Tag Archive for: Lucinda Russell

Lucinda Russell announces retirement of Corach Rambler

Last year’s Grand National hero Corach Rambler has been retired, trainer Lucinda Russell has announced.

The 10-year-old struck gold at Aintree in 2023 to give Russell and jockey Derek Fox their second National after One For Arthur in 2017.

He was fancied to run a big race once more in this year’s renewal after finishing third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but parted company with his rider at the first fence. He went to Punchestown after that, but was pulled up.

He was twice a winner at the Cheltenham Festival, recording back-to-back victories in the Ultima Handicap Chase.

Corach Rambler (left) jumps the last on his way to Aintree glory
Corach Rambler (left) jumps the last on his way to Aintree glory (Nigel French/PA)

Russell said on her website, www.lucindarussell.com: “After a lot of thought and discussion we have decided that our brilliant 2023 Grand National winner Corach Rambler is going to be retired.

“In some ways the decision is laced with sadness. Corach has been a horse of a lifetime for his seven-strong syndicate of owners who won the greatest steeplechase in the world.

“He also has had a special relationship with our jockey Derek Fox and has brought so much joy to all our staff here at Arlary.

“But the decision is also a joyous one. Corach Rambler will always be a special horse for us, we owe him so much.

“More than anything we want him to go out at the top, in excellent physical condition and able to hopefully enjoy a long and happy retirement.

“Corach has had a massive influence on the fantastic run of success we are enjoying and influx of new horses and owners to our stable. His story has resonated with both racing fans and those people who take a casual interest in the sport.

“The fact he only cost £17,000 and mixed with and beat equine millionaires gave hope to any owner and trainer that they can compete no matter what their budget.”

She added: “The first of his two wins in the Ultima Handicap Chase (in 2022) earned Derek awards for his daring last-to-first ride but even he would admit Corach was the star act.

“He will forever be remembered for his Grand National victory but it should not be forgotten that he had an excellent record at Cheltenham.

“He raced there four times and his record is three wins, two at the Festival, and a third to Galopin Des Champs in last season’s Gold Cup.

“In all he won seven of his 18 races and over £750,000. He quite literally owes us nothing – we are in his debt.”

Reflecting further, Russell said: “To some our decision will be a surprise. Corach is only 10, he could have raced on. But we feel we have a great responsibility with a horse with his public following to do the best thing for him.

“His run in the Grand National in April did not work out as we all hoped. He unseated Derek at the first fence and then was unfortunately knocked over at the next fence when running loose.

“Maybe that frightened him a bit. We have said all along that he is one of the most intelligent horses we have ever trained and he never looked happy when we ran him at Punchestown last month.”

Willie Mullins has to settle for minor honours in Perth Listed events

Willie Mullins had to make do with minor honours in the two Listed events on the opening day of the Perth Festival as Sounds Russian and Apple Away both secured popular victories.

Better known as a high-class staying chaser, Sounds Russian was sidelined for the best part of the year after suffering a knee injury which subsequently required surgery after being brought down in last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Having finished fifth in the Rendlesham Hurdle on his February comeback at Haydock, the nine-year-old was a 5-1 shot for the British EBF Gold Castle ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle under Brian Hughes and knuckled down to to secure a three-length success over the Mullins-trained 8-11 favourite Loughglynn.

Winning trainer Ruth Jefferson said: “That was good, he travelled better today and jumped better and Brian said it was like riding a different horse to Haydock.

“He was the fresh horse in the race, it was only his second run of the season so that probably helped as well, but you couldn’t really be anything other than happy.”

Of his injury, Jefferson added: “We’ve never really had this type of injury before, so we were sort of making it up a bit as we went along. Everyone has done a great job, from the surgeon to the girl who had him in pre-training and when he came back to us it was just a question of whether he’d stand up to it.

“We haven’t had many bumps in the road, you never quite know but he obviously hasn’t lost his enthusiasm for it which is the main thing.

“He’ll have a summer break now as there isn’t really a lot for him and he wouldn’t want quick ground anyway.

“We now know he goes right-handed, which opens up a few options. We might look at the Charlie Hall if the ground is all right and we could look at the Betfair Chase and there is the race at Ascot (1965 Chase) if it was soft enough.

“I’m sure there will be something for him over fences and that is the plan, but if not we can always go back over hurdles.”

Mullins also saddled the marginal favourite for Robertson Homes Fair Maid Of Perth Mares’ Chase in 7-4 shot Instit, but she too picked up the silver medal behind Grade One-winning hurdler Apple Away.

