Monbeg is the Dude
Scudamore to strike with dour stayer in perfect stepping stone for Grand National
The Aintree Grand National is the aim and tomorrow's National Trial at Haydock appears to be the perfect stepping stone for Michael Scudamore's 10-year-old Monbeg Dude.
Backable at 33/1 for the Aintree showpiece in April, Monbeg Dude is a proven out-and-out stayer who hasn't always been the most fluent of jumpers but that has improved with time and shouldn't be an excuse this weekend.
Last year's winner of the race Rigadin De Beauchene returns for Venetia Willliams who also runs Ballyoliver in thg race, and although her horses are in good form of late, that duo should be just watched on this occasion.
It looks a pretty wide open contest but the 5/1 on offer for Welsh National winner Monbeg Dude, who ran a blinder in that race when fourth last time out, is worth taking.
Noel Fehily will continue his association in the same race with Paul Nicholls as he rides the top weight, Benvolio, who will naturally warrant respect.
While David Pipe's Broadway Buffalo may look the most progressive of the group, the stats would suggest that he's a year too young to be winning here as seven-year-olds have a poor record in the race. By the time they encounter 3m5f here against hardened stayers it's not hard to see why.
Looking ahead to Ascot where there is Grade One action and Nicholls is responsible for the favourite here in the progressive novice Ptit Zig who is still unbeaten this season since going over fences.
The six-year-old wasn't disgraced in top hurdling company last season and he'll take on some more experienced types in Balder Succes and Ma Filleule, while Willie Mullins sends over seasoned chaser Ballycasey.
Ballycasey will make just his third start of the campaign but was hugely disappointing when dropping back to the minimum trip last time and returning to an extended 2m5f will be a big help to him. However, it is the Nicky Henderson-trained mare Ma Filleule who is given the nod to claim the Grade One honours on this occasion.
Her first run of the season at Down Royal was a write-off but she ran a game race behind Sam Winner last time out and a repeat of that run over what could be her ideal trip, along with her seven-pounds allowance, means that she ticks an awful lot of boxes. Barry Geraghty, hotly tipped to replace Tony McCoy, will ride the seven-year-old.