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Aintree assignment top of Magic Of Light agenda

A second shot at the Randox Grand National remains the ultimate aim for 2019 runner-up Magic Of Light.

The 10-year-old was last seen finishing eight lengths behind Dan Skelton’s Roksana in the Grade Two Warfield Mares’ Hurdle at Ascot on January 23.

Jessica Harrington’s runner had won the two previous renewals of the race, but found Skelton’s highly-regarded mare too good and was passed after the last hurdle having led throughout.

Harrington reports Magic Of Light to be in good form following the run, saying: “She’s very well, we were pleased with her.”

The Kildare-based trainer then pointed out the gap in ratings between her mare and the winner, with Magic Of Light ranked 4lb lower than Roksana but meeting off level weights.

“On ratings she had no right to beat that filly and she ran a very good race on ground that was probably a bit tacky for her,” she said.

“It probably was a stronger renewal, and the ground was very tacky.”

Though there are no appearances pencilled in for the meantime, Harrington is clear on the ultimate aim for the mare this season.

“We’ve no idea where we’ll go next, none at all,” she said.

“But the Grand National is the aim, so we’ll just work our way towards that.”

Magic Of Light finished two and three-quarter lengths behind Tiger Roll in the 2019 Aintree marathon, almost causing a notable upset when starting at a massive price of 66-1.

The mare’s performance over the extreme trip and unique fences of the Grand National were testament to her versatility, whilst her consistency is highlighted by the fact that she has won or been placed in 12 of her 17 chase outings.

“She’s lovely, she’s very consistent,” Harrington said.

“She is as she is, and she’s in great form this year.”

Roksana out to uphold Long Walk form back at Ascot

Dan Skelton is hoping Roksana can repeat her excellent Long Walk performance on her return to Ascot for the Matchbook Betting Podcast Mares’ Hurdle.

The nine-year-old was beaten only two lengths when third to Paisley Park in the Grade One over an extended three miles in December and runs against own her sex again on Saturday.

However, it will be no walkover – because the opposition includes Magic Of Light, winner of this race for the last two years.

“I’m delighted with her – it was a great run in the Long Walk over the course and distance,” said Skelton.

“Obviously Magic Of Light is the one to beat, but I’m also respectful of the others in there.

“I think it’s a strong mares’ race, but I’m very happy with ours.”

Magic Of Light, trained in Ireland by Jessica Harrington and runner-up to Tiger Roll in the 2019 Grand National, has already made a successful visit to Britain this season to win a Listed mares’ chase at Newbury for the third year running.

“She is going for a hat-trick in the race and is in great form,” said Kate Harrington, assistant to her mother.

“She is entered in the Gold Cup and the Mares’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, and mum is thinking of running her in the Gold Cup.”

Magic Of Light is bidding to win Ascot's Grade Two hurdle for a third time
Magic Of Light is bidding to win Ascot’s Grade Two hurdle for a third time (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Paul Nicholls believes Eglantine Du Seuil can give a good account of herself, with the help of a 6lb concession from the big two.

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“She ran a cracker on her latest start for us six weeks ago in a competitive mares’ handicap hurdle at Cheltenham, where she came from off the pace to be second to The White Mouse,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“This is a new trip for her – and although I can’t be sure she stays three miles, she was keeping on well at the finish at Cheltenham.

“I’m hopeful Eglantine Du Seuil can run tidily, getting 6lb from two smart mares Magic Of Light and Roksana.”

Jeremy Scott is on a discovery mission with Dashel Drasher, who lines up for the bet365 Handicap Chase.

The Somerset trainer wants to find out if his lightly-raced eight-year-old can mix it with seasoned campaigners off his current mark in a competitive race such as this.

What Dashel Drasher has in his favour is a course-and-distance success on his latest start, albeit a three-horse affair.

“He’s come out of his last race really well. It’s very much to find out whether he’s at that level,” said Scott.

“We’ve only ever raced in those novice chases and a graduation chase, so how solid his handicap mark is we don’t know.

“It’s very much in a decent-sized field. I hope he runs well. I was pleased with the way he raced last time, but this will be a different proposition.”

Rose Dobbin has had this race in mind for Jonniesofa for some time – but did not expect it to be as competitive as it has turned out.

However, she reports the 11-year-old to be in good shape following his victory at Carlisle last month.