Apple Away was a Grade One winner over hurdles
Apple Away was a Grade One winner over hurdles (David Davies/PA)

Since that top-level win at last year’s Grand National meeting at Aintree, Lucinda Russell’s seven-year-old has been plying her trade in quality novice events over fences, most recently finishing fifth in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Instit set out to make all the running under Paul Townend, but she was reeled in by 9-4 chance Apple Away and pilot Derek Fox, with four and three-quarter lengths separating them at the line.

Ed Seyfried of owners Old Gold Racing said: “I think she’s just had an unlucky campaign actually, so to get a Listed win over fences under her belt is fantastic.

“I think we all expected her to continue on the trajectory she was on last season and until this afternoon she hadn’t quite done that, but I think there are genuine reasons for that and I lay the blame mainly on the weather, it just made mapping out a really good campaign for her really difficult.

“I think we’re going to have a lot of fun next season as we’ll send her hurdling and chasing. Where she goes is above my paygrade as I don’t know how to plot these things, I’ll leave it completely up to the people who know what they’re doing, but it’ll be interesting.

“It’s good that horses are partially colour blind as there were so many Old Gold scarves there it was kind of blinding, but there was such a good atmosphere because of it. I reckon we had 200 or 300 Old Gold members there and maybe I’m being a bit fanciful and fantastical, but hopefully the mare and the Old Gold members kind of fed off each other.

“Everyone was so happy and in the nicest way possible, it’s nice to serve one up to the Irish!”

Although out of luck in Scotland, with the well-fancied pair of Dr Eggman and Figaroc also coming up short, Mullins did enjoy a winner with his first ever runner at Ludlow.

Daddy Long Legs, ridden by the Closutton handler’s son Patrick, obliged as a 1-7 favourite with the easiest of victories in the opening Butty Bach Novices’ Hurdle, seeing him extend his lead in the race to be crowned British champion trainer.

Punchestown tilt not ruled out for Corach Rambler

Lucinda Russell will consider a tilt at the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup with Corach Rambler following his first fence exit in the Grand National last weekend.

Following a highly creditable third place finish in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the 10-year-old was well fancied by many to claim back-to-back victories in the Aintree spectacular, but parted company with Derek Fox at the first obstacle and then fell riderless at the second.

Thankfully Corach Rambler returned to Scotland unscathed and having pleased in a midweek schooling session, Russell is not ruling out an end of season trip across the Irish Sea.

“When Corach Rambler unseated Derek at the first in Saturday’s Grand National, it certainly wasn’t the fairytale result the team and I had dreamt about for our pride and joy! It was naturally very disappointing, but I’m delighted to report that he came home safe and sound,” she told William Hill.

“We schooled him on Wednesday morning to make sure he hadn’t lost any confidence after Aintree, and he seems really happy. He’s very pleased to be back in work and there are no ill-effects from Liverpool, which is fantastic.

“Regarding future plans this season, he’s still got an entry in the Punchestown Gold Cup. Immediately after the Grand National, I wasn’t that keen to run him again this term, but if he’s very fresh and feels good, we’ll think about taking him to Ireland.

“We’ll see what each day brings and decide nearer the time, but I certainly wouldn’t rule it out.”

All well with Corach Rambler after National disappointment

Lucinda Russell’s Corach Rambler is none the worse after his Randox Grand National title defence ended at the first fence.

The 10-year-old won the race for owners The Ramblers last season, prevailing by two and a quarter lengths to give the Kinross trainer her second success after One For Arthur in 2017.

This season Corach Rambler aimed to emulate great horses such as Red Rum and Tiger Roll in returning to Aintree to retain his title, but first he was a contender at the very top level in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

There he ran an admirable race when finishing third behind Galopin Des Champs, a run that made his handicap allocation for the Grand National look rather generous.

As such he was well-backed on return to Liverpool and started at 15-2 under Derek Fox having been the favourite for much of the ante-post phase.

Sadly his race ended only moments after it began, with Corach Rambler stumbling on landing after the first fence and unseating Fox.

He then ran loose to the next fence and fell when meeting the ground on the other side, though connections were spared the ordeal of seeing him run riderless for the rest of the race as was he corralled ahead of the third fence and caught.

Russell reported him to be unscathed following the experience and will now call it a day for the season and allow him to enjoy a summer break.

“He’s had a good sleep in his stable and is perfect,” she said.

“We’re very pleased and relieved to have him home in one piece and he’ll now go on a nice holiday and then we’ll decide what happens next.

“He just seemed to stumble and it’s one of the those things, but luck was on our side still as he’s absolutely fine.

“He went into one of the corrals, it’s very good how they work, he was caught quite quickly and that was a relief.”

Corach Rambler ready to rumble in quest for back-to-back Nationals

Lucinda Russell has her sights on another monumental day at Aintree when Corach Rambler defends his Randox Grand National title.

The 10-year-old ran out an impressive winner 12 months ago and will attempt to join the likes of Tiger Roll and the legendary Red Rum on the select list of back-to-back champions.

