Blackmore hoping to lead successful Plan of Attack at Sandown

High-flying De Bromhead targeting another big prize on day of England’s ‘jumps finale’

 Rachael Blackmore celebrates  another highlight of a truly remarkable campaign by becoming the first woman to win the Grand National at Aintree. Photograph: David Davies/Jockey Club/PA

Rachael Blackmore celebrates another highlight of a truly remarkable campaign by becoming the first woman to win the Grand National at Aintree. Photograph: David Davies/Jockey Club/PA

 

Rachael Blackmore headlining Saturday’s ‘Jumps Finale’ at Sandown would be an entirely apt curtain call to the British National Hunt season.

Harry Skelton is going to be crowned champion jockey, and Paul Nicholls will collect a 12th trainer’s crown, but there is Anglo-Irish unanimity about Blackmore’s status as the campaign’s headline act anywhere.

The Irishwoman’s groundbreaking exploits in Cheltenham and Aintree have been so definitive that it will be only appropriate if she takes centre stage on the final day in Britain.

Blackmore teams up once more with Henry De Bromhead for Plan Of Attack in the bet365 Gold Cup, a big handicap prize still fondly remembered by many as ‘The Whitbread’.

Prior to that De Bromhead also pitches his Champion Chase winner Put The Kettle On against the former two-mile title holder Altior in the Grade One Celebration Chase.

Usual partner Aidan Coleman once again takes the reins on Put The Kettle On while Blackmore does the honours on her stable companion Ornua.

De Bromhead’s ‘Grand Slam’ of major jumps prizes at a time of unparalleled Irish dominance of the game generally might make this final shop-window date a rather fretful occasion for the home team.

However there’s no disputing Blackmore’s hugely positive broader impact for racing generally as her monumental progress continues towards next week’s Punchestown Festival.

Her shot at becoming the first woman to be crowned champion jockey could become clearer on Sunday when final declarations for the first day of Punchestown are made.

That is when Paul Townend is likely to decide if the foot injury he picked up on Easter Sunday has recovered enough to make a return to the saddle.

The fact he is having a protective boot made for the injury suggests a touch-and-go element that might yet see another fairytale outcome for Blackmore when the Irish season ends next Saturday.

Proximity to Punchestown has always made the final big handicap of the British season less of a priority to Irish trainers. Church Island was the last Irish winner in 2010.

De Bromhead though has always been prepared to target the meeting, including when landing the Celebration with Special Tiara in 2015.

Formidable proposition

His latest two-mile champion Put The Kettle On lines up here rather than taking on Chacun Pour Soi and Nebe Negra at Punchestown on Tuesday.

Taking on a peak Altior would be a difficult task for the teak-tough mare even at her beloved Cheltenham where she’s unbeaten.

That peak Altior probably hasn’t been seen though since he won this race two years ago. The fact he dons first-time cheek-pieces suggests that formidable proposition may have been lessened by time.

Plan Of Attack’s first-time blinkers saw him right in the Kim Muir picture at Cheltenham until crashing out at the third last.

Considering he has failed to finish in three of his last four starts, Blackmore’s first objective might be to simply get him around.

However this extra distance may ease some of the pressure on his jumping while quick ground definitely won’t be an issue for the sole Irish hope.

“It’s three miles five and I suppose, like we saw with Minella Times in the National, this guy hasn’t really been tried over this kind of trip.

“We’ve always thought it might suit him and we’re hoping that we get improvement for that extra trip,” De Bromhead said.

Having dominated Cheltenham, and being crowned leading jockey there with half a dozen winners, Blackmore is currently 9-4 with some bookmakers to pull off the same feat at Punchestown.

Whether or not she has to get the better of Paul Townend is still to be determined but one rider both won’t have to contend with next week is Davy Russell.

The triple-champion confirmed on Friday he will miss out on the festival having failed to recover in time from the serious neck injuries he sustained at Limerick in October and which have kept him out of action since.

Work hard

“My recovery continues to go really well and to be honest I feel great. I’ve been riding out and schooling regularly and could have given next week a shot.

“However I’m not quite 100 per cent ready and I always vowed I’d only return at that point. I’ve still got a tiny bit of discomfort that restricts full flexibility and I’m just not where I want to be to return on the biggest of stages.

“I mentioned when ruling myself out of the Cheltenham festival that you have to be 100 per cent fit to ride the likes of Envoi Allen and I stand by that.

“I will continue to work hard on my recovery and will target a less high-profile meeting for that return,” Russell said in a sponsored blog.

In his absence Jack Kennedy has ridden Envoi Allen in all five of his starts over fences this season, including when falling at Cheltenham last month.

Envoi Allen is set to clash with another top novice, Monkfish, at Punchestown on Tuesday.

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