A narrow runner-up in last season’s Grand National, The Last Samuri will aim to repeat last year’s success in Saturday’s Grimthorpe Handicap Chase before heading back to Aintree once again.
Kim Bailey’s The Last Samuri has resumed in top form this season and with a rising handicap mark will have to carry top-weight in Saturday’s Grade 2 Grimthorpe Handicap Chase at Doncaster. The trainer is keen to get another run into the nine-year-old before another tilt at the Grand National and after two impressive starts this campaign will be a formidable opponent once again on Saturday night.
The Last Samuri joined Bailey from Donald McCain last season after a high-profile move by the owners Paul & Clare Rooney and enjoyed a brilliant campaign with two wins and then a fine second to Rule The World in the National. Although he was very well in at the weights at Aintree it was also run on ground that was softer than ideal and ended a highly progressive season.
The nine-year-old resumed this campaign with a tough ask when fifth in the Grade 1 Champion Chase at Down Royal before a close third to fellow Aintree hope Vieux Lion Rouge over the National fences in the Grade 3 Becher Chase. The Last Samuri is now twelve pounds higher than when runner-up last season but is a chasing natural and could still be very hard to beat albeit against more lightly-weighted improving rivals at Doncaster on Saturday night.
His main opponent will undoubtedly be Definitly Red who is sure to be sent off favourite, while other notables include Looking Well and Present Man.
Brian Ellison’s Definitly Red had been very progressive winning his first two of three runs this season including a Grade 3 at Wetherby on Boxing Day before his run coming to an end when brought down three out in the Grade 2 Peter Marsh. He had a bit to find at the time but was staying on and remains highly-rated by connections. This will however be another step up against some strong stayers and will probably be too short in the market.
The Nicky Richards-trained Looking Well caught the eye staying on strongly in the Listed Sky Bet Handicap Chase at this track on his reappearance. The eight-year-old was racing off a ten pounds higher mark than when winning in much lesser company at Kelso at the end of last season and despite another five pound rise is rapidly improving and well worth a crack at this level.
Paul Nicholls has entered Present Man who would be having his first run since making several jumping errors when fourth in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. The seven-year-old had won three of his previous four starts prior to that but did unseat early at Wincanton in November and he will be really put under pressure jumping-wise in this company.
Watch the Grimthorpe live from Doncaster on Sky Racing 1 on Saturday night.