rea­son why he can’t be a Na­tional horse.

“He was very strong at the back end of four miles at Ayr and it is def­i­nitely some­thing that should be up his street. He has that bit of class and if he gets in a good rhythm he could go well.”

One Twis­ton-Davies in­mate who is firmly on the Grand Na­tional trail once again is Blak­lion.

The nine-year-old was fourth when favourite for the 2017 re­newal of the world’s most fa­mous steeple­chase and looked a lead­ing con­tender again last spring af­ter dom­i­nat­ing his rivals in the Becher.

How­ever, he only made it as far as the first fence be­fore be­ing brought down and he was pulled up on his fi­nal out­ing of the cam­paign when favourite for the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown.

Twis­ton-Davies said: “Blak­lion won’t be out un­til af­ter Christ­mas. He had a mi­nor set­back – just a very small thing. There are not many early-sea­son tar­gets for him any­way.

“He is back in work and do­ing lots of it at home, and he is get­ting there.

“The Na­tional is the plan again, all be­ing well.”

GETTY IMAGES

Sam Twis­ton-Davies rides Bal­ly­op­tic who he hopes will part­ner at the Grand Na­tional

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