De Bromhead hoping 'John' can avoid Douvan at Aintree
Henry de Bromhead is keen to step the talented Sizing John up in trip at Aintree next week, but Willie Mullins's concerted attempt to lay siege on the British trainers' title at the Liverpool venue might complicate matters.
On the five occasions that Sizing John has been beaten over the past year and a half, Douvan has done the winning, relegating him to second for a fourth time in a Grade One when annihilating last month's Arkle Trophy field at Cheltenham. Mullins has this week nominated the sensational young chaser among a high-class delegation that could descend on the Grand National festival.
With just over £150,000 of a deficit to make up on Paul Nicholls, he is eager to seize the opportunity to become the first Irish holder of the British title since Vincent O'Brien in 1954, and results at Aintree's three-day gathering could prove decisive.
Douvan's natural target might well be the Maghull Novices' Chase over two miles on Saturday week, in which he would face a new and exciting rival in De Bromhead's Alisier D'Irlande.
Should Mullins opt to try him over closer to two-and-a-half miles with an eye on next season, Thursday's Manifesto Novices' Chase would be his destination, though Black Hercules may take precedence in that.
"Sizing John is entered for the two-and-a-half-mile novice chase at Aintree," De Bromhead (above) confirmed. "It looks an ideal time to step up in trip. I thought we might avoid Douvan by going there but we'll just have to see; we would like to step up in trip and we can't at Punchestown. Douvan is just a savage horse and I suppose it would be a little frustrating if we were to step Sizing John up to two-and-a-half and he were to be there again."
Alisier D'Irlande would be a bit of an unknown quantity should it fall to him to lead the opposition to Douvan in the two-mile Grade One. Unbeaten in three completed starts for the Waterford handler, the 2014 Templemore point-to-point winner has produced stunning front-running displays to score by an aggregate 26 lengths in two completed chases.
"Alisier D'Irlande is going to Aintree for the two-miler," De Bromhead confirmed of the Bob Brookhouse-owned six-year-old. "He is a lovely horse that has done very little wrong so far. I felt that he jumped much better off the nicer ground at Leopardstown last time, and he might be better again off better ground at Aintree."
Identity Thief, a never dangerous sixth to Annie Power in the Champion Hurdle, will either face a rematch with Mullins' star in Thursday's Aintree Hurdle or wait for Punchestown later in the month, while the Supreme Novices' Hurdle seventh, Supasundae, will be dropped in grade at the Kildare festival.
"Identity Thief looked a bit lost at Cheltenham," De Bromhead suggested.
"He jumped the first rather than hurdled it; he went from first to fourth, and then guessed at the second flight and was struggling after that. He has been in great form since and will be entered for both meetings, so we'll look at the entries before making a decision.
"Supasundae will wait for Punchestown. He might have been fourth if he hadn't missed the last at Cheltenham, but his jumping let him down. There are two-mile and two-and-a-half-mile winners-of-one races at Punchestown, so we will consider those for him. It might make sense to go back to those sort of races."
De Bromhead added that his gallant Champion Chase third Special Tiara would run in either Punchestown's BoyleSports Champion Chase on April 26 or the equivalent Grade One at Sandown three days earlier. With conditions likely to suit, his Ryanair Chase flop Smashing could tackle tomorrow's Webster Cup at Navan.
"We found out in Cheltenham that he is very dependent on soft ground to be at his best, so he could run at Navan," De Bromhead said of the grey.
"He might not do much more this season. We might consider something in France, over hurdles or fences, so we will have a look at the calendar there."