Buoyed by the performance of Ahoy Senor at the track on Thursday, the Scottish trainer is hopeful ahead of her Cheltenham Gold Cup third’s quest to join the Aintree immortals.

Derek Fox and Lucinda Russell celebrate after winning the Randox Grand National
Derek Fox and Lucinda Russell celebrate after winning the Randox Grand National (Peter Byrne/PA)

Russell – like her jockey Derek Fox also victorious with One For Arthur in 2017 – said: “I love coming to Aintree, we’ve had so many great days here and the crowd are always so appreciative, I feel a great affinity with it, it’s magic.

“I wish I could skip forward to Sunday, but I’m really hopeful and obviously watching Ahoy Senor has boosted his form again as the winner (Gerri Colombe) was just in front of him in the Gold Cup.

“We didn’t travel down until Thursday morning, which is different for us, but Scu (Peter Scudamore, assistant and partner) wanted to ride Corach on Thursday morning. The ground must be drying out and that is in his favour.”

Vanillier’s fast-finishing effort was ultimately in vain 12 months ago, but last year’s runner-up has been prepared with one day in mind as he bids to become the first grey in 12 years to win.

Vanillier in Grand National action last year
Vanillier in Grand National action last year (Mike Egerton/PA)

“We’ve trained him all year with this race in mind and he seems in good nick at home, so hopefully he will be right there,” said trainer Gavin Cromwell.

“He likes it at Aintree, so it would be good to see him run well there again.”

Cromwell will also be represented by Cheltenham Festival winner Limerick Lace, who will try to end the 70-year plus losing run for mares in the National.

He continued: “I suppose she goes on the ground, but whether she will stay on that ground, I’m not particularly sure – it’s going to take a lot of getting.

“She’s only a seven-year-old, but she is going into the race in good form and off a light weight and we hope she has a chance.”

Limerick Lace is owned by JP McManus, who is seeking his third National win after both Don’t Push It (2010) and Minella Times (2021).

The McManus squad includes the highly-touted Willie Mullins-trained pair I Am Maximus and Meetingofthewaters, with the master of Closutton reportedly pleased with the duo’s preparations.

“We have some nice prospects, but in the National you need a bit of luck. Hopefully they get round and have a bit of luck, that would be great,” said McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry.

“Willie is happy with his. I Am Maximus would be the big one if he takes to the place. He won’t mind the ground, but his jumping will have to come into play and he will need a bit of luck in running.

“Meetingofthewaters ran well at Cheltenham and he’s come out of the race well. Willie is very happy with him and we keep our fingers crossed he gets a good round.”

There would be emotional scenes in the winner’s enclosure if Kitty’s Light was to strike for Christian Williams and having snuck into the race at the foot of the handicap, big-race pilot Jack Tudor is willing a long-held plan to come to fruition.

“We kind of sacrificed our whole season for this one race, so to be guaranteed a run now is massive,” said Tudor.

“From this time last year, it’s kind of all been leading to this and to now finally have a go at it, we’re looking forward to it.

“He’s obviously very used to big handicaps and big-runner fields and the only difference is going to be the fences and as long as he takes to them, they actually ride like a very nice fence, so we just hope he can get into a nice rhythm early and then hope for a bit of luck.”

Panda Boy will represent Martin Brassil in the Grand National
Panda Boy will represent Martin Brassil in the Grand National (Donall Farmer/PA)

Martin Brassil knows all about winning on Merseyside and hopes conditions will not hinder Panda Boy’s attempt to follow in the footsteps of 2006 winner Numbersixvalverde.

“It will all depend on how he copes, but he has coped with a couple of big fields so far and hopefully it won’t be a problem,” explained Brassil.

“With the reduced sized field, it might make things easier too, but the ground would be the one thing I would be worried about if there is heavy in there.

“He’s had two solid runs in good company and he’s about 10 or 11lb better off with Meetingofthewaters from the Leopardstown race where he was beaten and hopefully if Meetingofthewaters is involved, Panda Boy might be somewhere in and around at the finish.”

Mahler Mission will be John McConnell's first runner in the Grand National
Mahler Mission will be John McConnell’s first runner in the Grand National (Tim Goode/PA)

In contrast, Mahler Mission will give John McConnell his first runner, with the Irish handler full of confidence ahead of the big occasion.

He said: “We couldn’t be happier with him and we’re hoping that translates on the day – and if we get some above average luck, he should run a big race.

“We’ve never had him better and from that point of view we’re very happy. The ground should be OK and we’re looking forward to it.

“It’s a very big day and I just hope we get no hard-luck stories and then whatever will be will be, but we’ve enormous confidence in the horse.”

