We nearly saw the first move in the Grand National market this week when Minella Rocco began his campaign with a run in the Grade Three Irish Daily Star Chase at Punchestown. The run was respectable, and of course he will come on a bundle for the outing, but it wasn’t enough to see any movement in the Grand National market.
Had Minella Rocco won I believe he would have moved into favouritism for the race, such is the potential for him to shine over the extreme national distance. We have seen his staying abilities on show at Cheltenham over the past two seasons, and this is the season I think we will see him tackle the Grand National.
We first saw the potential Minella Rocco had at the Cheltenham Festival of 2016, when he won the four mile National Hunt Chase, beating Native River into second place. He followed that up with a great third place finish in the Bet Victor Gold Cup on his reappearance in November 2016, before rounding off that campaign with a second place finish in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March 2017. All three runs told us the same about this horse, he is a high class animal, as tough as they come, and most important of all he will stay all day long.
Now a seven year old he looks ready and has enough experience behind him to try and win the Grand National. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup as well for a second year, although I do believe his main target this season will be Aintree.
He will need to brush up on his jumping ability if he is to get around the big Aintree fences after falling on two of his four starts last season. However, if he can do that then he certainly looks to have everything else going in his favour. The way he stormed up the Cheltenham hill to claim second in the Gold Cup was fantastic to see and showed just how much he needs a marathon trip. He will surely improve for that trip too, making him feasibly handicapped right now, although I don’t believe his handicap mark will be looked after for the national, I think he will continue to run in good races.
It would have been nice to see Minella Rocco fly to the front of the Grand National betting market by winning in Ireland but unfortunately he didn’t appear to be ready for the race. He is an interesting horse to watch this season and I do believe that he will end up running in the Grand National by the time we get to April.
He has the quality to win a Grand National and the stamina too, but does he have the jumping ability? Only time will tell.