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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?”

Lord Du Mesnil advertises National claims at Haydock

Lord Du Mesnil booked his ticket for another date on Merseyside with a gutsy display in the William Hill Grand National Trial at Haydock.

Second 12 months ago, Richard Hobson’s stable star led them all a merry dance from the outset – and showed stamina and guts aplenty at the finish.

Having seemingly put the race to bed two out, Venetia Williams’ Achille arrived late on the scene but Lord Du Mesnil and Paul O’Brien were not to be denied.

Relishing the thorough test and showing that the extra distance in the Randox Grand National will surely be no problem, the 8-1 chance pulled out more to win by half a length. The Two Amigos ran another creditable race to be third.

“That was a great performance today to carry 2lb more than last year, I’m chuffed to bits,” said Hobson.

“That’s the first time he’s had his ground this year – at Chepstow the ground had been covered for 10 days and was almost good to soft.

“When he gets in that rhythm he’s a hard horse to pass, his jumping is always great on the whole and Paul gave him a lovely ride.

“If it could just be soft for us, over four-miles-two that would be enough, but obviously anything quicker and it’s not going to be his race. I’ve always said the ground is the key to him.

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“He’s got an entry in the Ultima (at Cheltenham), but I think we’ll avoid that and keep him fresh for the Grand National. He’s got a beautiful weight and we know he stays well. It’s not every year you have a Grand National horse.”

Hobson – for whom it was a poignant victory, as his father, Russell, a former trainer, died just two weeks ago – added: “Paul knows him inside out, it just hasn’t been his year up to now, the Sefton was too short and at Chepstow it wasn’t soft enough.

“He has overheated in the past, but he didn’t today. Paul got off as a precaution.”

The Nick Williams-trained Galahad Quest (12-1) had finished behind Marown when they last met but turned that form around with the favourite in the williamhill.com Best Odds Guaranteed Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

The two had it between them up the long Haydock straight once The Ferry Master had dropped away, but it was Galahad Quest, who had arguably jumped better, who prevailed by two and a half lengths.

David Noonan was on board and said: “The first-time tongue tie has obviously worked.

“He jumped well in the main, it’s all experience for the future and hopefully he can have a nice career.”

Fergal O’Brien’s Alaphilippe (100-30) was an easy winner of the Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle and is set to head to Cheltenham.

Paddy Brennan was on board and while he acknowledged Sean Bowen on Young Buck appeared to be going slightly better when coming down three out, he fancied his chances.

“I think he’s very good. I know Sean was going well, but I felt my lad was just about to get motoring,” said Brennan.

“I’ve been around long enough to know what should be going (to Cheltenham) and what shouldn’t and he should, but for Fergal O’Brien’s stable today is a good day.”

The remarkable Bushypark (8-1) won for the fifth time this season in the Pertemps Qualifier.

Phil Kirby’s seven-year-old began his winning spree at Sedgefield off a mark of 83 and bar a defeat in an all-weather bumper last time out, he has progressed with each outing, taking this off 120 under Henry Brooke.

“He’s been brilliant, obviously we never expected him to keep going as he has, but he’s very straightforward,” said Kirby.

“We’d like to go for the (Pertemps) final, but we knew we had to come here and win well to stand a chance of getting in – hopefully he’s done enough. If it’s soft, we’d go. He’ll make a nice chaser for next year.”

Paul Nicholls’ Monmiral (evens favourite) was an impressive winner of the William Hill Juvenile Hurdle.

Given the ease with which he beat Nassalam he is arguably the best four-year-old in Britain, but he is not even entered in the Triumph Hurdle with Nicholls always favouring Aintree.

Bowen was on board and doubled up through the Nicholls-trained Bob And Co (11-8 favourite) in the hunter chase.

Evergreen Perfect Candidate fits the bill for Haydock trial

Perfect Candidate is expected to put up another bold display when the veteran tackles the William Hill Grand National Trial at Haydock on Saturday.

The 14-year-old was a wide-margin winner at the track in attritional conditions last time out, forcing the handicapper to put him back up to a rating of 142.

Having been something of a Cheltenham specialist in his younger days, he has reserved his best for Merseyside the last two years, winning twice and finishing second to Lord Du Mesnil on another occasion.

“I suppose he did win by a long way last time, but he did put him up a lot (8lb),” said trainer Fergal O’Brien.

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“He’s in good form. We’ve been waiting for everything to fall right. There’s been a couple of other races he could have gone for, but I think it’s very important that Paddy (Brennan) rides him.

“He’ll go and take his chance and we’ll see how he gets on – he doesn’t owe us anything and Paddy will look after him.

“We used to say he loved Cheltenham but now Haydock suits, he’s an out-and-out stayer and the races are there for him.”

