All roads lead back to Aintree for last year’s Grand National winner Pineau de Re with the gelding’s trainer Dr Richard Newland already planning the best way to prepare his star performer for a repeat bid of his famous triumph at the Liverpool track in April 2015.
Newland, who has achieved a tremendous winning strike rate of around 24% over the last two seasons and already this campaign is running at an even more impressive 30%, welcomed back his Grand National hero to pre-season training in late-July, reporting that the 11-year-old appeared in tremendous shape and had clearly enjoyed his summer break.
Formerly trained by Philip Fenton in Ireland, Pineau de Re joined Newland in early 2013 and after a quiet start for his new handler as he settled into his new surroundings began to show improved form both over hurdles and fences last season, winning a decent veterans handicap chase at Exeter in January before running a blinder back over hurdles, flying through into a very close third place behind Fingals Bay in the ultra-competitive Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle Final at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Sent off a 25/1 shot in the Grand National odds on his subsequent outing, Leighton Aspell’s mount jumped like a buck over the challenging Aintree fences and after coming through to lead at the second from home stayed on powerfully all the way up the long run-in to beat the gallant Balthazar King by a comfortable five lengths.
Newland intends to keep his charge to the smaller obstacles prior to a repeat bid for the £1million showcase contest, and although certain to be asked to carry significantly more weight for the 2015 renewal of the Grand National has a sporting chance of running another fine race in ‘the world’s greatest steeplechase’.