Angels Dawn to bid for Kim Muir repeat

By Sports Desk February 26, 2024

Angels Dawn will return to the Cheltenham Festival seeking a Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup double after producing what was arguably a career-best effort when third in last month’s Thyestes Chase.

The nine-year-old gave trainer Sam Curling a day to remember last year when edging out Gavin Cromwell’s Stumptown at the end of the amateur riders’ contest.

She would go on to finish a well-held sixth in the Irish Grand National on her next start, but following two outings over timber at the beginning of the current campaign, was back to her very best at Gowran when beaten just over three lengths by Thyestes winner Ain’t That A Shame.

Angels Dawn is now primed for a repeat of her Cotswold heroics 12 months ago, with Curling once again calling on the services of crack amateur Patrick King to do the steering.

“She ran great at Gowran and she likes soft ground but the ground was probably a bit too heavy for her,” said Curling.

“I would say that was a career best considering the two horses that beat her raced wide and that was the place to be on the day. She went round on the inside and still managed to run well, so I would say it was definitely one of her better runs.

“She ran a very good race and jumped super and she’s off a nice weight to get back in the Kim Muir and we’ll go back there now.

“It’s going to be a bit harder for her and she’s going to be at least 10lb higher this year, but she seems to be going well and improved from last year. She was quite busy last year, but has not been as busy this year so she will be going there a bit fresher.

“It was a brilliant day last year for us considering we just have a small team of horses and it will be great to go back there again with a bit of a chance.”

Angels Dawn also holds an entry in the Randox Grand National, but currently sitting 66th in the handicap and with a reduced field of 34 heading to post at Aintree for the first time, she is unlikely to make the cut for the Merseyside showpiece and therefore full focus has been placed on a Festival repeat.

“I would say she would have no chance of getting in there, so I would say it will be Cheltenham and then back to Punchestown and try for something there,” continued Curling.

“She’s going well, so we will head back to Cheltenham and see how we get on there.”

Related items

  • Jonbon set for Sandown defence or Punchestown Jonbon set for Sandown defence or Punchestown

    Jonbon could defend his Celebration Chase title or head to the Punchestown Festival before the season ends, after forming one half of a Grade One double for Nicky Henderson at Aintree’s Grand National Festival.

    The JP McManus-owned eight-year-old was one of a number of big names from Seven Barrows to miss the Cheltenham Festival, with Henderson effectively shutting down operations as a poor run of form hit his Lambourn-based string.

    However, he proved his class alongside hot juvenile prospect Sir Gino, as the Henderson team bounced back to form on Merseyside, their time in the doldrums proving short lived.

    The Joe and Marie Donnelly-owned Sir Gino is finished for the season after claiming the Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle, but there could be further business for Jonbon to take care of, either at Sandown on the final day of the season or on a raiding mission to Ireland.

    “Sir Gino, that will be him done, but there is every chance Jonbon could go again and we will have a look at the Celebration Chase or Punchestown,” said Henderson.

    “If you wait for Punchestown, you get an extra four days, which might be a help, but I think both of mine, because they hadn’t been to Cheltenham, they probably had a bit of an advantage here.

    “There is room to go again with Jonbon and we will see who is going where and what.

    “He did it last year in his novice chase season – he went to Sandown for the Celebration and has done the double act before. He probably had an easier race in the novice chase last year than he did on Friday but it was just a very good race.”

    It was Jonbon’s first attempt at two and a half miles when successful in the Melling Chase, but he will be dropping back to two miles if he is to be seen again this spring.

    However, Henderson is envisaging a return to further after that possible assignment, with plenty to be discussed with owner McManus before the autumn.

    “He would have to come back to two miles because there isn’t anything for him over further and then we will have to sit down and think,” he continued.

    “I was saying before the race I was sure he would get the two and a half and wouldn’t be surprised if we were soon talking about three (miles).

    “Nico (de Boinville) wasn’t that convinced about the three, but we will see and I haven’t discussed it with JP yet – he’s got plenty on his mind at present counting up all his Grade One winners.”

    Jonbon is not the only Seven Barrows inmate in line for a trip to the Punchestown Festival, with Shishkin on course for a long-awaited clash with dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Galopin Des Champs in the Punchestown Gold Cup.

    The 10-year-old could only finish fourth in defence of his Bowl title at Aintree, but Henderson feels the set-up of the Kildare track would suit his multiple Grade One winner much better than Liverpool.

    “I would like Shishkin to go to Punchestown and I think he would be ready for it,” added Henderson.

    “I think the track would suit him a little bit more than Aintree and he just didn’t look quite sharp enough round there.

    “He couldn’t just get out of pockets and holes at the right moment. Tactically, it was a tough race and he just lacked that little bit of zip, so we might zip him up a little bit for Punchestown.”

  • Grand National: Five things we learned Grand National: Five things we learned

    The 2024 Randox Grand National has been hailed as a roaring success and there is no doubt Aintree officials will be keen to build on the favourable feedback received.

    Here, we take a look at five things we learned from this year’s Liverpool spectacular:

    Quality over quantity works

    Reducing the number of declared runners from 40 to 34 caused quite a stir and when two more pulled out on the day of the race, a few eyebrows would have been raised. But there was no need to worry.

    With 21 completing the course and a whole host of horses being firmly in contention entering the home stretch, there could be no suggestion of restricted numbers diluting the overall experience.

    Sir Anthony McCoy said: “It was the most wonderful finish. I’ve never seen so many horses in with a chance of winning the Grand National so late in the race. What an incredible race – just a brilliant spectacle.”

    The class of the major players also shone through, with the first four home all rated 155 or higher. I Am Maximus is now being talked of as a future Gold Cup contender, while 2021 blue riband hero Minella Indo was back in third.