Russell hoping Aintree history is calling for Corach Rambler

As a Randox Grand National winner Corach Rambler’s place in racing history is already assured. But superstar status awaits if he can make it back-to-back victories at Aintree.

A relatively inexpensive purchase at £17,000 from the Irish point-to-point field, the 10-year-old has given his trainer and the seven members of The Ramblers syndicate the ride of their lives.

Seven wins from 16 starts is admirable rather than amazing, but successive wins in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival followed by success in the world’s most famous steeplechase on Merseyside 12 months ago mean he has achieved far more than his connections could ever have dreamed of.

Corach Rambler and jockey Derek Fox after winning the Randox Grand National
Corach Rambler and jockey Derek Fox after winning the Randox Grand National (David Davies/The Jockey Club)

The current campaign got off to a poor start at Kelso, but a distant third in Haydock’s Betfair Chase suggested the tank was not empty and Corach Rambler hammered home that theory when picking up the bronze medal again in last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, much to the delight of his proud trainer.

“We set him quite a stiff task (in the Gold Cup) really, but we wanted to give him a run and the timing works well for Aintree,” she said.

“I was absolutely delighted with the way he ran, to be third in a Gold Cup is fantastic in itself, whether you’re looking at the National or not.

“We were really pleased and I was actually quite touched as the reception he got from the crowd around the parade ring was amazing. He’s phenomenal and absolutely deserves it.”

There is just over four weeks between the Gold Cup and Grand National and Russell could not be happier with how Corach Rambler has both recovered and subsequently prepared for his return to Merseyside.

“It was a great run at Cheltenham and we were delighted, but at the same time we couldn’t rest on laurels at all as we had to get ready for Aintree,” she said.

“He had a nice, quiet 10 days. Normally we just give them a week, but we gave him a little bit longer after Cheltenham as the ground was a little bit soft for him that day.

“Time seems to have passed very quickly, but everything has been going according to plan.”

Corach Rambler’s staying-on effort behind reigning champion Galopin Des Champs in the Gold Cup can be taken one of two ways.

Corach Rambler and Lucinda Russell at the trainer's Kinross yard
Corach Rambler and Lucinda Russell at the trainer’s Kinross yard (Steve Welsh/PA)

While on the one hand it may be seen as the perfect preparation for the defence of his Aintree crown – certainly a line bookmakers have taken by slashing his odds for a Grand National repeat – others have questioned whether what the handicapper considered a career-best performance may leave a mark.

Russell appears to be in the former camp, adding: “I think back to last year when he won the Ultima and he certainly had a hard enough race there before going on and winning at Aintree.

“We’ll see what happens on the day, but I think the way he has felt since Cheltenham, Scu (Peter Scudamore, partner and assistant) has been very happy with him.”

Corach Rambler is out to emulate the great Tiger Roll and the legendary three-time winner Red Rum by winning two Grand Nationals in succession, while Russell is out to notch a third win, having also struck gold with One For Arthur in 2017.

The Kinross handler has also enjoyed Grade One success at the Grand National meeting in recent years with Ahoy Senor and Apple Away, so it is no surprise she holds the three-day fixture in high esteem.

“I’ve always loved Aintree and it’s very much in my heart,” she said.

“I love Liverpool and love the people there. They look after the horses and owners so well and it’s a track I like winning at.

“I always said I wanted Corach Rambler to go down in history, and he has gone down in history by winning the National once. If he could do it twice, it would really establish him as one of the great racehorses in the country.”

Russell wants Aintree rain to relent for Corach Rambler

Lucinda Russell is hoping for a break in the wet weather ahead of Corach Rambler’s bid for back-to-back victories in the Randox Grand National at Aintree on Saturday week.

The 10-year-old provided the Scottish trainer and her stable jockey Derek Fox with their second victory in the world’s most famous steeplechase last spring, having previously successfully combined with One For Arthur in 2017.

Corach Rambler made an inauspicious start to the current campaign at Kelso in October, but performed better in Haydock’s Betfair Chase the following month and made an excellent return from a winter break when third behind reigning champion Galopin Des Champs in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Derek Fox celebrates winning last year's Grand National on Corach Rambler
Derek Fox celebrates winning last year’s Grand National on Corach Rambler (David Davies/The Jockey Club)

Russell has been delighted with how her pride and joy has recovered from his Festival exertions, but admits the prospect of running in testing conditions on Merseyside is a concern.

“Time seems to be passing very quickly since Cheltenham, but everything has been going according to plan,” she said.

“He’s now back in full work, he was working today actually, and we’ll get him wound up for the National. Everything is looking good, I just wish it would slightly stop raining at Aintree.

“I don’t think anyone would want a really heavy-ground Grand National, so hopefully it won’t be too testing, it does drain well here.”

