Castle is under siege
A question mark hangs over Conna Castle’s participation in the Aintree Grand National despite a fine run at Gowran Park on Friday.
The Jimmy Mangan-trained 10-year-old failed by only three-quarters of a length to peg back shock winner Battle Axe over two miles.
“He ran a great race and he’s come out of it good,” said the County Cork-based handler.
“The owners are not exactly sure about the National. Davy Russell rode him and he didn’t seem to think he might be up to Aintree. We’re undecided.
“I may make an entry for Conna Castle at Navan on Saturday and we’ll decide later what to do. The fences at Aintree wouldn’t be a problem, it’d probably be the trip – he’s better at two and half miles.
“At the moment it’s in the balance. It’s up to the owners and it’s their decision in the finish.”
Mangan reports his other Grand National entry Himalayan Trail to be on target for the four-and-a-half mile feature.
“He’s in good form, he’s definitely going for it and I think we have a good chance of getting in now,” the trainer added.
“Himalayan Trail is on target and he’s really coming to himself. Barry Geraghty rode him in the Becher Chase there earlier in the season and I’ll be asking him if he’s nothing better to ride.”
Geraghty won the National for Mangan on Monty’s Pass in 2003.
Himalayan Trail and Conna Castle, 33-1 and 66-1 respectively, are both on 10st 3lb at the moment but need a few horses to come out to make the cut.
Meanwhile, Nicky Henderson believes his lively outsider Golden Flight will not be fazed by the daunting Aintree fences.
The French import has a wealth of experience over the obstacles of Auteuil and shaped reasonably well on his debut for his new trainer before weakening in the latter stages of the William Hill Trophy at Cheltenham.
Henderson is planning some more schooling and work sessions in the countdown towards a week on Saturday, and said: “He has been around races like the Grand Steep, so I don’t think Aintree will fuss him much.
“He looks the right type of horse and we will try to find a bit more about him this week. Fleet Street is going there as well, I must still mention him.”
Henderson yesterday capped his momentous season by passing his best ever tally of 93 with a short-priced treble at Kempton.
For a man who has spent nearly all of his 30 years with a license in the upper echelons of the training ranks and was twice champion in the mid-80s, it seems inconceivable he is yet to reach 100 winners.
But his priceless collection of horses in Seven Barrows, Lambourn - including the Champion Hurdle first and third Punjabi and Binocular — had already seen him exceed his highest prize money total and place him comfortably second in the table behind Paul Nicholls.
It was now time for You’re The Top, Dreamy Sweeney and Finian’s Rainbow to contribute and they were all steered home with ease by Barry Geraghty.
The first two have almost identical profiles and futures as well as both running in the same race at
Cheltenham before Christmas behind the smart Karabak, when You’re The Top was third and Dreamy Sweeney was brought down when still going well.
Finian’s Rainbow (11-10 favourite) rounded things off tidily in the closing bumper. “We have just beaten our best and we would really love 100,” said Henderson.
“Dreamy Sweeney just needs to learn to relax a little. He’s been pulling too hard. ou’re The Top has always been nice, but things haven’t always gone his way.
“I bought Finian’s Rainbow off Adrian Maguire who told me he was good and he’s just a lovely, big chaser.”
Henderson went close to clinching a four-timer as his hat-trick seeking Pepsyrock (8-11 favourite) just came up short against Andy Turnell’s Kew Jumper (4-1) in the two and half mile handicap chase.
Mad About You could step back up to 10 furlongs for her next race after suffering a narrow defeat when long odds-on at the Curragh on Sunday.
The four-year-old filly, trained by Dermot Weld and owned by Moyglare Stud, was beaten a short head and a head in third place behind Jim Bolger’s Oh Goodness Me and Moyglare’s Firey Red in the Group Three Park Express Stakes over a mile.
Connections are now considering putting blinkers back on the daughter of Indian Ridge. She wore them for the first time when winning at Naas last October on her final start of 2008.
“She’s come out of the race well but she may have needed it a little bit,” said Moyglare’s racing manager Stan Cosgrove.
“She had every chance and we were surprised by our other runner. We only thought she was a seven-furlong filly but she led from the start almost to the finish.
“The two of ours worked together last week and Mad About You left Firey Red for dead.”