The Last Samuri is the 12-1 co-favourite for the Crabbie’s Grand National with some bookmakers after an authoritative victory in Saturday’s BetBright Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster.
Trained by Kim Bailey, winner of the great race with Mr Frisk in 1990 and who still holds the track record at Aintree, the eight-year-old appears to tick every box.
He has only had three runs for Bailey since joining from Donald McCain but in winning at Kempton and on Town Moor he has proved stamina to be his strong suit and that he is assured at his fences.
Jockey David Bass suggested he can race a little lazily, which could be cause for alarm, but the 2-1 favourite powered 10 lengths clear of The Druids Nephew, who was running so well in the National last season when he fell five fences from the finish.
So impressed were Paddy Power and William Hill that The Last Samuri joined Silviniaco Conti and Oliver Sherwood’s Many Clouds, denied a run through Kelso’s abandonment, at the head of their National betting.
Bailey’s assistant, Mat Nicholls, said: “That couldn’t have gone any better. He was ready for today and I’m not going to say he’ll improve a stone fitness-wise, but I do think he’ll improve for better ground.
“I think his last run at Kempton brought him on a lot mentally as he was so professional today. At home he can be a bit lively, but when you bring him racing he’s so switched off that on the first circuit, you sometimes think he’s losing interest.
“Then, all of a sudden, you bring him alongside another horse and he comes alive.”
Bass said: “He’s improved a hell of a lot from his last run and it’s very handy the (National) weights can’t change, as he’d get a fair hike for that.
“My only worry would be we were playing catch-up a bit early on, but other than that he was perfect.”
Bass wore the same Paul and Clare Rooney silks to win the BetBright Novices’ Hurdle on 4-7 favourite Cracked Rear View, also trained by Bailey, while he also struck on Nicky Henderson’s Sugar Baron (5-2) in the BetBright Handicap Hurdle.
The jockey said of the latter: “I don’t think he was quite right last time but the boss has got him back on good terms with himself. Three miles was always going to suit him and he was on a workable mark.”
A frustrating day for Sherwood changed tack when The Organist (5-2 co-favourite) ran out an impressive winner of the BetBright Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.