Horses To Follow » Neptune Collonges

Neptune Collonges

Neptune Collonges has run slightly better with each of his runs so far this season, and he ran his best race for some time when he finished a close second to Giles Cross in the Grand National Trial at Haydock on Saturday. He and Giles Cross were never out of the first three, the pair of them jumping boldly in the front rank, although Neptune Collonges missed the second fence down the back straight on the final circuit and lost a couple of lengths to Giles Cross and Miko De Beauchene, who had moved up to join them starting out on their final circuit. Harry Derham soon had Neptune Collonges back alongside Giles Cross, but he dropped back to third again over the final fence in the back straight as the strong-travelling Always Right moved up to have a crack at the lead.

Derham had to get to work around the home turn and it looked like Neptune Collonges would finish no better than third early in the home straight, but a mistake at the third last from Always Right, after which he was quickly beaten, left the grey horse in second place behind Giles Cross once more and he simply never gave up. He was almost back alongside as they jumped the final fence, but Denis O’Regan had yet to go for Giles Cross and he was able to ease back into a length and a half advantage halfway up the run-in before Neptune Collonges thrust back at him approaching the line, getting to within a neck as they passed the post. He was actually in front 20 yards past it.

This was perhaps an even better run than it looked from Neptune Collonges, given that Paul Nicholls had had just one winner from 31 runners on Friday and Saturday. The son of Dom Alco has almost bottomless stamina these days, and he has a chance in the Grand National now, in which he will carry 11st 6lb if Synchronised takes his chance. He is probably at his best on a flat, galloping left-handed track (he put up the best performance of his life when he won the 2009 Hennessy at Leopardstown), and he is not too old for the Grand National now at the age of 11. 11st 5lb appears to be the new cut-off point in the National trends-wise (Don’t Push It having carried that weight to victory in 2010), so 11st 6lb is not ideal, but he will race off a mark of 157 – he was racing off 159 here and has been raised 3lb to 162 – so that gives him a chance, and don’t forget just over a year ago he was winning the Grade 2 Argento Chase at Cheltenham. He is a French-bred, which has historically been a big negative in the National, but Mon Mome broke the Gallic hoodoo in 2009, and best odds of 33/1 now for the Aintree showpiece are interesting.

18th February 2012