Epic jumps ‘grand final’ predicted
It’s grand final day for jumps racing and Sunday’s Grand National Steeplechase is poised to be a race for the ages.
With a 12-strong field the 4500m feature looks a worthy swansong to what’s been a season to remember.
Headlined by champion Wells, it will take a mammoth effort for the fan-favourite to carry 73.5kg to victory and claim a record fourth win in the race.
Who can forget last year’s Grand National Chase when the twelve year-old carried the same weight but failed to finish after losing rider Richard Cully early in the piece.
WATCH – 2018 Grand National Steeplechase
It’s the equal highest weight he’s ever carried, and notably less than his prior Grand National Chase victories, where he carried 65.5kg in 2014, 69kg in 2016 and 71.5kg in 2017.
Trainer Kathryn Durden knows as well as anyone that anything can happen in the race and it’s therefore no surprise she wasn’t going to indulge in the possibility of Wells creating history on Sunday.
“He’s good, he’s just been doing everything that he always does,” she said.
“All the horses in the race are a big competition, it’s a very good race and there’s a lot of depth in the field.
“What will be will be, it is what it is, the conditions are the conditions and the pressure is the pressure.”
WATCH – Wells equals Bashboy’s record, winning a third Grand National Steeplechase in 2017
Wells’ biggest competition this year looks to come from Patrick Payne’s Tallyho Twinkletoe, who’s Grand National Hurdle win at Sandown last start stamped the New Zealander as one of the stars of the sport moving forward, if he can stay sound.
Payne’s yard has been the dominant stable this JJ Houlahan Championship season, with a number of emerging and veteran gallopers winning big races.
Tallyho Twinkletoe will carry 69kg and if he can get the job done on Sunday he will become the first horse since Mosstrooper in 1930 to do the Grand National Hurdle and Grand National Steeplechase double in a season.
WATCH – Tallyho Twinkletoe wins Grand National Hurdle
Payne has two runners in the field, with Slowpoke Rodriguez on the second line of betting behind his stablemate.
The 73.5kg looks to have put Wells onto the third line of betting, despite defeating Slowpoke Rodriguez at their most recent meeting in the Crisp Steeplechase (4200m).
Slowpoke has looked likely of taking out a big feature for a number of seasons, with many thinking this could be his time.
But Payne has firmly listed Tallyho Twinkletoe as the leading chance of his pair and was full of praise for their main competition.
“Wells beat us the other day and I was full of admiration for him, he looked gone down the straight and was really able to tough it out,” he said.
“I liked what I saw from Slowpoke against Wells in that race but out of my Grand National pair I think Tallyho Twinkletoe has to be the superior racehorse.
“It looks like it’s going to be a great race and there’s a lot of depth in it, the fact that last year’s runner up Spying On You is at around $20 just shows how strong the field is,” he said.
While there have been some queries about the Ballarat track in the lead up with may saying they expect it to race on the worse side of a Heavy 10, the Ballarat Turf Club says it’s confident it will deliver the best jumping surface it has for many years.
Payne has echoed those sentiments and says he liked what he saw when he walked it on Friday.
“It walked better than a Heavy 10 for me and I think it will give a lot of horses their chance, most of it is very even.”