Tag Archive for: Threeunderthrufive

Big end-of-season handicaps in mind for Threeunderthufive

Threeunderthufive will be aimed at either the Coral Scottish Grand National or bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown having been scratched from the Randox Grand National.

Although a four-time winner over the larger obstacles as a novice – including twice in Grade Two company – things have not gone as smoothly for Paul Nicholls’ charge when tackling some hot handicaps this term, unseating at the first in the Coral Gold Cup before struggling to make his presence felt in both Warwick’s Classic Chase and most recently the Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival.

Those performances have only underlined the belief of connections that a tilt at the Merseyside marathon may come a year too soon for the eight-year-old and he will skip Aintree to continue his big-field education either at Ayr on April 22 or a week later at Sandown on the final day of the season.

Threeunderthrufive with a stable hand during a visit to Manor Farm Stables
Threeunderthrufive with a stable hand during a visit to Manor Farm Stables (Adam Davy/PA)

“It was always the case we thought the National might come a season too early for him, but if he was to run well in the Ultima his mark would have gone up and he would have been well-in for a National,” explained Iain Turner, racing manager for owners the McNeill family.

“So when he didn’t (run well) and he was subsequently dropped 3lb there was no need keeping him in a Grand National.

“He will probably go for the Scottish Grand National or to Sandown for the bet365 Gold Cup.”

Reflecting on Threeunderthrufive’s eighth-placed finish in the Ultima, Turner believes the performance has been reflective of his season as a whole, with the gelding having to adapt from racing in small-field novice chases to the hurly-burly of some of the calendar’s most fiercely-competitive handicaps.

He continued: “I think for some of these novices coming out of novice chases, if you’re not going to be one of the graded ones it becomes a big leap to run in these significant double-figure field races.

“In novice chases Threeunderthrufive was able to get an easy lead with novices not wanting to go on, while in the Ultima you line him up with the intention of sitting in the first three or four and he’s taken completely off his feet. It was probably a credit to himself he’s managed to hang on and finish eighth.

“While it was disappointing and we hoped he would be competitive, I think the experience he’s had will help him be a better horse next year when he’s actually used to running in these bigger-field races and he can carry that experience with him.

“If we go to Scotland it won’t be any easier for him, but if anything, he’s going to be 3lb lower and he’s going to be learning and getting some more big-field experience.”

Ultima aim for Threeunderthrufive

Threeunderthrufive is likely to head straight to the Cheltenham Festival where he will bid to give the McNeill family a first victory in the race they sponsor – the Ultima Handicap Chase.

Twice a Grade Two scorer as a novice chaser, he was quietly fancied for the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury earlier in the season only for his foray into open company over the larger obstacles to end in disappointment when regular pilot Adrian Heskin was unseated at the first fence.

However, having skipped a run in the Welsh Grand National over the Christmas period, Threeunderthrufive and Heskin were in perfect harmony during Warwick’s Classic Chase on Saturday – giving a bold sight from the front end before the testing ground took its toll in the closing stages.

Connections were delighted with the display and confirmed the eight-year-old will now be targeted at the opening day handicap at the Festival – for which he is a best priced 25-1 with Bet365 – before a tilt at one of the various Nationals later in the spring.

Adrian Heskin riding Threeunderthrufive on their way to winning the mallardjewellers.com Novices’ Chase during day three of the November Meeting at Cheltenham Racecourse in November 2021
Adrian Heskin riding Threeunderthrufive on their way to winning the mallardjewellers.com Novices’ Chase during day three of the November Meeting at Cheltenham Racecourse in November 2021 (Tim Goode/PA)

“We were really pleased in what was really his first start over fences this season having unseated in the Coral Gold Cup,” said Iain Turner, racing manager for the McNeill family.

“You could say it was only his second start of the season and also quite a time since his first at Wetherby in October.

“I think the ground was just testing for him and I think the big disappointment is it was good to soft when we entered and if it stayed at that it would have been super. But it can’t be helped – he has come out of the race fine and if he didn’t run at Warwick, where would we have gone?

“It was a hard enough race for him, so he will need a bit of time now to recover and freshen up, and we do have our eye on three-mile-plus staying chases in the spring.”

He continued: “All being well, we will probably be going straight to the Ultima.

“Max (McNeill) has sponsored the race now for a good few years and we’ve had good representation previously with runners that ultimately haven’t troubled the first four. But hopefully this lad can come on for his run and feature.

“It was a nice bit of experience running in a big field (at Warwick). The way novice races go in the UK, you are only really taking on three and four runners through no fault of your own. So he now has a bit more experience under his belt in that regard and there are still very few miles on the clock.

“I think in all probability it will be straight to Cheltenham, then after that one of the Nationals or the Bet365 Gold Cup (Sandown, April 29).”

Although a decision on which of the English, Scottish or Irish Grand Nationals to run in is far from finalised, connections are aware a bold showing at Cheltenham could present them with a golden opportunity to head to Aintree on April 15 with a well-handicapped contender.

“I think my immediate reaction would be Scotland would be more likely than Aintree,” added Turner.

“But given the weights are set for Aintree before the Ultima, if he comes out and wins or finishes second or whatever in the Ultima, he becomes well-in for the Grand National while the Scottish National would be revised weights.

“We would consider Ireland as well because he does have a 100 per cent record going right-handed – although not that it matters at all because he doesn’t jump violently one way or the other.

“I think Warwick is a pretty good jumping test and his jumping hasn’t posed any problems round there twice now – they’ve almost been two of his better performances I would say.”