'We've got maximum faith in him' - big staying chases await Autonomous Cloud next season

Fergal O'Brien: trainer of Autonomous Cloud
Fergal O'Brien: trainer of Autonomous CloudCredit: Steve Davies

The following year’s Midlands National tends to get a mention after the 3m novice handicap chase on this card and that was the case after Autonomous Cloud gained a first win over fences.

The Fergal O’Brien-trained seven-year-old, owned by Terry Warner and the McNeill family, had finished second on his three chase starts but went one better under a determined ride from Adrian Heskin.

Iain Turner, racing manager for the McNeills, said: “It’s just been a case of bringing him along mentally. He’s learning all the time and will be very nice when he works out what it’s all about. 

"We’ve got maximum faith in him and the Welsh and Midlands National are races we can look at next season. He may head to Ayr for a novice handicap next month if there’s a bit of give in the ground.”

Autonomous Cloud completed a double for Heskin and the McNeill family, whose Butch, trained by Olly Murphy, was a first winner for joint-owner Helen Ralston in the 2m4f novice hurdle.

Ralston, who was in attendance with daughters Millie and Tiffany, said: “It was really exciting to watch and he had so much heart to battle back. I’ve always loved going racing and it’s great to get involved in ownership. Everyone is so friendly and inclusive – I would encourage anyone considering it to give it a go.”

Smart prospect

Every winner is welcome for a trainer but Trelawne’s success meant a little bit more to Kim Bailey and his team after the progressive hurdler ended a two-month spell without a winner when landing the 2m7½f handicap.

The Real Partnership-owned seven-year-old took his record to 3-4 when winning by three lengths under David Bass.

Matt Nicholls, assistant to Bailey, said: “It’s so important to keep your head up and, as an owner said to me this week, don’t get too high with the highs and too low with the lows. Kim has been training for a very long time and you don’t suddenly forget what you’re doing. You just have to stick at it.

“Trelawne could be a bit special. He needs soft ground and we’ve missed most of the winter because of that.”

Landmark winner

Theo Gillard rode out his claim when successful aboard the Nick Alexander-trained Atlantic Dancer in the 2m mares' handicap hurdle.

Gillard, who is based with Donald McCain, said: "It's happy days and I'm glad to get it done. I had a really good time of it last season, it's been okay this season but I've been banging in a few winners lately and hope to keep it going."

Dancer delivers

The prolific Equus Dancer took his record to 9-19 under rules when landing the 2m4f handicap hurdle for Sean Bowen, his father and trainer Peter and owner Roddy Owen.

The winning trainer said: “He’s been a good horse – he’s very genuine and consistent. We were originally targeting the Topham but he didn’t jump with much fluency over fences last time and if he wasn’t confident over normal fences he’d have no chance over the National ones! We’ll go for a handicap hurdle at Aintree.”

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Jack HaynesReporter
Published on 18 March 2023Last updated 20:07, 18 March 2023