“He’s doing really well. He’s in great order. I’m very happy with him,” said the Northumberland trainer.

“We picked out this race a while ago, thinking conditions would suit him. Unfortunately, it seems to be quite a competitive renewal, but we’ll go and take our chance and see how he gets on.”

Skelton reports Bennys King to be in prime condition as he attempts to go one better than 12 months ago.

“He won there last time, (and) two-miles-five is a great trip for him,” said the Alcester trainer.

“He looks fantastic – this is the perfect race for him.

“He’s gone up in the handicap, which is making life harder, but I couldn’t be any happier with him.”

Nicholls was delighted to see Capeland return to winning ways at Wincanton, although it means he must race off a career-high mark.

Capeland is up to a career-high mark on Saturday
Capeland is up to a career-high mark on Saturday (PA)

“I was thrilled to see him bounce back to form with a stylish success a fortnight ago off a mark of 149 at Wincanton, back up in trip to two and a half miles,” he said.

“Capeland is now up to a career-high mark of 153 at a track which we know he likes, but he is another who wouldn’t want any more rain at Ascot.”

Tom Lacey is looking forward to having Kateson back on the track in the Matchbook Better Way To Bet Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle, for the first time in seven weeks.

The Herefordshire trainer believes the eight-year-old runs well when fresh, so has given him a break since he was successful at Aintree.

“He seems in good order. I think the trip on that ground will be right up his street, fingers crossed,” said Lacey.

Tom Lacey has given Kateson a break since his Aintree victory
Tom Lacey has given Kateson a break since his Aintree victory (PA)

“He’s a horse that runs best fresh. We’ve just been waiting to find the races for him.

Nicholls is confident of a strong performance from Danny Kirwan.

The Ditcheat handler said: “He has had one or two issues that have interrupted his career but is now in as good a place as we’ve had him for a long time, and it was great to see him show what he can do with a fluent victory over this trip at Ascot two months ago.

“Next time at Cheltenham he didn’t stay three miles. Danny has been working with Politologue and will be much happier back at this trip on testing ground that he relishes. I am expecting a big run from him in a competitive race.”

Magic Of Light cruises to Listed hat-trick at Newbury

Magic Of Light opened her account for the season in impressive fashion as she completed a hat-trick of wins in Newbury’s Pertemps Network Mares’ Chase.

Last year’s Grand National runner-up barely had to get out of second gear to continue her dominance of the extended two-mile-seven-furlong Listed race, justifying odds of 1-2 in the three-runner field.

The Jessica Harrington-trained nine-year-old put in a bold round of jumping from the front under Robbie Power before cruising home eight lengths clear of Sensulano, who blundered her chance away with a costly mistake at the second last.

Power said: “It’s hat-trick complete. It’s fantastic.

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“She feels as she good as when she won it for the first time, if not better. She travelled super and jumped super. She didn’t put a foot wrong the whole way round.

“I gave her a breather after the last one out of the back straight and I just rolled on to the cross fence.

“She just loves jumping. She pricks her ears, and you know she is watching what she is doing because she is concentrating on her fences. She is a joy to ride.”

Magic Of Light (second right) is expected to return to Aintree this season
Magic Of Light (second right) is expected to return to Aintree this season (Nigel French/PA)

The Gold Cup-winning jockey reported the nature of the race suited Magic Of Better much better than 12 months ago – when she appeared briefly to have a real fight on her hands against Field Exhibition, who was a length down when departing at the final fence.

He added: “It suited me a bit better today, because last year I had no company over the first couple of fences and she was very idle in front.

“Today I had a bit of company over the first couple of fences, and it just got her racing. That made my job a lot easier than 12 months ago.”

Magic Of Light, who was cut to 25-1 for this season’s Grand National by Paddy Power, will tread a familiar path back to Aintree – with her jockey confirming next month’s Grade Two Warfield Mares’ Hurdle at Ascot, which she has also won for the past two years, will be the aim.

He added: “At the end of the day the Grand National is the main target at Aintree in April.

“It is a nice plan for her we have used the last couple of years. She will come back at the end of January for the three-mile hurdle at Ascot.

“That’s the plan we have used, and it has worked so far, so if it ain’t broke don’t fix. It’s ideal if we can get her to Aintree with loads of confidence under her belt.”