    Runner-up Delta Work has two Cheltenham cross-country wins on his CV and multiple Grade One victories, while fourth-placed Galvin struck at elite level in the Savills Chase a few years ago after previously claiming the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham.

    Other recent victors such as Corach Rambler (third in this year’s Gold Cup), Noble Yeats and Tiger Roll highlight how much ability is now needed to challenge for top honours in the Grand National.

    Trainer and owner limits are not required

    The British Horseracing Authority toyed with the idea of restricting each trainer to a maximum of four runners in elite handicaps, but that was swiftly dismissed and in the end it was hardly noticed that Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott saddled 15 between them.

    Some connections who missed out on a place in the starting line-up may cast a disapproving glance at Mullins having 125-1 outsider Janidil pulled up, as were Elliott’s Chemical Energy (50-1), Farouk d’Alene (100-1) and Minella Crooner (125-1).

    But no one could say they were filling up slots to keep out more fancied entries, as illustrated by Elliott finishing second with 28-1 shot Delta Work and fourth with Galvin at 40-1.

    Leading owner JP McManus was winning the race for the third time and I Am Maximus was one of five to carry his famous green and gold hoops, but no one could have been more thrilled to come out on top.

    Flanked by his grandchildren, he told ITV Racing: “I love everything about the race. I love Liverpool, the excitement of coming here, the build-up to the National, it’s just a very, very special place. When you win, it’s a wonderful spectacle.”

    Size doesn’t matter when it comes to National fences

    Several obstacles are not the famously daunting propositions they once were and the first fence is now closer to the start. But few will be complaining after the race featured no official fallers and no serious injuries.

    Of course, the National is now a far-less demanding test but no one misses the days when tired horses would get stuck halfway over mammoth fences, or the even-more gory sight of fallers rolling back into the ditch at Becher’s Brook.

    Jockey Club chief executive Nevin Truesdale beamed: “We’re absolutely delighted, the changes have clearly had a very positive impact. I think it was probably the cleanest National I’ve ever seen.

    “You’ve got to go back to 1992 to find more finishers, so we’re really pleased. I think the standing start seemed to work and I thought the jockeys were very sensible and it was a very well-ridden race, great credit to all involved. It was a really exciting finish, the National exactly as we want it.”

    Clerk of the course Sulekha Varma added: “Everybody is coming up to me saying what a good race to watch it was, it was exciting and there were so many horses still in contention and we had a fabulous winner.”

    The Corinthian spirit lives on

    It is only two years since Sam Waley-Cohen struck on board Noble Yeats, but it was a long time between drinks for the amateur riders’ brigade, who had enjoyed such great success through Charlie Fenwick on Ben Nevis, Dick Saunders on Grittar and Marcus Armytage on Mr Frisk between 1980 and 1990.

    Such is the high standard of jockeyship these days, it will take something special for a non-professional to prevail again, but David Maxwell carried the Corinthian torch admirably in finishing sixth on Ain’t That A Shame.

    The millionaire property developer cheekily declared: “That was as much fun as you can have with your trousers on!”

    He added: “Crossing the Melling Road I couldn’t believe I was still in touch…I thought ‘bloody hell, I’m going to finish the Grand National’, then I thought ‘I’m going to finish somewhere near the frame’. I’ve never thought it would go like this. It was such a thrill.”

    Gina Andrews may be a more accomplished amateur, being crowned champion point-to-point rider 10 times and notching more than 400 winners, but she will have been just as thrilled with the run of Latenightpass, who led two out before fading back to 12th.

    Racing should be fun to watch

    Aintree attracted just under 60,000 spectators on Saturday and millions more watched the big race on television. Just as the Melbourne Cup is dubbed ‘the race that stops a nation’, the Grand National still has the ability to grip an audience ahead of all other distractions now available.

    Nicky Henderson described the action on Merseyside as the “best three days racing you could wish to see anywhere”, and he didn’t even saddle a National runner.

    He said: “It was a fabulous Grand National, with lots of horses getting round and everyone safe and sound, which is always paramount…it wants to be celebrated and paraded and everyone saying well done to everyone.”

    Dickon White, who runs Aintree as the Jockey Club’s regional director, commented: “The Randox Grand National has a long and storied history and today will be remembered as one of the truly great races.

    “Liverpool has once again played its part in making this a fantastic three days, creating a world class atmosphere off the track to match the world-class action on it.”

    Ruby Walsh, who won the Grand National twice, summed up this year’s event when stating: “If that doesn’t convince people that this is a wonderful sport then I don’t know what will.”

  • Battle Cry swoops late for Leopardstown honours Battle Cry swoops late for Leopardstown honours

    Battle Cry came from last to first to win the Ballylinch Stud “Red Rocks” Stakes at Leopardstown.

    Aidan O’Brien’s colt was last seen at Doncaster in October, when he went to post for the Group One Futurity Trophy but was withdrawn at the start having become upset in the stalls.

    Prior to that he had chased home his stablemate Mountain Bear at Dundalk and the winner paid him a huge compliment when subsequently second at the Breeders’ Cup.

    In what looked a strong field against the likes of Atlantic Coast, the in-form Take Me To Church and his own stable companions Samuel Colt and The Liffey, both once-raced maiden winners, Battle Cry was sent off a 10-1 chance.

    He looked to have plenty to do when the field turned into the straight but when Ryan Moore gave the signal, the No Nay Never colt quickened up impressively to win by half a length from Samuel Colt.

    “We saw what happened to him in Doncaster last year. He just panicked but never did it before or after,” said O’Brien.

    “Ryan gave him a very good ride. He’d prefer better ground and looks like he’ll get a mile. It’s tough out there and you have to get home there today.

    “He could be a horse for the French or the Irish Guineas.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.