Ferguson takes a share in possible Grand National hope Glen Rocco

Nick Gifford plotting long-term options for staying novice

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Nick Gifford has mixed updates for Glen Rocco’s new part-owner Sir Alex Ferguson as he plots an exciting future which may lead to next year’s Grand National.

Findon trainer Gifford had identified Saturday’s Coral Scottish Grand National as the ‘perfect race’ for his improving and bold-jumping stayer – but a foot abscess and the likelihood of lively ground at Ayr has scuppered that plan.

Sir Alex, who has bought half of his friend Ged Mason’s share in the eight-year-old also part-owned by talk-show celebrity Jeremy Kyle, may still be able to look forward to a big-race target this month – in Sandown’s bet365 Gold Cup.

Explaining Glen Rocco’s absence this weekend, Gifford said: “He’s got an abscess in his foot at the moment.

“He’s had leg trouble (in the past), it’s going to be good ground – I can’t see the point risking him, plus he’s got the abscess.”

Glen Rocco swerved a possible run in last week’s Topham Chase, over the Grand National fences, when it became clear in his most recent run over three miles at Kempton that a move up to extended distances was needed.

“Oh yes, he wants a trip – he absolutely wants a trip,” said Gifford.

“We’ve got the bet365 up our sleeve – which again, if there was a bit of rain and it was good to soft, that would be perfect.

“I just think it’s gone against us this time (at Ayr). But the Scottish National would have been a perfect race for him, because I think all he’s going to do is stay.

“It’s annoying, but these things happen.”

Longer-term ambitions remain very much intact – with Aintree front and centre next season, with stamina Glen Rocco’s probable forte.

“We were considering the Topham – it was probably the trainer getting ahead of himself!” added Gifford.

“I said at the start of the season, ‘lads, this is going to be a Topham horse – then the Grand National the following year’.

“When he ran so well over two and a half at Kempton on Boxing Day, I thought ‘yep, lads, still the Topham’.

“Next two runs, he looked a little bit short of pace. So I thought ‘maybe not, maybe we need to step him up in trip’.”

Dual Grand National-winning jockey Leighton Aspell, who has ridden Glen Rocco in four of his six chases and one of two victories, confirmed to Gifford that marathon distances should be on the agenda.

“Absolutely – Leighton also brought me down a peg or two and said ‘don’t forget, we are dealing with a novice here’ – although he does jump very well.

“I said to Leighton ‘should we be going Topham, Scottish or bet365’ – he definitely said Scottish or bet365.

“He thought for a novice that would be a big ask round Aintree, so that was another reason we pulled him out of that.

“He’d have loved those fences, but we might have to wait for the Sefton or the Becher in November.”

Sir Alex and his fellow famous names can start dreaming about next season – but as Gifford attunes himself to Glen Rocco’s increasing profile, there is one other little update he has yet to share with the former Manchester United manager.

“I think they’re all such good mates, when they’ve got that type of a horse that might be running in Nationals, they like to share the love a bit – so Ged has shared with Sir Alex,” he said.

“Sir Alex doesn’t know I’m a big Liverpool fan yet either, so that could lead to some mickey-taking.”

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