Golan Fortune seeks Midlands National riches

Golan Fortune will bid to vindicate trainer Phil Middleton’s judgement in the Marston’s 61 Deep Midlands Grand National.

Buckinghamshire trainer Middleton rerouted the durable nine-year-old to Uttoxeter after deciding against an engagement in the National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham this week.

Run over a trip of four and a quarter miles, Saturday’s marathon offers an alternative to next month’s Grand National at Aintree – a race for which Golan Fortune holds an entry but may not make the final field of 40.

Golan Fortune and Kielan Woods (right) win the Lady Buttons Memorial Beginners’ Chase at Ludlow
Golan Fortune and Kielan Woods (right) win the Lady Buttons Memorial Beginners’ Chase at Ludlow (David Davies/PA)

“I entered him for Cheltenham and I changed my mind and thought this was the race for him, so I cancelled his Cheltenham engagement so I wouldn’t get tempted,” said Middleton.

“He’s absolutely buzzing at home – I think he’s the best I’ve had him all season.

“I’m pretty sure he’ll get the trip. He jumps well, (and) I really, really fancy him – he’ll run a massive race.”

Middleton has not abandoned all hope either that Golan Fortune may yet be granted a run at Aintree.

“The plan all along was to go to the Grand National,” he added.

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“I’ve always thought he was a Grand National horse – but rated 142, he’s about a 4-1 shot to get in.

“There’s nine on 142 – and if he got to the top of the pecking order on 142 he might just scrape in. If he won the Midlands National he would be at the top of that pecking order.

“It’s a nice race to win and I could not be more pleased with him.”

Golan Fortune was last seen finishing fourth when reverting to hurdles at Kempton last month, after a spell over fences which included one victory and some very creditable performances in high-calibre contests.

Winning his first chase at Ludlow in December, he was swiftly upgraded to top-flight company in Kempton’s Grade One Kauto Star Novices’ Chase.

He finished fourth there behind Dan Skelton’s Shan Blue, as the 40-1 outsider of the field, and went on to be third of three but beaten under seven lengths in the Hampton Novices’ Chase at Warwick.

The form of both races was boosted in Wednesday’s Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham, with Warwick runner-up Fiddlerontheroof finishing second behind Monkfish and in third The Big Breakaway – who was four and a quarter lengths ahead of Golan Fortune in the Kauto Star.

“He was only beaten about six lengths in the Kauto Star when Kielan (Woods, jockey) fired him at the last,” said Middleton.

“I think he made a bit too much use of him there, or we’d have finished close to The Big Breakaway, and I’m sure we’d have beaten Fiddlerontheroof at Warwick if he hadn’t made a howler at the third-last.

“I think it’s a hell of a boost.”

Among Golan Fortune’s weekend rivals is Lucinda Russell’s Mighty Thunder a proven winner over a long-distance trip after triumphing in the Edinburgh National at Musselburgh.

Victorious by 20 lengths on that occasion, the eight-year-old turns his attention to the Uttoxeter prize after sidestepping the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir at Cheltenham to take on this extreme trip.

“We had the option of here or Cheltenham, but I think the four miles should should suit him,” said Russell.

“He’s been in very good form since Musselburgh. I think the distance is right, and the flat track at Uttoxeter will help.”

Mighty Thunder has run four times over fences and won three, his only chasing defeat coming when he was a distant sixth at Kelso in December.

“He’s a funny horse because there’s three completed starts he’s won over fences, but equally he’s thrown in a real shocker at Kelso when he seemed to sulk,” added Russell.

“He’s got a bit of brain there and he’s a smart chap, but I think that over four miles he loves it because he’s not under so much pressure.

Nick Williams' 2018 Cheltenham Festival winner Coo Star Sivola is among the contenders at Uttoxeter
Nick Williams’ 2018 Cheltenham Festival winner Coo Star Sivola is among the contenders at Uttoxeter (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Although he’s a novice, I think it’s worthwhile giving him the chance.”

