Cumbrian trainer Dianne Sayer is hoping that Baileys Concerto can sneak into the final field for the £1 million Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, April 11.
The nine-year-old, who schooled over the Grand National fences at Malton this morning (March 31), currently sits just outside the top 40 entries having been given 10st 2lb for the legendary handicap chase, which is run over an extended four miles and three furlongs.
The British Horseracing Authority’s Head of Handicapping Phil Smith will reassess horses that have been allotted the same weight in the Crabbie’s Grand National following the five-day confirmation stage on Monday, April 6, to provide an order of elimination. There are currently six horses entered with 10st 2lb.
The maximum field for the Crabbie’s Grand National is 40 runners and these will be revealed, along with four reserves, on Thursday, April 9.
Baileys Concerto racked up a five-timer over hurdles and fences during the first half of the season, including a comfortable win in a novices’ handicap chase over two and a half miles of the Mildmay Course at Aintree in December.
He ran a fine race to take second in the valuable Sky Bet chase at Doncaster on January 24 but could only finish fifth on his latest start in the Listed totepool Premier Chase over half a furlong shorter at Kelso on February 28.
Sayer reported: “We are hoping that Baileys Concerto can make it into the final field for the Crabbie’s Grand National but, if he doesn’t get in, then we will give the Crabbie’s Topham Chase (Aintree, Friday, April 10) a go instead.
“Brian Hughes schooled him over the National-style fences at Malton this morning. I think we caught the worst weather of the winter – we had wind, hail and rain – but the schooling itself went well. It’s another step on the road towards the Grand National and we are very happy with him.
“He had a bit of heat and swelling in his leg when he came back from the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster, which I was initially very concerned about but it was just him over-reacting as usual.
“We lost a bit of time because of that and there was a suspicion when we ran him at Kelso that he wasn’t quite right but it would have meant a long break between Doncaster and Aintree. I wasn’t overly disappointed with that run and it will have hopefully helped us with regard to the Grand National.
“The distance will be a step into the unknown and I really don’t know whether he will stay or not. He is probably in the best form of his life and, if we didn’t give it a go this year, then it could be that his opportunity might be missed.
“If he was a more straightforward horse, then we would have made a plan to run in the Topham this year and then come back for the National next season but you have to take what you have got with him.
“He has done terribly well but he is a fragile character. He presents you with something different each day and is a bit of a challenge but he is fabulous – he’s our stable star and we are very, very pleased to have him.”