One For Arthur stakes claim for National spot
Scottish raider One For Arthur jumped into the Grand National picture as he claimed top honours in the Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick. A winner at Kelso in October before finishing fifth over the big fences at Aintree in the Becher Chase, Lucinda Russell's charge was a 14/1 shot for this three-mile-five-furlong slog.
Jockey Derek Fox took his time, but One For Arthur took closer order after jumping the fourth fence from the finish and hit the front at the second-last. A huge leap at the final obstacle sealed a six-length success over Goodtoknow and William Hill cut the winner to 33/1 from 50/1 for the Grand National.
Russell, having her first winner at Warwick, said: "He's some horse, he really is. I'm so delighted and he jumped super. "He was unfortunate in the Becher Chase. He got shuffled back that day, ended up out the back and stayed on for fifth place.
"If he goes up in the handicap, he might go for the Grand National. If not, he's definitely a National horse next year.
Fox, who was banned for two days for using his whip in an incorrect place, added: "I think the Grand National is made for him." Willoughby Court (11/4) galloped his rivals into submission in the Grade Two Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle.
The Ben Pauling-trained six-year-old had all of his rivals in trouble from the home turn and safely negotiated the remaining two obstacles to seal an impressive eight-length success.
Jason Maguire, racing manager to owners Paul and Clare Rooney, said: "Whether he's ground-dependent, I'd like to think he's not. He handles this ground better than some. Where he goes I don't know. Obviously there's the Festival."
Harry Fry has his fingers crossed he can keep American in one piece after the seven-year-old put in an impressive jumping performance to make all in the Betfred Mobile Hampton Novices' Chase.
Completing a double for Fry and jockey Noel Fehily after the earlier win of Overtown Express, the 4/1 shot held the staying-on Champers On Ice by four-and-a-half lengths, earning a quote of 14/1 for the RSA Chase with Paddy Power and 12s with William Hill.
Fry said: "For a novice to jump like that on his second start is exciting. It's just that he's quite fragile, so we know what we're dealing with.
"We just have to manage him accordingly. When he's right he's very good."
Meanwhile, Ted Walsh is in no rush to commit Any Second Now to future targets following his assured victory in the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.
The Grade Two contest has a star-studded role of honour, with Willie Mullins having saddled six of the last eight winners. Mikael D'Haguenet (2009), Vautour (2014) and Douvan (2015) all claimed this prize on their way to Cheltenham Festival glory, while last year's winner Min found only Altior too strong in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Prestbury Park.
The betting suggested Clonmel scorer Crack Mome was the latest Mullins superstar in waiting, with punters sending him off a heavily-backed 4/11 favourite.
Ruby Walsh moved the market leader to the lead before the home turn, but he was flat-footed at the final flight and was unable to resist the late charge of 6/1 shot Any Second Now, who got up to score by a length and a quarter.
The JP McManus-owned gelding was a 66/1 winner on his racecourse debut at Navan, but his trainer clearly holds him in high regard.
Walsh said: "It's a pleasant surprise again, but not as big a surprise as the first day. I would have been disappointed if he didn't run well."
RaceBets gave Any Second Now a quote of 12/1 for the Supreme at Cheltenham in March, but Walsh is refusing to get carried away.
"He's a big, raw sort of a horse and I'll leave plans to Frank (Berry) and JP. They have loads of ammunition and I'm sure they won't be rushing him," said the trainer. "When Vautour won this you had no doubt he was a Cheltenham horse. The same with Min and Douvan.
"I would say if you were looking for a runner he'd run respectably, but for me to say he'd win at Cheltenham after that - to be honest I'd say you'd be clutching at straws."
Sunday Indo Sport