Horses To Follow » Sunnyhillboy


Sunnyhillboy put up a career-best to finish third in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday. Settled towards the rear on the inside by Richie McLernon, his jumping really stood up to the test in this big field (he had fallen early on in the Spinal Research Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on his previous run when sent off favourite). He travelled sweetly through the race, part of the army of JP McManus-owned runners in the second half of the field, and was making good headway when Sebadee made a desperate mistake in front of him at the fourth last, went down on his nose and stumbled, and Sunnyhillboy ran right into the back of him. He lost ground and momentum at a key point of the race, just as many challengers were starting to mass in behind the two leaders. It is testament to how well he was going though that he was quickly back on an even keel and travelling well not far off the leaders as they turned for home. Kept to the inside, he made ground as they levelled out for home and stayed on really strongly up the straight without quickening to go from eighth to third, closing the gap on the second Western Charmer all the way to the line, proving his stamina for this type of trip. He would have done even better were it not for that incident four out.

He had been well supported through the morning and on course despite AP McCoy choosing to ride Quantativeeasing instead, but it had to have been a marginal decision, and Sunnyhillboy delivered the big run that was expected. He will nine next year and, although he isn’t overly big, he did jump the stiff Fairyhouse fences well and it is not fanciful to suggest that he could be an Aintree Grand National horse for next year. He has some good handicap form to his name over both hurdles and fences and would definitely have the class for the race. He is rated 142 over hurdles after winning the big two and a half mile handicap hurdle at Aintree in 2009 as a novice, which is a higher rating than almost all Grand National winners, only Comply Or Die (145) was rated higher over hurdles in recent times. Sunnyhillboy will go up a few pounds for this run but will still be on a more than feasible mark for the National and, as we have seen with Don’t Push It, Jonjo O’Neill is more than capable of laying one out for the race and protecting its handicap mark. He has exactly the right sort of profile for the race.

25th April 2011