Things have not gone to plan for Neil Mulholland’s seven-year-old gelding this season, but there is enough evidence to suggest that all might soon be well with the world.
His novice season was a deep success, with a Grade Two triumph at Doncaster backed up by a terrific second-place finish in the Feltham at Kempton.
That rival then finished ahead of him in the four-miler at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, but Southfield Royale seemed to get the trip nicely and might have finished a bit closer than fourth had he not made a mistake three out.
Mulholland’s inmate was admittedly disappointing upon his return to action at Doncaster in January, but anything might have happened in the Kim Muir back at Cheltenham last month.
He had, after all, travelled nicely until fate intervened and he fell at the ninth fence.
Mulholland said: “He’s come out of it well. It’s just one of those things about chasing I suppose, but he’s well and has schooled well since Cheltenham. We’re very happy with him and his preparation. He’s in good order.”
Southfield Royale does not look too badly weighted, and has the assistance of Noel Fehily, who has been a bit of a maestro in the big races this season.
Middleham Park Racing also have high hopes for their runner, Premier Bond, as the syndicate bid for a second win in the big race. Successful with the Tim Vaughan-trained Beshabar in 2011, they are this time represented by Nicky Henderson-trained Premier Bond who has had just four starts over fences, the first of which was at Doncaster in December when he was second to his brilliant stablemate Might Bite. After winning at Catterick and Doncaster in January, the seven-year-old took a big step up to finish third to Domesday Book in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham and will have plenty support in the betting ring.
Sandy Thomson went close last year with Seeyouatmidnight, who was a close third behind Vicente, and relies upon Seldom Inn this time.
The nine-year-old will be ridden by Derek Fox, who attempts to follow up his victory on One For Arthur in the Grand National at Aintree two weeks ago. The last jockey to win both Nationals in the same season was Graham Lee, who supplemented his Aintree triumph on Amberleigh House in 2004 with victory on Grey Abbey at Ayr.