Grand National-winning trainer Dr Richard Newland is dreaming of more glory following Abolitionist’s successful return to action in the Pertemps Network (Supporting BTRC) Handicap Hurdle at Aintree Racecourse.
Newland, who won the world’s greatest steeplechase with Pineau De Re in 2013, has a great affinity with his favourite racecourse and would love to win the big one again.
Abolitionist had been bought with last season’s Grand National in mind, but due to two pelvic injuries he had not been in on the track for 441 days. But he showed he is no back number when taking a competitive hurdle contest in fine style under Sam Twiston-Davies.
Always travelling well at the head of affairs, Twiston-Davies kicked for home after the final flight and the 11-8 favourite came home a fine 10-length winner over The Organist (9-2) with Jacks Last Hope (9-1) a further five lengths back in third.
He was taking advantage of a favourable handicap mark over the smaller obstacles, but he will need to win a couple of decent chases if he is able to climb back up enough over fences to make the cut for the Grand National on April 6 in the new year.
But first he will get a chance to prove his National credentials when he has a his first taste of the unique Aintree obstacles in the Becher Chase on December 8.
Newland said: “He was bought for last year’s National but it all went pearshaped really with a couple of stress fractures with his pelvis. But the guys (owners including Pineau De Re’s owner John Provan) have been really patient and we would love to be in the National next year. But because he has had time off the handicapper had dropped him a bit. His hurdle mark was always lower than his chase mark. So it is not a done deal to get in that race. But I think we will come for the Becher (Chase) in four week’s time and that would be the plan. And see if he takes to the fences as that was the original plan.
“This is just a lovely bonus as so much work as gone into this horse from the team. If you appreciate two stress fractures in one season. We were trying very hard to get him here for the big one, but couldn’t. But that was good as it shows he has still got the zest to be a racehorse as he’s done precious little racing in the last four or five years. So it is lovely to get a win in a nice race and we can dream a bit.”
He added: “It was unusual really as he had two stress fractures in different places, but you have got to think that it was on the same side of the pelvis, maybe he was over the first one but putting more strain on another part of that area, so it wasn’t quite over. You are in a terrible rush to get them there for the big day. But it didn’t happen. And to be honest we thought we may have the lost the horse if we had carried on.
“But it is brilliant that after time off, he has put in the decent performance off a low weight. But he has shown he is a nice racehorse and we are very pleased.”
Minella Awards (evens) comfortably won the opener, the Aintree Community Programme Novices’ Chase, beating Robin Waters (5-6 favourite) by a massive 69 lengths in the two-runner contest.
The Harry Fry-trained Minella Awards, under Sean Bowen, led from start to finish with Robin Waters just a couple of lengths off him for the first two miles of the extended three-mile contest.
It was little more than a steady gallop with both jumping soundly throughout early on.
It was only when they came to the fourth from home and Robin Waters made a slight error and Minella Awards pressed on before widening the gap.
Minella Awards then went clear and scored by 69 lengths from the tiring Robin Waters.
Having been third on his chase debut at Chepstow last month, the two-time hurdle winner landing his first victory over the bigger obstacles.
Winning jockey Bowen said’ “He jumped brilliant but we won’t have learned much today as we only had one to beat. He is an awesome jumper and I am sure he will make into a betting chaser that hurdler.”