Hughes' Thunder to take Becher road to National
Sandra Hughes has confirmed that her Irish Grand National hero Thunder And Roses will tackle Aintree's big fences in a fortnight's time ahead of striving to realise her late father Dessie's dream of securing Grand National glory in the spring.
Monday was the first anniversary of the training legend's death. Despite all that Dessie Hughes achieved both as a jockey and as a trainer, he never fulfilled his long-held ambition of conquering the world's most famous race over the once-formidable obstacles.
The Liverpool track is one with which he was always synonymous, not least due to his three Aintree Hurdle triumphs aboard Night Nurse. However, the National - for which Thunder And Roses is priced up at 33/1 in the ante-post markets - proved elusive.
Hughes never even got as far as Becher's Brook as a jockey, and then Black Apalachi became the bridesmaid when second to the AP McCoy-ridden Don't Push It on the fourth of its five outings in the race in 2010. The Becher Chase, though, proved far more indicative of Hughes's affinity with Aintree.
Black Apalachi and Vic Venturi won successive versions for him in 2008 and 2009, and now Thunder And Roses, such a memorable Irish National winner in April for Hughes's daughter and Katie Walsh, will endeavour to claim another triumph for the Osborne Lodge stable on December 5.
"We want to give him a view of the fences before the Grand National in April," Hughes confirmed ahead of the three-and-a-quarter-mile handicap. "That is his main aim this year. He is also in the Troytown this weekend but he won't be going there. After the Becher he will probably have another run in January and then we will see."
The Gigginstown Stud-owned Thunder And Roses finished fifth of 11 on his return over hurdles at Clonmel last week, and Hughes expressed herself happy with him since.
"Thunder And Roses came back very well from his summer holiday and had a run over hurdles in Clonmel. I am very happy with how he has come out of that and it will hopefully leave him spot on for a good run in the Becher."
Thunder And Roses is also in the Grand Sefton over the shorter trip of two miles and five furlongs the same day, but Hughes indicated that Art Of Logistics, which finished sixth over the fences in the Topham in April, would instead run in that.
"He has been a little bit disappointing, to be honest with you, even though he is quite high in the handicap," the Curragh handler said of the seven-year-old. "His best run all year was in the Topham and we are hoping the return to the big fences will keep him interested. He has just gone a little bit clever on us."
Of the 14 Irish entries among a total of 47 for the Becher, Gigginstown's Willie Mullins-trained Don Poli is the most intriguing, though such a classy prospect must be a doubtful starter for the race at this stage in his career.
The stylish RSA Chase victor is considered by many to be a Gold Cup candidate and would have to give weight to everything were he to run in the Becher. Other options such as the Hennessy Gold Cup and John Durkan Chase are likely to prove more attractive to connections.
Along with Thunder And Roses, Jim Dreaper's Midlands National hero and Scottish National runner-up Goonyella is among the favourites for the Becher at around 12/1, despite departing at the first fence in the race last year.
Tony Martin's ever-consistent JP McManus-owned Heathfield, which is in over hurdles at Navan on Sunday, is also toward the head of the market.