Ronan McNally has the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival next in mind for The Jam Man as he tees up the yard favourite for an Irish Grand National bid.
The nine-year-old travelled to England to contest the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle at Warwick on Saturday, a competitive race for which he was considered a 10-1 chance.
Partnered by conditional jockey Kevin Brogan, the gelding came home three lengths behind Philip Hobbs’ Sporting John and thus, by finishing in the top six, gained eligibility for the Grade Three Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
“He was outstanding there, we were really delighted,” McNally said.
“He maybe just didn’t get the run of the race a few times but we were absolutely chuffed with him.
“He was going over to try to get a weaker qualifier but it was basically as good as any Pertemps qualifier – Sporting John is obviously a very good horse so we were delighted.”
The Festival is now very much on the agenda for the bay, who is likely to benefit from not winning the Warwick race by being less severely dealt with by the handicapper.
“I was thinking that if he won the race he wouldn’t go to the Pertemps Final because he’d be up in the weights too much,” McNally said.
“Now that we were second it’s maybe a blessing in disguise, so we’ll probably enter the Pertemps and have a crack at it.”
The Jam Man is a versatile performer who has won good quality races over hurdles, fences and on the Flat throughout his career.
His last victory over fences was a superb 18-length rout in the valuable Troytown Chase at Navan in November 2020, off the back of a string of hurdling efforts and races on the level.
McNally is hoping to employ the same tactics this season with the horse, this time targeting the Irish Grand National for his first run over the larger obstacles after a spell over hurdles.
“He’ll hopefully go to the Irish National, that’d be the long term plan,” he said.
“That’s why I don’t really want to jump a fence until he goes for a big target like that.
“He hadn’t run for a while over fences and then he went to the Troytown and he was outstanding, so I thought I’d save him for one really good crack at a big pot over fences.”
The gelding is a popular horse amongst racing fans but is particularly well-loved at McNally’s County Armagh stable, where he is the regular mount of the trainer’s son Kian, affectionally known as ‘Tubs’.
“He’s a joy, he’s a yard favourite and he’s so quiet and honest around the yard,” McNally said.
“Tubs rides him most days, he’s a pleasure to have around the place.”