Little Bruce, trained by Phil Kirby, produced a very nice staying performance to land the North Yorkshire Grand National in style at Catterick on Thursday. This horse went one better than in 2019 when he finished second in the race behind Sharp Response. As he is only an eight-year-old, there could be even more to come from this horse in the near future.
The horse has had ten starts over the bigger obstacles, but few of those have been over real staying trips, which based on his win at Catterick is certainly what he needs. At 3m6f it was a long race but one that he clearly enjoys as he won over a similar distance least season at Huntingdon.
He was up with the leaders for most of the way before taking the race up with around half a circuit left to go. He was challenged by a couple of rivals but every time a horse got near him he pulled a little further away from them.
Between the final two fences, he looked full of running and quickened away from the field. He eventually recorded a winning distance of three lengths, with Sumkindofking back in second place. While three lengths doesn’t sound the biggest winning margin, it could have been more if needed and the horse was still going strong at the line.
Speaking after the race, trainer Phil Kirby stated that plan A for the horse was to run in the Edinburgh National.
The trainer said: “I wanted to run Little Bruce in the Edinburgh National really but I saw the entries for this and I thought he might have to take his chance because it looked a winnable opportunity.
“The Musselburgh race was Plan A and I'd say he'll still go there, I don't think he's had a particularly hard race and he's game.”
However, after seeing the entries for the North Yorkshire Grand National, they opted for that race as it looked a good opportunity. He said that if the horse was fine then he would still go for the Edinburgh National, which takes place on Saturday, February 1, so that gives Little Bruce nearly one month to recover.
Over the moon to see Little Bruce take the North Yorkshire Grand National this afternoon with his partner in crime @TommyDowson 👏🏼 A little horse with a big heart. Well done to all connections and our team back home. Hon the Brucey 🐎🙌🏼🥂 #Winner https://t.co/cEWgrMyqwD
— Philip Kirby Racing (@PKirbyRacing) January 9, 2020
Will he go to Aintree after that? At the moment that is a bit unlikely although another win at Edinburgh would certainly put the thought into Phil Kirby’s head. However, they could give him a run in something like the Scottish National at the end of the season. Then they would train him with one eye on Aintree in 2021, when they have a year to prepare for it. Though I wouldn't rule on Little Bruce getting an entry for the Grand National 2020 – just in case!
The horse won at Catterick off 132, and he looked as though he would have no problem handling a rise in the weights, and a further few furlongs if that is the way they want to go with him. He is relatively unexposed as a long-distance chaser, although we have seen him plenty of times.
Both the end of this season and the whole of next season are likely when we will see this horse at his peak and he looks to be an exciting horse to follow. He is only small, but has a huge heart and did it very nicely at Catterick to win their feature race of the year. The next stop is the Edinburgh National, and then after that, we could well see him back in Scotland at Ayr for the Scottish National.