CAPE TRIBULATION barely broke sweat in winning the Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase as Norton trainer Malcolm Jefferson celebrated back-to-back victories in the Boxing Day feature at Wetherby Racecourse.
But the eight-year-old, who crushed Mr Moonshine by 11 lengths over three miles and one furlong on heavy ground to take the £40,000 Grade 3 showpiece, won’t follow last year’s winner According To Pete to the Grand National.
“Not this year,” said Jefferson when asked whether Cape Tribulation (7-2) might be booked for the famous steeplechase at Aintree in April.
According To Pete was one of two horses who died in the marathon in Liverpool earlier this year and Jefferson said the SkyBet Chase at Doncaster would now be the likely target for his classy gelding, whose success capped a fine year which also brought glory at the Cheltenham Festival.
Mr Moonshine was cruising ominously as jockey Jack Doyle got to work on Cape Tribulation in behind as they moved round the final bend.
Having initially looked like it might become a duel between the two down the straight, though, Cape Tribulation came back on the bridle and easily moved away from his rival.
It marked a fine return to form for Jefferson’s star, who produced a below par run at Wetherby over hurdles at the beginning of last month.
“He has run some great races in heavy ground,” said Jefferson.
“It wasn’t that I was worried about. I thought the weight might be the problem, but he has carried big weight around Haydock at heavy ground.”
“I think we rode him wrong,” he added of the disappointment last time out. “I think he likes chasing horses rather than being in front.
“We thought that day there may not be any pace but we made a mess of it.
“But you do these things. I’ve never met a fella yet that hasn’t done something wrong. He’s a classy horse. We might have a look at the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.”
Jefferson later claimed a double when McMurrough (4-1) snatched the Read Nicholls & McCain Exclusively On Betfair Handicap Chase.
The eight-year-old, ridden by Harry Haynes, was helped when then leader No Planning pitched on landing at the second last but it was still a gutsy display over two-and-a-half miles.
“You can see he was off the bridle a long way out but he stayed galloping and he’s tough,” said Haynes.
Cape Tribulation might not be going to the National, but it’s a fair bet Neptune Equester will have another go over the big fences.
The nine-year-old, trained by Brian Ellison at Norton and owned by the York-based Koo’s Racing Club, won a thrilling Better Prices On Betfair Mobile Handicap Hurdle.
With Kyle James in the saddle, Neptune Equester decided to make it a stamina test over the two miles and six furlongs and looked to have struck for home successfully in the home straight.
But James had to be firm with the reins as Neptune Equester wandered all over the track and, with rivals closing in at the final flight, he stuck out his neck again to make all – beating Ollie Pears’ My Arch by a length and a quarter.
Neptune Equester was 13th in last year’s National.
“He was enjoying himself out in front and he always had plenty left,” James, who picked up a four day ban for whip use, said of his 8-1 star. “I just kicked on and tried to stretch them and every time they came to him he went again.
“He’s brave as a lion, he’s in good order and I think the main aim is the National again. We will see how he comes out of this but I am made up with him.”