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Sport Horse Racing

Tuesday 28 January 2020

Candy sweet on National bid

Kimberlite Candy and Richie McLernon on their way to victory at Warwick yesterday. Photo: Steven Paston. Photo: PA
Kimberlite Candy and Richie McLernon on their way to victory at Warwick yesterday. Photo: Steven Paston. Photo: PA

Marcus Armytage

The McCoy Contractors Civil Engineering Classic, Warwick's most valuable race, has thrown up a couple of Grand National winners in recent years and it would not take a huge stretch of the imagination to see Kimberlite Candy, yesterday's winner, joining One For Arthur and Auroras Encore in making Aintree's honours board.

In beating the front-running Captain Chaos by 10 lengths, Tom Lacey's eight-year-old did two things which the trainer saw as a requirement for Aintree - he put together decent back-to-back performances, which he had so far failed to do, and will now be put up enough by the handicapper to comfortably get in the National.

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If it comes up soft at Aintree in April, jockey Richie McLernon would have a serious shot at making up for being beaten a nose by Neptune Collonges on Sunnyhillboy in 2012.

Kimberlite Candy finished second to Walk In The Mill in the Becher Chase over the National fences last month and Lacey, who bought him for £40,000 as a three-year-old, said: "He's a very special horse. Every season he's won his races and today he backed up a good run at Aintree. He'd never backed up a win and it was a concern. The National is definitely an option now, but it would want to be soft for him."

McLernon, who is heading for his best season, said: "I let them [the owner, JP McManus, and his team] make the targets. It's a long way to the National yet."

Earlier, having jumped to the front along the side of the course, Kim Bailey's Two For Gold was headed between the last two fences in the McCoy Contractors Novice Chase by Hold The Note, but he rallied again under David Bass to win by half a length. Bailey has had his horses in terrific form but he conceded this was a much-needed winner after a blank Christmas.

"We thought we had a good thing for Huntingdon yesterday and that was off," he said. "We've blood-tested and scoped most of the yard but the vets can't get near this horse, so he was about the only one we didn't do. What do we know? Sometimes you just need a winner for the yard's sake.

"He's a real star, this horse, and we thought this was a tough ask. He's owned by a long-standing syndicate [who owned the Grand National runner, The Rainbow Hunter] but Dermot Clancy, one of its driving forces, died before Christmas, so this is poignant.

"He's a fantastic jumper - just not that quick. There's a decent novice chase or handicap in him one day. They'll want to go to Cheltenham now, but I'm not going to mention it!"

At Kempton, Frodon and Bryony Frost made all the running to win the Unibet Silviniaco Conti Chase by a length and a quarter from Keeper Hill.

Paul Nicholls' chaser, winning for the first time since he took the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham last March, first saw off Top Notch, last year's winner, and then the persistent runner-up. "He was textbook," Frost said.

Charlie Stout provided trainer Shane Nolan and jockey Conor McNamara with the biggest success of their careers in the Dan & Joan Moore Memorial Handicap Chase at Fairyhouse. Carried out by a loose horse at Leopardstown over Christmas in a valuable prize, connections gained ample compensation.

McNamara bided his time before picking up the running at the second last and he came home well to beat Avenir D'Une Vie by two lengths, despite racing from out of the handicap. "I got to the front way too soon and you wouldn't want to hear the things that I was saying in my head turning for home!" said McNamara.

"He was brilliant for a novice and saw it out really well. It's great and definitely my best ever day. I did have a double before at Clonmel, but this is even better."

"That's brilliant," said Nolan. "He was unlucky at Christmas and was unlucky with Thurles being called off too.

"We stuck him in this beforehand thinking if he won in Thurles or Leopardstown, he'd be in the handicap. When he got carried out in Leopardstown, we said we'd take a chance. I'm just delighted for the horse to have come back because he was lost there for a while, but we figured out what was wrong with him and got him right.

"He goes on any ground, but I think he's at a stage now where nicer ground suits him better. He spent many runs running on real heavy ground, so I'd say at this stage he doesn't mind a bit of nicer ground. We might go to Leopardstown, he'll have an entry anyway in something at the big meeting.

"This is by far my biggest winner and it's brilliant. It's a great pot and it's great to have a horse like him."

Gavin Cromwell's Wolf Prince (9-10 favourite) returned to winning ways in the ITM Stallion Trail Hurdle, but 33-1 chance Hammersmith made him pull out plenty.

The four-year-old was beaten comfortably by Henry de Bromhead's Aspire Tower at Leopardstown over Christmas and Cromwell is keen to avoid that one if he can. "It was a messy kind of a race, but I suppose on form he should have been winning it," said Cromwell.

"He showed gears as well and it was a good enough performance. He has an entry in the Grade One at Leopardstown, but I'd presume Henry's horse would go there and it would be very hard to beat him.

"There is also a 130-rated novice at Naas in February and he could potentially go there. He'll probably get an entry in the Triumph, but is more likely to go to the Fred Winter. I don't see much point in going and taking on Henry's horse in the Triumph."

Willie Mullins, who was not in attendance, was responsible for three winners.

Jazzaway (9-10 favourite) won the Book Easter Festival Tickets Online Mares Maiden Hurdle for Paul Townend while Danny Mullins rode Annamix (7-1) to victory in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase.

Patrick Mullins was on board Five Bar Brian (9-2) in the closing bumper.

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