Horses To Follow » Sunnyhillboy


As well as entering the history books as a Cheltenham Festival winner, in winning the Kim Muir Chase Sunnyhillboy marked himself down as a live contender for the Aintree Grand National next month.

The handicapper has raised him 10lb on the back of this win to a mark of 152 but, because the Grand National weights were published last month, JP McManus’s horse will get to compete off his old mark of 142 should he line up at Aintree. He would be one of the best-handicapped horses in the race. The son of Old Vic proved when he went down by just over a length to Great Endeavour in the Byrne Group Plate at the 2010 Cheltenham Festival that he had pace and class, and he proved his stamina when he finished third in the Irish Grand National last year, despite being hampered at a crucial stage in the race.

Only one horse since Nicolaus Silver in 1961 (Seagram in 1991) has won the Grand National having won a race at the Cheltenham Festival the same year, but there are four weeks between Cheltenham and Aintree this year, and you get the feeling that the Grand National has been Sunnyhillboy’s ultimate goal this season, that the Kim Muir was a stepping stone, rather than the Kim Muir being the ultimate goal and the Grand National being an after-thought, as is usually the case with Cheltenham winners.

There are few trainers who are better at targetting big staying handicap chases than Jonjo O’Neill, and it would be surprising if Sunnyhillboy was not primed to run for his life on 14th April.

14th March 2012

© The Sunday Times, 25th March 2012