Highland Lodge may not run again before Grand National

Jimmy Moffatt is seriously considering heading straight for the Grand National with Highland Lodge following his impressive victory over the famous Aintree fences in Saturday’s Becher Chase.

Highland Lodge may not run again before Grand National

Making his first appearance for the Cumbria-based trainer having previously shown smart form for Emma Lavelle, the nine-year-old raced from out of the handicap in the Merseyside feature but jumped brilliantly in the hands of Henry Brooke on his way to running out a decisive winner.

Moffatt said: “He’s come out of the race absolutely grand. He’s eaten up and I think he’s grown a hand since the race!

“He’s just a very happy horse at the moment. He’s been getting a lot of love and attention since Saturday, as you can imagine, and that really does make a difference.

“It goes without saying we were thrilled to bits with him. He’s not the best of work horses as he’s not the quickest, but in the last fortnight he’s really picked up. Everyone is asking about the National now and I think that’s the way we’ve got to look.”

Moffatt is hopeful that a revised mark of 137 will be enough to earn Highland Lodge a starting berth in April.

“He might need another pound or two to definitely get in the race, but the race is framed on its own and you’d like to think the handicapper will favour him a little bit because he’s already proven himself there,” said the trainer.

“He ticks a lot of boxes and it would be a shame if he didn’t get in. You have 40 runners in the Grand National and after the way he jumped round there the other day, I think most people would like to see him as one of the 40 as he would offer something to the race.

“It wouldn’t bother me in the slightest if we just gave him a couple of racecourse gallops – one five weeks before the National and one two and a half weeks before – and went straight there.

“He’s keen in his work and easy to get fit. It was a near-perfect round of jumping the other day and I’m not sure you’d want to tinker too much by running him over regulation fences or hurdles.

“The National is worth £1million now, so I don’t see much point in running him in a hurdle race worth £5,000 in the meantime.

“There is a prep race at Kelso that I think Ballabriggs ran in before winning the National a few years ago (2011), so that might be something we look at, but at the moment I’m tempted to go straight to Aintree.”

Whatever happens from here on in, Highland Lodge is already looking a bargain buy having been snapped up for just £22,000 little over a month ago.

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