Sunnyhillboy was spectacular when winning the Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival and Jonjo O’Neill’s charge will look to use that success as a springboard to Grand National glory.
Ballabriggs showed when using the race as a springboard that it is an ideal trial for this race and if he can take to the Aintree fences then could well be a leading contender come the last couple of fences. His third place finish in the 2011 Irish National showed he can deal with the extreme distances and so the 4m 4f distance shouldn’t be a problem.
Sunnyhillboy finally justified the obvious high opinion the stable hold him in when taking the Kim Muir and he is an obvious contender for the National at around the 16-1 price.
The nine-year-old had previously been backed into favouritism for the 2010 Byrne Plate and the 2011 William Hill Chase at the Festival as well as the Irish National without failing to deliver so connections must be relieved he has finally won a big prize over fences.
The Jonjo O’Neill trained gelding had previously won big races over hurdles – a 28k handicap hurdle at Sandown in 2008 and a similar contest worth 34k at Aintree – but sometimes his jumping over the larger obstacles can leave something to be desired (his round of jumping before falling in the William Hill was x-rated).
Sunnyhillboy’s trainer has stated previously that as his charge was not the biggest he might need a bit of cut in the ground to help him with his jumping but he seemed to cope well enough with goodish ground at Cheltenham this year. However, if he lacks scope he may find the demands of the Grand National a step too far, especially as his jumping has been a cause for concern in the past.