Corach Rambler is set to lead a small but select Russell team into battle at Aintree, with Ahoy Senor poised to run at the Grand National meeting for the fourth year in succession.

Ahoy Senor in action at Aintree
Ahoy Senor in action at Aintree (Tim Goode/PA)

The nine-year-old was a shock 66-1 winner of the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle in 2021 and returned to Liverpool to claim another top-level success in the following season’s Mildmay Novices’ Chase.

Last term, Ahoy Senor had to make do with the silver medal behind Shishkin in the Bowl, but is poised for another crack at the same race next week after finishing sixth in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.

Russell, a William Hill ambassador, added: “He’ll go for the Bowl again and again he’s one that will be affected by the ground, he’s better on good to soft but he’s in good form.

“Giovinco might run in the three-mile novice chase (Mildmay) and we have a few nice novice hurdlers like Esprit Du Potier and a horse called Myretown, who is by the same sire as Ahoy Senor (Dylan Thomas). He’s a lovely horse and he might go for the Sefton, which is a race we like having runners in.

“I’ve always loved Aintree and it’s very much in my heart. I love Liverpool and love the people here. They look after the horses and owners so well and it’s a track I like winning at.”

Fox clear to ride Grand National favourite Corach Rambler

Derek Fox will not miss the ride on Corach Rambler in the Randox Grand National, despite potentially breaching the whip guidelines at Newcastle on Tuesday, the British Horseracing Authority has said.

Corach Rambler provided Fox and trainer Lucinda Russell with a second victory in the Aintree spectacular last season, with the pair having also successfully combined with One For Arthur in 2017.

Following an excellent effort in defeat when third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup two weeks ago, Corach Rambler is the clear favourite to successfully defend his crown on Merseyside on April 13 – and despite speculation to the contrary, Fox looks set to be in the plate once more.

Reports on Thursday suggested the Sligo-born jockey could be in trouble with the Whip Review Committee following his winning ride aboard the Russell-trained Clovis Boy at Newcastle on Tuesday.

However, while the BHA confirmed the ride was being reviewed, and a penalty may yet therefore follow, any potential suspension will not kick in until the week after the National.

The BHA does not normally comment regarding which riders may or may not have been referred, but has done so on this occasion, stating: “Given the speculation in the media in this instance, and the potential ramifications for the public betting on this race, we felt it would be helpful to clarify the situation.”

A BHA spokesperson said: “The WRC today considered a ride by Mr Fox at Newcastle on Tuesday. Upon reviewing the ride, the WRC had further questions for Mr Fox and have written to him today to seek his observations, as is outlined in the protocols and procedures around WRC meetings.

“As a result, Mr Fox’s case will be considered by the WRC on Tuesday, April 2. Any potential penalty arising from this ride, therefore, will not come into effect until Tuesday, April 16.”

Derek Fox and Corach Rambler (left) on the way to victory at Aintree
Derek Fox and Corach Rambler (left) on the way to victory at Aintree (Nigel French for The Jockey Club)

Corach Rambler is currently the 4-1 favourite for National glory with William Hill, who report he has been incredibly popular with punters.

Spokesperson Lee Phelps said: “Corach Rambler’s run in the Gold Cup looked a perfect prep for his defence of the Grand National, and our customers agree as he has been absolutely hammered in the betting since the run at Cheltenham.

“He wasn’t a bad result prior to that, but the weight of money in the last couple of weeks has been so significant that he’d be the worst ante-post result this century. At this stage, we would take anything to beat him, but the way the money is going suggests he’s going to be incredibly hard to beat.”

Coral have also cut him to the same price from 5-1 after strong support, with David Stevens commenting: “Corach Rambler was 12-1 for a repeat National success prior to his Gold Cup run, and 8-1 immediately after that Cheltenham placing, so punters have plenty of confidence in the Lucinda Russell-trained star joining an elite group of dual Aintree winners next month.”

‘All roads lead to Aintree now’ for Corach Rambler

Lucinda Russell now has her sights set firmly on another Grand National for her “remarkable horse” and Gold Cup third Corach Rambler.

The gelding was a 14-1 chance for the Cheltenham Festival feature contest, which was intended to be his final run before a trip to Aintree to bid to retain the National title he landed last year.

Under Derek Fox, he raced in last place for much of the trip and at one stage looked detached, but as stamina came to the fore in soft ground, he eventually began to pick off his rivals.

Over the last three fences, he gained considerable ground and gave chase to the horses ahead of him, and although he could catch neither Galopin Des Champs nor Gerri Colombe, he was still an incredibly gallant bronze medalist.

The run could serve as the perfect preparation for a return to Liverpool, where he will attempt to keep the trophy in Kinross after a two-and-quarter-length success last season.

“I was absolutely delighted with him and I think he’s quite pleased with himself, all roads lead to Aintree now,” said Russell.

