Grand National 2016: Morning Assembly gathers momentum ahead of Aintree

Grand National 2

Ballabriggs (nose band) and Jason Maguire jump The Chair before winning The John Smith’s Grand National. Pic: Dan Abraham – (Courtesy Great British Racing).

By Simon Jackson.

The Crabbie’s Grand National is the target for the talented Morning Assembly who showed his well-being when narrowly beaten last month on is comeback from a lengthy absence.

The ultra-consistent nine-year-old has won five and placed six times in 12 starts that include Grade 1 and Grade 2 wins at Punchestown; the latter a half-length win over Don Cossack who is currently joint favourite alongside Vautour for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Pat Fahy-trained Morning Assembly was beaten by a head on his return at Fairyhouse on January 30 – his first race since finishing third in April 2014 to the now dual Irish Gold Cup winner Carlingford Lough – and Fahy has his sights set on Aintree.

“The Crabbie’s Grand National is the long-term plan for Morning Assembly,” Fahy said.

“I was delighted with his run at Fairyhouse. You would have to think he would come on an amazing amount for that effort as he was never off the bridle and we never really pushed to get him fit. We used that race to get him fit and it did. He had been off for almost two years and he wasn’t under any pressure, so hopefully is back to his best.

“He is not too high in the handicap at the moment so we are thinking of going for one of the handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival and then on to Aintree. He is the Gold Cup and the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham but we will have a good look at the handicaps as he seems on a good mark at the moment.

“He is also in the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock Park (February 20) which we have considered but if he ran there he wouldn’t be able to go to Cheltenham and I think the owner would like to take in Cheltenham and Aintree with him. I won the Grand National Trial with Nuaffe (1994) and would love to win it again, so it is always an option.

Morning Assembly is best-priced at 50-1 (Paddy Power) for the National but as short as 33-1 elsewhere and Fahy believes the son of Shantou has a great chance at Aintree if he gets suitable ground.

“I think he is exceptional on soft ground,” the trainer continued. “He beat Don Cossack over two and a half miles on goodish ground so he is capable on it but he wouldn’t want any jar on the ground. When he was third in the RSA Chase it was good ground and I think he just hasn’t got quite the pace when it is like that whereas he can really cruise on softer ground.

“He got very jarred when he was third at Punchestown on his last run as a novice and had to miss last season, so I wouldn’t want to run him on that kind of ground again.

“I would say he would get the trip fine in the Crabbie’s Grand National and is such a good lepper although you never know how they will take to the fences at Aintree.

“I hope we can get to Aintree with the horse 100 per cent, the right sort of ground and a decent weight. If we do, I think he would have a good chance.”

 Read ‘Horse Talk with Simon Jackson’ at London24 for the latest horse racing news.