Across The Bay produced a gutsy front-running display to win the valuable Betfred Mobile Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock Park. A Grade 2 hurdle race may not seem the natural stepping stone to a Grand National bid but there could be where Across The Bay is heading next.
With the going officially heavy, jockey Henry Brooke set out to make it a decent stamina test but still had three rivals breathing down his neck as he turned for home. Going to the last, Across The Bay was under strong driving with Trustan Times, Cross Kennon and Kentford Grey Lady all being asked for maximum effort. Brooke conjured a great leap out of the son of Bob’s Return over the last and he stuck on gamely to repel Trustan Times by a length and a quarter.
Across The Bay is owned by The Scotch Piper Syndicate and trained by Donald McCain, trainer of the 2011 winner Ballabriggs. The horse had finished seventh in the Welsh National on his previous start and earned a quote of 40-1 for the Grand National from Paddy Power. Stable companion Ballabriggs is on offer at 28-1.
Another horse that could have run himself into the Grand National picture is Thurles winner Quito De La Roque. He won the Grade 2 Kinloch Brae Chase for trainer Colm Murphy who also has the Gold Cup at Cheltenham under consideration. He runs in the colours of Gigginstown House Stud, currently represented at the festival by Sir Des Champs and First Lieutenant. Quito De La Roque would be the outsider of the trio in the Cheltenham showpiece but could have enough class to be competitive at Aintree off a weight of 11st 5lb.
Quito De La Roque has visited Aintree twice before but only to run on the Mildmay course. He won the Grade 2 Novices’ Chase in 2011 and finished third in a listed race the following season. Murphy described his weight as “workable” and plans to discuss both races with the horse’s owners before any decision is made. Paddy Power have him at 40-1 in the Grand National betting and 50-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Big Fella Thanks is set to have his final prep run for Aintree at Newbury in the Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase over two and a half miles. The eleven-year-old will be having his third run in the National having completed in all three previous visits. His best effort came in 2010 when finishing fourth to Don’t Push It. He was third in the Becher Chase in December and then ran out a good winner at Wincanton last month.