Jimmy Moffatt dreaming of Grand National glory with Highland Lodge
Wednesday 15 February 2017
Jimmy Moffatt admits he "dares to dream" about Grand National glory as Highland Lodge is already virtually guaranteed a place in the Randox Health-sponsored showpiece.
Highland Lodge just missed the maximum 40-horse cut for the Aintree spectacular last spring, but it is unlikely there will be such heartache this time round after last season's Becher Chase winner was handed 10st 6lb and a rating of 148, putting him 42nd in the National list.
The 11-year-old was only just touched off by Vieux Lion Rouge in this season's Becher Chase in December and will not race again until the National on April 8.
"I'm very pleased. Obviously, it's an opportunity for us now and I'm looking forward to it," said Moffatt, who is based in Cartmel.
"He's in great form and this season has just been about two races - the Becher and the National.
"I've learnt an awful lot more about the horse than I did last season. That was all a bit of a rush.
"He had a good summer out at grass. I genuinely think he's a stronger, better horse.
"He looks great and we're just building towards the National.
"I believe he's got a chance to do something. He jumps the fences well and the Becher form looks pretty rock-solid in both years he's run in it and there's no doubt about him getting the trip.
"We're pretty confident and we dare to dream. I have respect for all the other horses, of course I do, but I don't fear any of them."
"It's a great opportunity for a small yard like ours."
Henry Brooke recovered from a serious injury he sustained in October to partner Highland Lodge in the Becher and will be on board in the National.
"Henry is riding well and he really suits the horse. He gives Highland Lodge the type of ride he needs," said Moffatt.
Jonjo O'Neill lifted the National with Don't Push It in 2010 and is happy with his two entries - Minella Rocco (11st 2lb) and More Of That (11st 1lb) - though plans have not yet been decided.
Both horses ran in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday, but unseated their riders.
"We know Minella Rocco gets the trip and whatever you run at Aintree has to get the trip," the Barbury Castle handler told Racing UK.
"He's in great form and is normally a decent jumper.
"I think the track will suit him and I think everything will.
"We haven't discussed what we are going to do yet, but we'll probably end up going to Cheltenham first.
"It was great to see More Of That with his sparkle back the other day at Leopardstown.
"He was a little bit unlucky to come down at the last, but he's normally a very accurate jumper.
"He's just a class horse, so if everything went right for him he's the one you'd like to ride.
"We haven't discussed anything with JP (McManus, owner) or Frank (Berry, racing manager) yet. We'll have a discussion and see where we are going. They are nice horses to have in the race."