“I’m immensely proud of him and everyone who has gotten him there, he’s just a remarkable horse.

“I was very, very touched by the way the crowd cheered when he came in, I thought they were cheering for the winner but then I realised the winner hadn’t come in yet – it was actually quite emotional.

“That was one of his best runs and he’ll go for the race (Grand National) off a good mark now.”

Corach Rambler will have a few days to rest before he steps back into his usual routine as he is prepared for the big day on Merseyside in just under four weeks’ time.

“It’s the same as we do for all of them, we give them a nice easy time at the farm and then get them a bit wound up,” explained Russell.

“We’ve already worked out how many pieces of work he’ll have, he just gets back into his routine.”

‘Horse of a lifetime’ Corach Rambler does Russell proud in defeat

All reads lead back to the Randox Grand National for Corach Rambler after Lucinda Russell’s pride and joy “ran his socks off” to finish third in the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The 10-year-old is a dual Festival winner having claimed back-to-back victories in the Ultima Handicap Chase, an achievement only bettered by his dominant success in the world’s most famous steeplechase at Aintree last spring.

Corach Rambler disappointed on his first start of the current campaign at Kelso, but an encouraging third in Haydock’s Betfair Chase in November was a step in the right direction and he had been kept fresh for his return to Prestbury Park.

Settled at the rear of the field for much of the way by Derek Fox, the Scottish raider began to make inroads racing down the hill and just for a fleeting moment halfway up the home straight the dream that he may achieve the extremely rare feat of landing National Hunt racing’s two biggest prizes was alive.

Ultimately his late thrust got him the bronze medal behind Galopin Des Champs, but he nevertheless received a rapturous reception from both his connections and the crowd after returning to the parade ring and he is now as short of 6-1 to successfully defend his National crown on April 13.

“I’d say on Tuesday we weren’t going to run, but I don’t want to run him ever, ever, ever, I just want to pat him and look after him,” Russell said afterwards.

“But he’s a racehorse and he loves his job and yesterday evening I said to Scu (Peter Scudamore, partner) ‘what are we going to do’ and he said ‘look, it’s going to be safe (ground) and as long as it’s safe it’s fine’, and he ran his socks off.

“When he was at the top of the hill I thought he was a little bit further back than usual and then when he came down the hill I thought ‘can he do it again?’. Maybe if the ground had been a little bit better, I don’t know, all I know is I’m delighted with him, to be third in the Gold Cup is fantastic.

“I can’t get over the way the people appreciate him, he’s just lovely – he’s the horse of a lifetime.”

Splitting Galopin Des Champs and Corach Rambler in second was the Gordon Elliott-trained Gerri Colombe.

The eight-year-old was blown away by his conqueror in Leopardstown’s Savills Chase over Christmas, but closed the gap to three and a half lengths on the day that mattered most.

Elliott said: “There was no excuse, the winner was very, very good, but we’re very proud of our horse. He ran a great race and we’re very happy.

“He was up against a superstar. It’s always disappointing when you lose, but the horse that beat him is exceptional.

“The loose horse didn’t help us, but I don’t think it made the difference between winning and losing.”

Back in fourth was the Venetia Williams-trained L’Homme Presse, who for a long way disputed the lead with The Real Whacker and those still in contention into the home straight.

L'Homme Presse in action at Cheltenham
L’Homme Presse in action at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

His emotional co-owner Andy Edwards said: “Amazing, he served it up to them. Charlie (Deutsch) just said the ground is really tacky and the speed he had at Lingfield he just couldn’t show it in that.

“He’s jumped fantastically and he’s enjoyed it. I’m so proud.

“I was standing there calm and I could just see his stride shorten a touch just before the second-last, I knew that was tough for him. He’s had an interrupted season really and for him to finish fourth in the Gold Cup, bloody hell – it’s amazing isn’t it?

“It was brilliant ride from Charlie. If you watch it, they were as one – it wasn’t a horse and a jockey, they were one entity.

“I’m delighted, proud and I’m going to go and have a good cry.”

Two Nationals already – and Russell is eager for more

Lucinda Russell expressed her satisfaction after her reigning Grand National hero Corach Rambler was allotted 11st 2lb for the defence of his title at Aintree in April.

The 10-year-old provided his Scottish trainer with her second success in the great race last season when triumphing by two and a quarter lengths under Derek Fox, adding his name to the roll of honour alongside 2017 winner One For Arthur.

He carried a burden of 10st 5lb on that occasion when running off 146, but inevitably the victory has triggered a rise in his rating and he now carries a mark of 159.

Russell had expected the hike as the horse is also a contender for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and will turn his attentions to Aintree after his visit to the Cotswolds in March.

