Dr Richard Newland’s 11-year-old was a 25-1 winner of the world’s most famous steeplechase at Aintree last spring and his entire campaign is unsurprisingly being geared around a return to Merseyside.
The veteran finished tailed off on his seasonal reappearance over hurdles at Cheltenham last month, but Newland is confident his charge will bounce back in due course.
He is likely to turn out again at Carlisle on Sunday week and Newland is hoping he will be in action at the Cheltenham Festival in March for another crack at the Pertemps Final, having finished a close third in last season’s renewal.
“We will know a bit more when he runs at Carlisle. In hindsight, he got very tired at Cheltenham and I was very glad that Daryl (Jacob) did not knock him about,” said Newland yesterday.
“We try and win every race we can. I was a bit surprised to be called before the stewards (after the Cheltenham race). They were doing their job and it was certainly not a question of the horse not trying – we were trying.
“He had 11st 12lb in very testing ground and in hindsight the run probably came a couple of weeks too soon. Hopefully, he will put up a better show next time.”
Who will be on board Pineau De Re on April 11 remains up in the air.
Leighton Aspell was the man in the limelight last season, while Sam Twiston-Davies, Richard Johnson, Brian Hughes, Jason Maguire and Jacob have all ridden the horse since he joined Newland from Ireland last year.
Newland said: “We have no idea who will be riding him in the Grand National — Leighton came in as a spare last year and did a fantastic job.
“We are a small yard and the top jockeys tend to have a lot of strong allegiances. I don’t know if Leighton will be available but we will definitely consider him. Let’s get nearer the time and see who is available.”
Pineau De Re could be joined in this season’s Grand National by stable companion Royale Knight, who has already won over fences at Sedgefield this autumn and was last seen finishing a distant third over hurdles at Towcester.
“Royale Knight is having a bit of a break now as he is better fresh,” said Newland.