The Rainbow Hunter is gearuing up for a second crack at the Grand National after springing a surprise in the SkyBet Chase at Doncaster.
Kim Bailey’s runner unseated his rider at the Canal Turn early on at the Grand National last year - but the early signs suggest he is ready for another crack after taking the SkyBet Chase title on Saturday, despite being priced at 25/1 for the three-mile handicap.
Solix made the running until the second last where Nick Scholfield asked The Rainbow Hunter for his effort.
And, although Baile Anrai tried to mount a challenge, he was still a length and a half down at the line. Unioniste, the well-backed 11-4 favourite, was eight lengths away third.
Scholfield said: “I was a bit worried before racing as the ground was tacky, but the rain we’ve had earlier helped.
“He ran in the National last year and I suppose the owners will want to go there again.”
Elsewhere, in the Racing Post Lightning Novices’ Chase, 15/8 favourite Valdez took first place ahead of 14/1 shot Arnaud, and Fox Appeal (2/1).
Rock On Ruby, the the 2012 Champion Hurdle winner, missed this year’s event due to the wet weather conditions.
“Plan A was obviously to run him,” trainer Harry Fry said. “But we said yesterday it was going to be dependant on the weather.
“I spoke to the clerk of the course at Doncaster and they had a good six millimetres of rain overnight.
“We were being over cautious, but we can’t take any chances with his breathing.
“If we get it wrong this close to Cheltenham, we could mess things up, so we’ll just have to wait. It’s frustrating, but there are a couple options in a fortnight or so.
“There is another ordinary novice chase at Doncaster on February 6, there is a race back at Plumpton on February 10, where he won his first novice chase, and there is also a two mile three (furlong) race at Exeter.
“I would imagine he’ll be entered up in all three of those and we’ll try and pick the best option.
“We need to get another run in between now and Cheltenham, but he is ground dependant. We then have to hope the ground comes up good at Cheltenham in March.”
That February 6 event at Doncaster - Eventmasters Day - is scheduled to begin at 1.20pm.
The European Breeders’ Fund supports a race for Novice Hurdlers under the British Stallion Studs banner - a qualifying race in a national series under the auspices of the EBF - which culminates in a £60,000 Final at Sandown Park in March.
The giant screen situated opposite the main stands will enable racegoers to see all of the action, and a shuttle bus will be in operation from the railway station.