Horses To Follow » Mendip Express

Mendip Express

Mendip Express ran a really big race to finish second in the Becher Chase at Aintree on Saturday. Stone last of the 25 runners as the tapes went up, he remained well back in the field through the early part of the race. He was still disputing last place as they passed the winning post with a circuit to go, but he was travelling well for Will Biddick and he was jumping the big fences well.

He made his ground steadily from there, travelling and jumping well and moving into gaps as they appeared. Ninth jumping the Canal Turn, he again travelled well down the side of the course, jumped those fences well, if a little to his left, and moved into third place behind the breakaway leader Our Father and ultimate winner Oscar Time as they rounded the home turn and faced up to the second last fence. It always appeared as if Oscar Time was travelling better than Harry Fry’s horse, but he was still only a length and a half behind the Waley-Cohen horse as that horse jumped on past the weakening Our Father at the final fence. He moved into second place before they reached the Elbow, and he continued to close on Oscar Time all the way to the line. In the end, the line just came too soon, and he went down by just three parts of a length, with three lengths back to the third horse Saint Are.

This was a really good run from Mendip Express. He was held up out the back of the field, which is not usually an advantage on the Grand National course over any distance. And sure enough, the winner, the third and the fourth all raced handily from early. Harry Fry’s horse was the only one who came from the rear and finished in the first four. As well as that, he travelled well, he made his ground nicely, and he jumped his fences well. He was a little to his left, but that is no harm at Aintree.

He will be of interest in any staying handicap chase now, and he should do even better on ground that is softer than Saturday’s good to soft. The handicapper has raised him 4lb to a mark of 148, but he still has scope for progression as a staying chaser. He is only eight rising nine and, while he has run in nine point-to-points, Saturday’s race was just his sixth ever chase.

He did warm up for Saturday’s race with a nice win over hurdles at Warwick, but there is every chance that he will progress again for Saturday’s run. The Grand National is a legitimate target for him now, if that is the route that Harry Fry and the Mendip Syndicate choose for him, but the trainer did say that he did not stay in the Scottish National last season, so the Grand National may be too far for him. That said, his new rating should get him into the race on a fair weight, and he will be of interest for the April extravaganza if he is trained specifically for it now. If he is not, he will be of interest in a staying chase over more than three miles especially on soft ground.

6th December 2014