Lord seeks to complete long-range Aintree mission

Richard Hobson is looking to Lord Du Mesnil to give his dual bloodstock and training operations a boost by realising a long-term plan in the Randox Grand National.

The eight-year-old was the winner of Haydock’s Grand National Trial in February – beating Venetia Williams’ Achille by half-a-length under Paul O’Brien, having finished second last year.

A previous run in the Grand Sefton Chase in December was Lord Du Mesnil’s chance to familiarise himself with the unique Aintree fences, and the Cheltenham Festival was purposefully overlooked to leave him fresh and primed for the National.

“Aintree has always been the plan – that’s why he had a prep run over the National fences in the Sefton, over a shorter trip,” said Hobson.

“He’s a staying chaser, and this is the biggest staying chase of the year.

“That’s what he’s turned into, he’s proven that.

“He’s won over three-and-a-half miles on two occasions. It’s always been the target, and now his handicap mark has gone from 115 to 154.”

Hobson is well versed in the unpredictability of the race, with his first National runner hampered when travelling well in 2018 and eventually pulled up by James Bowen.

“It’s a lottery, isn’t it?” said the Cotswolds trainer.

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“You need luck in running, and it all needs to go in your favour on the day.

“We’ve had one runner in it, Shantou Flyer. He was second in the Ultima (Chase at Cheltenham) two weeks before, but he got knocked sideways at the Canal Turn.

“Otherwise, he was actually going along quite well at the back.

“You need a bit of luck and a clean run round. He’d (Lord Du Mesnil) need a bit of juice in the ground for him as well.”

Hobson’s charge will be partnered by National first-timer Paul O’Brien.

“We’re going into it with Paul having his first ride,” added Hobson.

“I wanted to stand by him, even though he’s a novice having his first ride in the race.

“If the horse could get round and run a big race and finish in the first five, we’ll be delighted.

“If we could be the best of the British, I’d take that!”

Alongside his training licence, Hobson is also heavily involved in the bloodstock industry and was responsible for the sourcing of prolific French-bred horses such as Acapella Bourgeois, Petit Mouchoir – and 22-time Grade One winner Hurricane Fly.

His Little Rissington yard houses only 20 horses in training, with the mainstay of his business being the young stock he produces and sells – often seeing them end up in the hands of rival trainers.

Hurricane Fly was sourced by Richard Hobson
Hurricane Fly was sourced by Richard Hobson (Brian Lawless/PA)

A victory in the world’s most famous steeplechase could be enough to turn those tables, with Hobson hoping such a high-profile winner may persuade owners to retain his training services once his role as a bloodstock agent is complete.

“We only have 20 horses in training – we’re not a big yard,” he said.

“We do sales as well and we produce young horses, which we sell on.

“It’d be nice to get a little bit more of a high profile for us. Then maybe some of these nice youngsters that go to other trainers and get moved on from here, we’ll be able to keep them.

“We’re always looking to get new owners and people to back you – but certainly since I’ve started training, the bloodstock side of things has paid for the job.

“Until somebody comes along, a big backer or an owner who wants to put four or five horses with us, that’ll continue to be the way things go.”

There is no bigger stage in National Hunt racing than the Grand National, and the fixture ranks highly on Hobson’s list of career aspirations.

“It’s right up there,” he said.

“For a small yard like us, it’s our big day, isn’t it?”

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