Lord Du Mesnil will take Perfect Candidate on again, with trainer Richard Hobson of the belief his stable star has put a recent issue which has caused him to over-heat after his races behind him.

“We’re happy with him now. He has a deficiency, and it took a while to work out exactly what it is,” said Hobson.

“I’m not saying sorting it out is definitely going to stop him from over-heating – it doesn’t affect him during the race, it’s after the race.

“What we’ve been treating him with is magnesium, basically, and potassium. He’s been low on them.

“It’s a strange one really. All the other horses in the yard aren’t – so why he suddenly is (and) we’ve had to boost his magnesium and potassium up, I don’t know.

“But that’s the reason, and we hope we’ve got to the bottom of it – and he’ll put up a big display.

“As long as it rains, and he gets his proper soft ground, that’s what he wants.”

Lord Du Mesnil won the Tommy Whittle and Last Fling Chase at the track last season before finishing second in this contest to Smooth Stepper, after which he was second to Ravenhill at Cheltenham.

Teillee and Mesnil feature among 15 seeking National Trial gold

Ramses De Teillee tops the weights as Lord Du Mesnil remains on course to try to go one better than last year in Haydock’s William Hill Grand National Trial Handicap Chase.

Richard Hobson’s Randox Grand National entry, just outdone by shock winner Smooth Stepper here 12 months ago, is among 15 confirmations for Saturday’s Grade Three handicap over an extended three and a half miles.

Lord Du Mesnil, last seen when only ninth in the rescheduled Welsh Grand National at Chepstow six weeks ago, is joined among the Haydock possibles by several old rivals.

Nicky Martin’s The Two Amigos was in front of him as runner-up at Chepstow, but could manage only a distant fourth in this race last year.

David Pipe’s Ramses De Teillee, winner of the Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle on this card 12 months ago, was a long way behind both Lord Du Mesnil and The Two Amigos at Chepstow.

Also still in the reckoning this time are the lightly-raced Sojourn, runner-up here in December for Anthony Honeyball, Fergal O’Brien’s veteran Perfect Candidate, Alan King’s Warwick Classic Handicap Chase hero Notachance and ex-French Ascot winner Enqarde, for Dr Richard Newland.

Enqarde also has the option of heading back to Ascot for another three-mile handicap on Saturday, but his trainer is favouring both the left-handed track and move up in distance.

“It will probably be Haydock,” said Newland.

“He did jump slightly left (at Ascot), and I just think also the extra trip will probably suit him.

“Obviously, three miles (and) four furlongs on very heavy ground at Haydock is going to be hard work for any horse.

“But yes, he’s in good form, so I can’t see why we wouldn’t have a go at it.”

There are 13 in the mix for the Prestige, with Jeremy Scott’s dual Wincanton winner Sizable Sam and Young Buck, for Paul Nicholls, catching the eye.

Jennie Candlish’s Mint Condition, a narrow runner-up at Warwick last time, also has an alternative entry in the other Grade Two on the card – the William Hill Rendlesham Hurdle.

In potential opposition there, among 13 entries, are last year’s winner Emitom – for Warren Greatrex – shock 2020 Stayers Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar, for Rebecca Curtis, and Pipe’s course-and-distance winner Main Fact.

Hobson planning health checks for Mesnil after Chepstow run

Lord Du Mesnil is to undergo tests after suffering from post-race heat stress following the Welsh National.

Trainer Richard Hobson is determined to discover the root of the problem before making any future plans for his smart long-distance chaser.

Lord Du Mesnil first had an issue when he was runner-up in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham in March, and again overheated after he finished ninth at Chepstow on Saturday.

“It was obviously a bit disappointing to see him do that again, but we’re going to take some tests this week to see if there’s something lacking,” said Hobson.

“He shouldn’t have run, though. I walked the course, and it was disappointing for me to have him in good order and run him on ground that didn’t suit.

“He wants it like a bog. He wants proper soft conditions, and he didn’t get it. The covers clearly did a good job.”

A return to soft or heavy ground will therefore be prescribed, but not before Hobson has thoroughly investigated the reasons for his heat stress.

“When this horse started winning races, that was his asset,” added the Cotswolds trainer.

“He was able to gallop through deep ground at Newcastle, at Haydock and when he was second at Cheltenham, when other horses couldn’t.

“I want to do a few tests on him. I want to make sure I understand a little bit more why he’s overheating, so we need to get that sorted.”

Hobson has another exciting prospect in De Forgotten One, who won a qualifier for the Northern Lights Middle Distance Chase Series at Catterick.

The seven-year-old had previously run third to Some Neck over Cheltenham’s cross-country course.

“He’s gone up 10lb, and the Topham is his long-term aim,” said Hobson.

“He’s had four runs for us, the first two in France. He’s young, he’s very exciting, very professional and as good a jumper as you’ll see. He has a big future.”