Midlands Grand National preview: Truckers Lodge appeals most in Uttoxeter staying showpiece

Published on: March 13, 2020
Author: David Metcalf
2020 Midlands Grand National preview from Uttoxeter includes De Rasher Counter

Truckers Lodge is a progressive young stayer who ran a blinder when runner-up last time out, so – at 11/2 with SportNation – makes plenty of appeal to go on better and land the spoils in the 4m 2f Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter on Saturday (15:35).

This Paul Nicholls trained eight-year-old was a useful hurdler who has quickly made up into an even better chaser, winning once and being placed twice in just four starts over the larger obstacles.

The success came on just his second start of the campaign over 3m, when the son of Westerner showed a really willing attitude to stay on strongly on the run-in and get the better of Johanos by half-a-length at Chepstow.

Truckers Lodge was then targeted at the Welsh Grand National at the same venue over the Christmas period and ran the race of his life when a 1 3/4 lengths second of 17 to Potters Corner off an opening handicap chase mark of 139.

He raced prominently throughout and jumped well in the hands of claimer Lorcan Williams, before staying on strongly on the run-in to go down all guns blazing.

Potential handicap blot

It was a terrific effort for one so inexperienced against battle hardened rivals.

Truckers Lodge is weighted to confirm form with the re-opposing Prime Venture, who finished 2 1/2 lengths behind him in fourth.

The assessor appears to have been very kind in raising him just 2lb for that career best performance. A revised rating of 141 may seriously underestimate his ability.

Truckers Lodge finished runner-up in a Grade 2 over hurdles at Doncaster back off 142, so he could potentially be a handicap blot in this given his lightly-raced profile.

Testing conditions also hold no fears. Truckers Lodge once again has the assistance of Williams in the saddle, who takes off another 3lb with his claim.

Williams has won twice and been placed one two occasions in four starts on him, so it looks a shrewd move by Nicholls to once again give him the leg-up.

So, with the stable also in decenet nick, there is simply nothing not to like about the profile of Truckers Lodge and he very much looks the one they all have to beat.

Class-dropping De Rasher Counter feared most

Top-weight De Rasher Counter found life too hot last time out in Grade 2 company, but looks a big player now dropped back into a handicap like the Midlands Grand National.

That run came in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham, where the Emma Lavelle trained eight-year-old made a couple of costly errors before weakening three from home to finish a 33 lengths fourth to Santini.

Prior to that, he had been very impressive when landing a typically fierce renewal of the Grade 3 Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November off a mark of 149.

After tracking the leaders and jumping well throughout, De Rasher Counter took up the running four from home and stayed on strongly when pressed after the last to beat The Conditional by 1 1/2 lengths.

The runner-up, to whom he was conceding 7lb, landed the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival earlier in the week – so that gives the form a very strong look in relation to this.

De De Rasher Counter does now have to race off 8lb higher, but it represents a return to much calmer waters and he remains open to further progression.

Shouldering 11st 12lb will be no easy task in this gruelling test, but promising young rider Ben Jones takes off a handy 3lb with his claim and underfoot conditions hold no fears.

A big run therefore looks assured, so De Rasher Counter makes plenty of each-way appeal at odds of 15/2 with William Hill.

Joe Farrell also appeals each-way in Midlands Grand National

Given that he ran well when a keeping on seventh behind De Rasher Counter in the Ladbrokes Trophy, Joe Farrell is another that looks worth considering each-way now that he meets that rival on 10lb better terms.

This 11-year-old hails from the yard of Welsh handler Rebecca Curtis, whose Lisnagar Oscar spran a 50/1 shock when landing the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival earlier in the week.

He enjoyed his finest hour when landing the 2018 Scottish Grand National over 4m at Ayr when digging deep for pressure to fend off the late thrust of Ballyoptic by a nose.

Joe Farrell went on to finish a solid second to Chic Name at Newbury last year, and looked as good as ever on return to action at Chepstow back in October when getting headed close home and finishing a length third of nine to Vieux Lion Rouge off his current mark of 142.

He has had just one run since, in the Ladbrokes Trophy, and Curtis looks to have purposely given him a break and saved him for the Midlands Grand National.

Joe Farrell has a very good record fresh and his Scottish National success showed that he had the required stamina for this staying test. The son of Presenting also has proven winning form on testing ground.

He now gets the services in the saddle of the in-form Bryony Frost – who is operating at a strike rate of just under 28 per cent in the last 14 days at the time of writing – for the first time.

Joe Farrell has more going for him than odds of 14/1 with Bethard would suggest, so had to feature as another potential punt for the Midlands Grand National.