Russell is sure the forecast soft ground will suit her charge after his recent performances in similar conditions.

“As a hurdler we always felt he needed it to be good or good to soft, yet he’s actually won on heavy ground round Hexham,” she said.

“They’re still calling it soft at the moment, and that’s just perfect.”

Also due to line up in the race is last year’s hero Truckers Lodge, with Paul Nicholls also represented by 13-2 chance Highland Hunter.

Jonjo O’Neill’s Time To Get Up heads the market, while Nick Williams’ Coo Star Sivola and Venetia Williams’ Achille are also both prominent – and Nicky Martin’s regular marathon contender The Two Amigos is back for more, over the longest trip he has yet faced.

Mighty Thunder strikes in Edinburgh National

Mighty Thunder was a runaway 20-length winner of the bet365 Edinburgh National Handicap Chase at Musselburgh.

Lucinda Russell’s eight-year-old was taking his chase record to three wins in four starts with this 14-1 success, having triumphed twice at Hexham this season.

One of only four finishers over the four-mile one-furlong trip, Mighty Thunder took the lead five out under Blair Campbell – and was unchallenged after his nearest pursuer Stay Humble took what sadly proved to be a fatal fall at the penultimate fence.

Russell is considering Ayr’s Scottish Grand National as a possible spring target for her winner.

“We’re absolutely delighted with him,” said the Kinross trainer.

“He’s such a happy horse, and I thought he travelled so well and jumped really well – that four-mile distance is made for him, really.

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“He likes Musselburgh. He’s run round there before, but I just think his jumping is very efficient, he can just cruise away at that four-mile speed forever.

“We’d love to take him to the Scottish National, but we’ll see. He’s still a novice, so he doesn’t have to go there. It’s just nice to be able to start making those plans.”

Gaelik Coast provided Donald McCain with his 50th winner of the season when taking the bet365 Frodon Novices’ Chase under Brian Hughes at 85-40.

The seven-year-old won on his chasing debut in October and is now two from four over fences after jumping accurately to defeat favourite Getaway Trump by four and three-quarter lengths.

Dubai Angel was a convincing 4-1 winner of the bet365 Auld Yin Conditional Jockeys’ Veterans’ Handicap Chase, his first victory since joining Richard Newland’s yard in November.

The 10-year-old led before the second-last and came home a comfortable five and a half lengths ahead of favourite Oscar Ceremony.

Ruinous went one better than his recent second at Newcastle, taking the bet365 Scottish Champion Chase for trainer Tim Reed – with his son Harry riding.

Shoulder to shoulder with favourite Rikoboy, Reed’s six-year-old held on tenaciously to prevail by half-a-length.

Ruinous joined Reed’s stable in November, from Gavin Cromwell’s Meath yard, and struck at 6-1 on only his second start for his new trainer.

“I’m absolutely delighted,” he said.

“We’ve thought a bit of this horse since we bought him – he’s still very much a baby and he’s really a next-year horse, so anything he was going to do this year was a bonus to us, but he did it well.

“As of yet, we haven’t really put him under any pressure, so what you see today is definitely not the finished article. If we can keep this horse healthy, I think he’s got quite a good future.

“He’s really a two and half-mile horse and he needs better ground, so we’d probably be looking at something at the Scottish National (meeting) or Aintree – and then I’d love to run him at Perth over the summer.”

Christopher Wood was a tough winner of the bet365 Scottish County Hurdle, passing Voix Du Reve after the final flight for a three-and-a-quarter-length victory at 11-4.

The bet365 Handicap Hurdle went the way of Keith Dalgleish’s 6-1 chance Breguet Boy, who saw off 50-1 shot Sword of Fate to triumph under Craig Nichol.

The final contest of the day, the bet365 Scottish Foxhunter Open Hunters’ Chase, was won by 7-4 second favourite Salvatore for trainer Melanie Rowley and jockey Alex Edwards.