Any Second Now underlined his Randox Grand National claims with an effortless victory in the Grade Two Webster Cup at Navan.
Ted Walsh’s charge is now a general 12-1 second-favourite behind Cloth Cap for the Aintree showpiece on April 10 following an impressive round of jumping in the hands of Mark Walsh.
Sent off a 3-1 chance for this two-mile heat, Any Second Now was clearly in control with three to jump before moving clear after the penultimate obstacle and coasting home by 10 lengths from favourite Castlegrace Paddy.
The winning handler famously sent out Papillon to win the National back in 2000 while Seabass finished third in 2012, and Walsh thinks the JP McManus-owned Any Second Now compares favourably with those runners.
“He did it well,” said Walsh.
“He won a similar race last year at Naas the same way, he’s a smart horse. He won his maiden hurdle around here, won a Grade Two at Punchestown over hurdles and won the Kim Muir. He’s a fair horse.
“I’d say that was a career best and he’s going to the National in a good frame of mind. Five runners here and 40 in the National is chalk and cheese, but he’s going there in good shape and whatever happens, happens.
“He has a grand weight off 10st 9lb. I’ve no problem with the weight, anywhere this side of 11st is grand.
“He reminds me of Papillon or Seabass as he’s going there with a good chance. If he takes to the place, travels, jumps and gets a bit of luck, he won’t be far away.
“I’d say the favourite will be hard to beat, but if he runs a good race and he’s in good shape you can’t do more than that.”
Denise Foster claimed both divisions of the Navan Members Maiden Hurdle with Coqolino (8-11 favourite) and Robinstown (11-1).
The McManus-owned Coqolino took the first leg, triumphing by three and three-quarter lengths in the hands of Walsh despite a couple of lacklustre jumps – most notably at the final flight.
“He had a bit of a scare at the last but he did that well,” said Foster.
“He’s a gorgeous horse and he’s a chaser in the making. He probably wouldn’t like fast ground, so whether he has another run this season will depend on Frank (Berry, McManus’ racing manager) and JP.
“I’m delighted to give JP (who was 70 on Wednesday) a birthday present.”
Robinstown stayed on strongly in the second division for Jack Kennedy, while the Walsh-ridden and McManus-owned Gars De Sceaux (9-4 favourite) gave Foster her fourth winner since taking control of Gordon Elliott’s string on Tuesday in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Hurdle.
Foster sent out her first victor from Cullentra at Wexford on Wednesday and said: “It’s been good. It’s a well-oiled machine and the whole team have been so helpful.
“The staff are amazing, I know a lot of them. It will take me a while to get a handle on all the horses as there are so many.
“Everybody has been brilliant, I’ve felt really at home and that’s put the icing on the cake. I’m delighted for all the team because they’ve had a very hard time and worked so hard.”