Grand National dream over for Emerging Force following leg injury
Harry Whittington, who was dreaming about an ambitious tilt at the Randox Health Grand National with Emerging Force, has revealed the seven-year-old will miss the rest of the season with a leg injury.
A winner twice over fences last term, Emerging Force pleased his trainer with his seasonal reappearance at Ascot this month and was being aimed at the Randox Health Becher Chase over the National fences at Aintree next month.
He was a 16-1 shot for that, but will miss out, a disappointed Whittington told the Racing Post on Monday.
"We found over the weekend Emerging Force had a touch of leg and is out for the season," he said. "My assistant Joe Quintin picked it up, the tiniest, tiniest bit of inflammation and he's got a tiny little tendon niggle. If he was a summer jumper he'd be back for the summer, but because it's sort of six months rehabilitation that leaves him off until next season.
"I thought he ran a nice comeback race in the Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot and thought he'd have been closer had he not made that mistake – I'd like to think he'd have run into a place. He came on for it loads and was in great form. We'd always felt he'd take to those National fences and always felt he'd be a National horse one day, be it this season or next season, but he's only seven."
The news is a blow for Whittington, who has enjoyed a fruitful autumn and has already equalled last season's tally of 13 winners.
Whittington may have a big day ahead at Newbury on Friday with Bigmartre in line for a novice handicap chase and promising bumper winner Simply The Betts due to run in the maiden hurdle on the card.
He earned a comparison with ill-fated yard star Arzal, who won the Grade 1 Manifesto Novices' Chase at Aintree last year.
"Bigmartre's all set and he's in great form," added Whittington, who trains on the outskirts of Lambourn in Sparsholt.
"Hopefully he can improve again and we felt he'd do better over fences than hurdles and that looked the case at Ludlow the other day. It bodes well for his future as a chaser how well he jumps, so we're looking forward to that and also Simply The Betts, our nice youngster.
"His bumper form is working out really well as Theclockisticking has won twice. He's got a lot of natural ability at home and his work as a four-year-old is better than Arzal's was at that stage. I rode him out after he won two schooling races in Ireland and he felt like he had a big engine and he's done nothing but improve since joining us.
"If he can do what he does at home over hurdles and on the track he'll be very exciting."