Weekend Review: Mill he win a Grand National? The jury’s still out

Another imperious performance from Altior, a Grand National 'trial' and Min set for Leopardstown repeat ..



Walk In The Mill National bound?

This year’s renewal of the Becher at Aintree was a cracker, featuring three past winners of the race, a Scottish National hero, a few past Cheltenham Festival winners, and a former top-notcher in the shape of Don Poli.

It was won by the well-backed Walk In The Mill who left his reappearance run well behind to take advantage of a good mark.

He was 2 lb lower than when finishing third in a well-contested handicap at Ascot three starts earlier and, as expected, he relished the emphasis on stamina (sure to stay further) on his first start over the National fences.

His jumping was good and connections were quick to pin point the Grand National as his main target moving forward. He will remain of interest wherever he turns up on his way back to Aintree, but it’s worth remembering that the record of Becher winners in the big one itself isn’t great.

Is Altior unbeatable?

Only four runners went to post for the Tingle Creek at Sandown on Saturday, but it was still one of the best renewals in recent years. Racing fans weren’t let down with Champion Chaser Altior putting in a dazzling display to maintain his unbeaten record over jumps.

There was seemingly nothing between him and Un de Sceaux on the turn for home, both travelling and jumping well within themselves, but in the end, it was Altior who proved the strongest (again), powering away from the honest and loveable Un de Sceaux after the last.

Nicky Henderson’s eight-year-old will continue to take all the beating wherever he turns up in the lead up to his defence of the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, for which bookmakers were quick to slash his odds.

Connections ruled out a tilt at the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day this year, stating that is would probably come too quick, but there’s no doubt he would be a fascinating runner at three miles should they decide to go down that route next year.

Min back with a bang

It was great to see Min return with a convincing victory in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown on Saturday, clearly refreshed and over what was a busy but disappointing spring campaign.

Surprisingly, his victory on Sunday was his first at the top level outside novice company, but it looks solid form, with the consistent and very smart mare Shattered Love following him home in second.

It is still up in the air as to what route Min will take this season, twice put in his place by Altior at the Cheltenham Festival, so it would be no surprise were connections to go down the Ryanair route with him, given that he clearly stays two and a half miles well enough.

In the shorter term, though, Min seems sure to pick up races closer to home, likely to drop back in trip for the Leopardstown race he was disqualified in last year. But as for the Festival, in the words of Ruby Walsh: ‘Wherever Altior goes, we’ll go the other way!’

One to back next time:

Another Emotion was less exposed than the rest in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle qualifier at Sandown on Saturday and shaped encouragingly on his handicap debut after eight months off. He saw out the extra three furlongs well and, for all he had a hard race, he should be up to winning races from a mark in the 120s; he’s well worth adding to your MyTimeform tracker.

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