It is that time of year again. We’re now into March and the major National Hunt meetings at Aintree and Cheltenham are fast approaching. The Grand National is one of the oldest races on the planet and the best stayers in the business will compete over 30 fences to determine who comes out on top.
Meanwhile, the Gold Cup might just be the most prestigious race of the year and all of the top trainers, such as Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and Colin Tizzard, will be quietly confident of glory in 2017.
Some horses were entered for both but with Cheltenham looming, the time for owners to make a decision is running out. We take a look at three horses who could prosper at either meeting this year…
HIGHLAND LODGE (Grand National)
The 2015 Becher Chase winner missed out on a spot in last year’s Grand National after he was unfairly handicapped in the weights but he will almost certainly make the cut this time around. Highland Lodge, trained by Cumbria-based James Moffatt, followed up that triumph with a second in the same race twelve months on – giving him two places from two runs over the National fences.
As of March 1st, he is 46th on the list of entries but with plenty of movement ahead of this month’s Cheltenham Festival, he looks set to head to the National. With talented young jockey Henry Brooke on board, anything is possible and you would be foolish to write this Aintree specialist out just yet…
DJAKADAM (Gold Cup)
Djakadam is an experienced racehorse and Willie Mullins has placed faith in him time and time again on the big stage. At times, his jumping can leave him wanting more but he is very quick between fences and he will have a big chance come Gold Cup day. With last year’s winner Don Cossack now retired, Djakadam may have the best pedigree in the race.
With just over two weeks until the big race, punters will be collecting all of their essential information before placing any bet on the winner. Djakadam has finished second in two Gold Cup races and this could be third time lucky. On paper, it is certainly weaker than in previous years and that could suit Ruby Walsh as he hunts a third Gold Cup success.
Outlander was handed top weight in the Grand National by the handicapper and many may of tipped him for a finish on the aintree turf. However it was announced yesterday that he will no longer be running in the national. that could mean that he heads to Cheltenham instead. Declarations are due in the near future and the nine-year-old may be better suited to go for the Gold Cup; especially as the likes of Vautour, Don Cossack and Thistlecrack will be absent at the Festival.
There are still plenty of talented horses in the Gold Cup running but Outlander has the form to suggest that he could challenge. The Elliott-trained thoroughbred was travelling strongly before falling in the latter stages of the JLT Novices’ Chase last year and his win in the Lexus Chase back in December suggests that he can emerge victorious on the big stage.