A decision may be imminent on Minella Times’ big-race target this spring – with a choice of Grand Nationals still to be made.
Henry de Bromhead’s improving chaser has attracted market support into 16-1 with Coral for next month’s Randox Grand National, after punters discerned that he is Rachael Blackmore’s most likely ride at Aintree.
Blackmore’s brilliant Cheltenham Festival performance – as top rider at last week’s meeting with six victories, including the Champion Hurdle – has inevitably increased interest in her plans for the Aintree showpiece, which has never yet been won by a female jockey.
Minella Times retains an alternative entry in the Boylesports Irish Grand National, which will be run on Easter Monday – just five days before the equivalent at Liverpool.
The eight-year-old’s target could become clearer on Wednesday – when there is another forfeit stage for the Fairyhouse race – but Frank Berry, racing manager for owner JP McManus, has stressed discussions are ongoing.
“He’s in the Irish National as well – we’ll make a decision on that in the morning,” he said.
“It’ll be whether he stays in the Irish National, or comes out tomorrow.
“It’s very much up in the air at the minute. Today, it’s 50-50 – we’ll decide in the morning whether he stays in or comes out.”
Minella Times is one of 17 possible Irish Grand National contenders for McManus – among whom however Time To Get Up, a decisive winner of the Midlands version at Uttoxeter on Saturday, is rated “unlikely” to take part.
Minella Times has yet to race beyond three miles. But in just three starts this season, ridden each time by Blackmore, he followed a Listowel victory by twice staying on well to be runner-up in valuable handicaps at Leopardstown.
“He’s run two good races in two very competitive handicaps,” added Berry.
“I don’t know about the (extra) trip bringing out much improvement – but he ran well in both of them.”
Time To Get Up proved stamina was his forte when he moved up to a marathon distance for the first time at the weekend, and has since been installed as market leader for Fairyhouse.
But Berry said: “It’s unlikely he’ll run (in the Irish National).”
Patience may be required too before the much-anticipated rules debut of another potential McManus star, Jonbon.
The powerhouse owner bought the five-year-old, full-brother to brilliant dual Cheltenham Festival winner Douvan, for £570,000 shortly after his wide-margin success in his only point-to-point at Dromahane last November.
Jonbon has subsequently gone into training with Nicky Henderson, and is entered in a bumper at Newbury on Saturday.
But the going is forecast to be good, with watering planned during the current dry spell – and Berry said: “He’ll be ground dependent.
“If it gets much drier I’d say you won’t see him there.”
The intention remains to run Jonbon this spring, however, when conditions allow.
“I’m sure it (the rain) will come back again,” added Berry.
“Nicky’s happy with him, (but) it will be ground dependent for Newbury anyway.
“He seems to have settled into Nicky’s nicely, and we’ll see how he gets on when he runs.”