The Portman Cup was run at Taunton on Saturday and the winner Yala Enki could well be primed for a tilt at the Grand National following what was an impressive win.
The 3m4f test was enough for the 10-year-old, but as we have seen in the past, he is a horse that is capable of running over further. The race was also run on testing heavy ground. But he has shown that he can handle that and often needs the ground at least soft to be seen at his best. Whether we get that at Aintree could well decide whether he goes or not.
A sterling performance, he won by five and a half lengths on the day. He was well on top over the last couple of fences and could have pulled out more if needed. On an official rating of 157, it probably won’t go up on the back of the Taunton win. Particularly as he had the 150 rated Rock the Kasbah behind him.
This horse was trained by Venetia Williams until last summer when he moved to Paul Nicholls. His first run for his new yard was in the Ladbroke Trophy Chase and to be honest it was a very disappointing one, finishing in midfield. However, since then we have also seen him finish a very good third in the Welsh National at Chepstow. And now with the win at Taunton there is no doubt that the move of yards has done him well.
The run at Welsh National was over two and a half more furlongs than the win at Taunton and was again on heavy ground. Because of that, it appears as though this horse will be able to stay the trip if Paul Nicholls does decide to send him to Aintree for the 2020 Grand National. Yala Enki did get an entry last year and on an OR of 156 was allocated a weight of 10-12. However, he was withdrawn at the five-day declaration stage.
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As a 10-years-old, this is probably the optimum year for him to run in the showpiece at Aintree which may sway the decision to go there. As mentioned, the weather will more than likely also factor in whether he goes or not. He needs the ground to be soft and a fine spring would possibly rule him out of running. Similar to last year, connections may hold off on any decision until the last possible moment.
A handicap mark of 157 would certainly get this horse in the race and he would be amongst the top-rated in it. Depending on who else gets the green light, he should have a similar weight to the 10-12 of last season. Bryony Frost has ridden the horse on all his starts for Paul Nicholls and she has shown a great rapport with him already so would no doubt want to keep the ride. Though there are rumors that Frodon may also get an entry, as unlikely as that is. So may have a choice to make!
With Nicholls having little in the way of genuine 2020 Grand National contenders, this could be another reason for an Aintree run. He often sends a few runners to the race but doesn’t appear to have too much available for it at the moment. Yala Enki could well be his best chance of a winner in it in 2020. Currently, he is on ante-post odds of 33/1. So if you fancy his chances, you know what to do!
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