national 2011 /
Fontaine Runs Solid Grand National Trial
Malcolm Jefferson's King Fontaine, a bitter disappointment on heavy ground at Haydock last month, returned to something closer to his best when running a pleasing race to be a staying-on fifth behind Bensalem in the Stewart Family Spinal Research Handicap Chase on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, writes Elliot Slater.
The King's Theatre gelding had arrived at Cheltenham with something to prove having run so poorly at Haydock when pulled up before the fifth last in the Totesport.com Grand National Trial Handicap Chase, won in such impressive fashion for the second year running by Lucinda Russell's Silver By Nature, now one of the ante-post market principals for the big event itself on April 9 and anyone with a Grand National free bet to place should give some serious though to backing him.
Although he had won on soft ground in the past, King Fontaine is clearly better suited by a decent surface and, in hindsight, Graham Lee did exactly the right thing in pulling up some way from home at Haydock when it was clear his mount wasn't handling the ground. At Cheltenham, on 'good to soft' going, the eight-year-old was taken off his feet and made a number of minor errors in a race run at a strong gallop, and after losing touch a mile from home things looked pretty bleak.
As the front-runners began to feel the pinch however Lee managed to get his mount balanced and running again, and as they met the rising ground going to the second from home his stamina kicked in and King Fontaine, in the well known colours of Trevor Hemmings, stayed on well to come home fifth of the 19 runners.
Over the extra mile-and-a-half at Aintree and with a racing weight of 10st 6lbs, Jefferson's charge make some appeal as a potential good priced each-way prospect. Any 66/1 still available will surely not last too much longer.