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'He loves a slog in testing ground': challengers set for marathon Catterick test

Little Bruce: defends the crown he won at Catterick 12 months ago
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2.40 Catterick
North Yorkshire Grand National Handicap Chase (For The Denys Smith Memorial Trophy) | 3m6f | 5yo+ | RTV

Last year’s race could prove the key to the outcome this season with winner Little Bruce back to defend his crown off 4lb higher than when successful 12 months ago.

The Philip Kirby-trained nine-year-old recorded a career-best Racing Post Rating of 138 on that occasion and was himself going one better than when second in the race the year before.

His Catterick figures read 231 and he evidently has a strong chance of improving that record, but if last year’s race is to decide this event then Brian Boranha must also be given a mention.

He made stealthy headway from the rear into a challenging position 12 months ago and looked set to throw down a big challenge to Little Bruce when falling at the last.

Brian Boranha: fell when challenging in last year's running

Brian Boranha was two lengths down at the time but had traded at a low of 1.55 in running on Betfair, suggesting he might have defeated Little Bruce had he not hit the deck.

Furthermore, he was off a mark of 130 that day but is now 9lb lower, competing off just 121 this year, and has a massive 13lb swing with Little Bruce.

The 2019 National Hunt Chase winner Le Breuil is the star in the race but he hasn’t been able to get back to the same form that saw him take that gruelling contest two seasons ago. Maybe it has taken its toll.

Ben Pauling has given Le Breuil wind surgery since his distant third in the Becher Chase at Aintree last month, but the trainer has only a seven per cent strike-rate (3-38) with horses running for the first time since undergoing a wind operation.
Race analysis by Graeme Rodway

What they say

Oliver Greenall, trainer of Late Romantic
Haydock was sharp enough for him last time but he loves a slog in testing ground, which he'll probably get here. He's in great form at home and we're hoping for a good showing.

Nick Mitchell, trainer of Coup De Pinceau
He looked like he was going to pull up at one point at Newbury last time but kept going up the straight to finish sixth and shaped as if this step up in trip may suit. He's a confidence horse, so hopefully we can take our time with him and get him jumping.

Coup De Pinceau: needs to sharpen up his jumping

Sandy Thomson, trainer of Duc De Grissay
He was unlucky last time but the handicapper has had his say since, so we'll see how we go, but if they get the rain they say they're going to get he probably won't run.

Sam England, trainer of Chef D'Oeuvre
He ran well at Wetherby last time and is back up in trip but he's an out-and-out stayer. He should be in the mix again.

Peter Niven, trainer of Brian Boranha
I'm a bit worried about the ground for him as he's not a soft-ground horse and the forecast is atrocious. He would have finished second in it last year but for falling at the last and if the rain stays away he would have a chance.

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He ran well at Wetherby last time and is back up in trip but he's an out-and-out stayer
E.W. Terms