Kim Bailey already has next year’s Grand National in mind for Two For Gold as he gives the eight-year-old a first taste of the famous fences in the Randox Topham Handicap Chase at Aintree.
Two For Gold has had a good second season over fences – beating Aso at Warwick in February before finishing third to Grand National favourite Cloth Cap at Kelso last month, with other big-race hopefuls Definitly Red and Lake View Lad behind him.
“The owners are very keen, as we are, to see him over the National fences,” said Bailey.
“We think he’s going to be a Grand National horse in a year’s time, so this is a good place for him to learn, and we’ll see how he gets on.
“It’ll be an interesting race, as it always is.”
The likely favourite on Friday is the Willie Mullins-trained Livelovelaugh, who will be ridden by the trainer’s son Patrick.
The 11-year-old, who finished 11th in the 2019 Grand National, has been running well in defeat this season – but has not managed to get his head in front in more than three years.
Mullins said: “I was actually angling to try and get Livelovelaugh to go for the Foxhunters’ this year, because he hasn’t won for a few years, but they decided to keep him going in normal racing.
“He’s been running very consistently. He’s an 11-year-old with 11 stone, so I don’t think the stats say he has as good a chance as the betting does.
“But he jumped fantastically for David Mullins in the National a couple of years ago when he didn’t stay, and the trip will suit and the ground will suit.
“I think he should give me a great spin.”
Willie Mullins also saddles Robin Des Foret, of whom Mullins junior added: “He’s a similar type of horse – he likes good ground, he’s a good jumper and a strong traveller.
“He needed his run back in Clonmel. He’s got plenty of weight, but the race will suit.”
Kauto Riko, last seen finishing fourth in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November, is set to take his chance in the Topham because he is only third reserve for the Grand National on Saturday.
The 10-year-old’s trainer Tom Gretton said: “We were hoping he’d get in the National, but I think we’re struggling.
“He runs best fresh. He ran well at Cheltenham in November, and if he could run like that it would be ideal.
“He was going to run in January at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day and/or Trials Day. They were both lost to the weather, then I didn’t want to run before Cheltenham or Aintree, and we decided on Aintree.
“He had a racecourse gallop and had a school over over Aintree-style fences twice this week.”
Alex Hales has had this race as the objective for Huntsman Son since the start of the season – and was pleased with his run at the Cheltenham Festival when he was sixth in the Paddy Power Plate.
“This has sort of been our plan all year,” said the Northamptonshire trainer.
“We wanted to run him in the Grand Sefton, and the ground went against us.
“I thought he ran very well at Cheltenham. Touch wood, he’s a very good jumper, and I think this race is made for him really.
“He’s got a lovely weight (11st), and I thought he was quite a big price, to be honest.”
The spring is Snugsborough Hall’s time of the year, and Liam Cusack is looking forward to giving the 10-year-old an opportunity over the National fences – with top Irish amateur Derek O’Connor in the saddle.
“He’s in good form, he’s a spring horse and it will be nice ground,” said the County Laois trainer.
“It’s his first time over those fences, but he jumps well.
“We’ve got Derek O’Connor. He’s a top man and has plenty of experience over those fences.
“We’re hoping he runs a nice race and comes back in one piece.”
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