“It’s more than he carried last year, but I was hoping he’d get around 11st, so 11st 2lb is ideal. I just really hope Shark (Hanlon) runs Hewick (top-weight),” she said.

“His prep is going fine, at the moment he looks super.

“It seems a bit of an odd thing to run him in the Gold Cup and we have entered him in the Ultima (at Cheltenham) too, but he’d be carrying a lot of weight in that.

“He’s a stayer, he loves it round Cheltenham and we’ll take our chance.

“Winning the National is incredibly addictive. When you win it the first time it’s fabulous, when you win it the second time you want three and you think ‘we can do it again!’. It’s obsessive!”

Lucinda Russell with Corach Rambler
Lucinda Russell with Corach Rambler (Steve Welsh/PA)

Corach Rambler is ridden at home by Russell’s partner and assistant trainer, the eight-time champion jump jockey Peter Scudamore.

He said of the horse, who was last seen finishing fifth in the Betfair Chase: “We’re very, very happy with him. We just take it each day at a time. He seems to be enjoying his work – I thought he ran a good race at Haydock.

“He clearly enjoys Aintree. He seems to come together this time of year, too.”

Corach Rambler won the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham last March before going on to win the National the following month and Scudamore is confident that his chances of repeating last year’s Aintree feat will not be hindered by his Gold Cup exertions.

He said: “I remember Rough Quest did it (ran in both). Miinnehoma did it. The Gold Cup is a furlong further than the Ultima so I don’t see it being an issue.

“The timing is right. I don’t think if he runs in the Gold Cup that he’d be having a harder race than he did in the Ultima (last year). We had a pattern to work from last year and we’ve tried to stick to it. I think sometimes it’s easier to run well in a conditions race than it is in a top handicap off a high weight.”

Russell eager to test Ahoy Senor’s Ryanair claims

Lucinda Russell is keen to run Ahoy Senor in Saturday’s Betfair Ascot Chase to see if he warrants his place in the Ryanair at Cheltenham.

Pulled up on his first two outings of the season, the Grade One-winning novice chaser showed much more of his old spark last time out at Cheltenham.

Running in the Cotswold Chase, which he had won 12 months earlier, Ahoy Senor was still bang in contention approaching the third last when jockey Stephen Mulqueen’s stirrup leather broke.

Regular rider Derek Fox will be back on board this weekend having returned from injury when he will meet his old foe L’Homme Presse, who beat him into second in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Festival in 2022.

“He’s on track for the Ascot Chase on Saturday and I’m quite hopeful he’ll run very well,” Russell told her William Hill blog.

“It was so unfortunate what happened at Cheltenham with the stirrup breaking as he was travelling brilliantly. He’s been really well at home since and we’re looking forward to it. We all know he takes a bit of time to get going, but he comes alive in the spring.”

One problem Ahoy Senor may have this weekend is the fact Ascot is right-handed as he has never won when going in that direction.

“Going right-handed at Ascot is a bit of a worry, but we won’t really know until he tries it,” said Russell.

“We’re dropping back in trip as the Ryanair looks a very good option for him. If you’re classy enough to win a Gold Cup, then you’re certainly classy enough to win a Ryanair. His run style suggests this might just be what he wants now.”

Apple Away was a Grade One winner over hurdles
Apple Away was a Grade One winner over hurdles (Tim Goode/PA)

Another runner for the stable on the card will be the mare Apple Away in the Sodexo Live! Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase as she builds towards a possible tilt at the Ultima next month.

“The plan is to run her in the Reynoldstown at Ascot on Saturday. She looks very fit at the moment and has come to hand well since Warwick. It gives her a bit more jumping experience ahead of the big spring festivals and again this will help us decide where we target her,” said Russell.

“All options are open at this stage and while we were leaning towards the Ultima, it’s not a definite by any means.

“I think she’s better than she showed at Warwick and I thought she probably ran with the choke out a bit too much. She bumped into a pretty smart horse too and I think she might just take a little bit of time to really come into herself. If you look back to last year, she really thrived after the turn of the year and the way she looks now, might just be evidence of that.”

Apple Away camp considering Cheltenham options

Members of Old Gold Racing appear to have a trip to Cheltenham to get excited about with Apple Away – but connections are yet to agree on which race she will contest at the Festival following her Warwick second on Saturday.

Trained by Lucinda Russell, the Grade One-winning hurdler continued her education over fences when stepped up to Grade Two level for Warwick’s Hampton Novices’ Chase.

Although ultimately no match for an on-song Grey Dawning, Apple Away bravely plugged on once headed to finish a fair runner-up, leaving her team contemplating their next moves.

Russell is in agreement that Apple Away deserves to take her chance at Prestbury Park in the spring and is eyeing the three-mile Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, for which she is now as big as 33-1 with some bookmakers.

Apple Away after winning at Aintree last year
Apple Away after winning at Aintree last year (David Davies for The Jockey Club/PA)

However, the trainer’s partner and assistant Peter Scudamore appears to have other ideas and is keen to consider stretching out to three-mile-six for the National Hunt Chase, or even racing in handicap company at the March showpiece.

“I think with hindsight, it is a very quick track at Warwick and, as Patrick Wadge said afterwards, maybe she needs a stiffer track and a step up in trip,” said Old Gold CEO Ed Seyfried.

“Lucinda said she could think of a track that is very testing and undulating and when I asked did that begin with ‘C’, she said yes.

“So, we are very much headed for Cheltenham and Lucinda is still very much headed for the Brown Advisory, whereas Peter Scudamore is headed for every other race at Cheltenham apart from the Brown Advisory.

“He is looking at the Ultima, Scu is also thinking about maybe the Mares’ Chase and even the three-mile-six amateur novice, so there will be massive discussions at Arlary and we will be told what is going to happen.”

Seyfried went on: “With a horse like Apple, you hope you have the best horse in the world, and she didn’t get found out, but she made a couple of rookie errors jumping and this track clearly suited Grey Dawning better.

“The track and going was too quick for her and we came up against a better horse on the day. We have met Grey Dawning three times and won the time he came down, so maybe he is super special?

“The plan was here, then Ascot, then Cheltenham – and given the going here won’t have taken too much out of her, it could be that they think ‘let’s have another race’.

“She will have learnt a lot (at Warwick) and those five fences come thick and fast – it’s a proper test.”

Russell mulling over Giovinco recovery mission

Lucinda Russell’s Giovinco has Sandown and Cheltenham options after pulling up in the Kauto Star at Kempton on Boxing Day.

The seven-year-old claimed his first win over fences at Aintree in November and then chased home Paul Nicholls’ useful Stay Away Fay in the Grade Two Esher Novices’ Chase at Sandown next time out.

He was subsequently entered in the Kauto Star, a Grade One run over the same trip of three miles, but under Stephen Mulqueen he never seemed to hit his stride and was eventually pulled up as Il Est Francais went on to win impressively.

There was less than three weeks between the gelding’s last two runs, a time-span Russell suspects may have been too short with hindsight.

The Scilly Isles at Sandown and the Festival Trials Day card at Cheltenham could now appear on Giovinco’s agenda, both of which would involve a step down to the near two-and-a-half-mile trip he was successful over twice as a hurdler.

Giovinco being led out at Kempton
Giovinco being led out at Kempton (Steven Paston/PA)

“He might go to Sandown, we’ve got a couple of options with him,” said Russell.

“We might even go to Cheltenham and go over two miles four (furlongs) there.

“He was quite tired after Kempton and we felt, in hindsight, we’d gone to the well just a bit too quickly with him.

“He seems well now, he had a quiet time over the New Year and he’s back to being his usual self again.”

Russell would like to pick Warwick outing for Apple Away

Lucinda Russell’s Apple Away could make her next start at Warwick in the Trustatrader Hampton Novices’ Chase.

The seven-year-old was a high-class novice hurdler last season, taking Grade One honours when winning the Sefton at Aintree’s Grand National meeting.

Graduating to fences this term, the mare acquitted herself well in a competitive contest on debut when finishing third at Haydock in a late November graduation chase.

She then headed to Leicester for a beginners’ chase last month, triumphing by an easy 31 lengths after a fluent round of jumping against two respectable rivals.

Apple Away after Grade One victory at Aintree
Apple Away after Grade One victory at Aintree (David Davies/PA)

The mare could now take the step up to graded level over fences as she holds an entry for the Grade Two Hampton on Saturday, while she is also engaged in the William Hill Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby.

“She in at Warwick and Wetherby, my preference would be to go to Warwick over three miles, but we’ll just check on the ground conditions,” said Russell.

“I think three miles around Warwick would really suit her, she’s absolutely perfect after her last run and she’s back to being the queen she is!

“She’s really smart and I think at Leicester you saw that, she learnt throughout the race and by the end of it she was really confident in her jumping.”

Elsewhere in the Warwick race is Brave Kingdom, Paul Nicholls’ unbeaten eight-year-old who has two novice handicap victories to his name in two starts.

Brave Kingdom at Newbury
Brave Kingdom at Newbury (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Nigel Twiston-Davies has entered Broadway Boy, an impressive winner of two successive Cheltenham contests in his last two starts.

Evan Williams has thrown Carbon King’s hat in the ring, a winner last time out at Ffos Las, while Dan Skelton may be represented by Grey Dawning, the winner of Apple Away’s chasing debut.

Joe Tizzard has an entry in The Changing Man, with Trelawne also on the list for Kim Bailey.