Dr Richard Newland would like to give Abolitionist a run in the Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham ahead of the Randox Health Grand National, following an encouraging comeback run at Newbury.
The 11-year-old ran well until lack of race fitness told in the closing stages of the three-and-a-quarter-mile test, when finishing fifth to Carole’s Destrier in the Veterans’ Handicap Chase on Saturday.
He had been absent since winning over hurdles at Aintree in November, on his first run for Newland.
It was only his second outing since being unplaced at Killarney in August 2017 for Ellmarie Holden and was a first run over fences since he was third in the Irish Grand National earlier that year.
“He’s fine after the race, which is good news, and he’s one piece, so it’s onwards and upwards,” said the Worcester handler on Sunday.
“He did get very tired and I think he just basically needed the run.
“I’m not surprised. We had about for weeks off around Christmas time and we trained him quite softly, softly because of his injuries in the past.
“He came there as though he might win at one point, then he just petered out a bit. I just hope it was purely fitness.
“I’m going to run him one more time before Aintree and will probably try to run him in the Pertemps Final over hurdles.”
Abolitionist has an alternative entry at the Festival in the Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase the same day.
“I’ll probably run him in that (Pertemps) and will keep him in the Kim Muir as well just in case he doesn’t get in there as he’s not certain to get a run. To run him in something is the plan,” said Newland.
“He’s number 30 in the Pertemps and the first 24 get in. We’ll see at the five-day stage. That will be our first choice and the second choice is the Kim Muir.
“He has an 11lb-lower mark over hurdles than fences so it’s quite tempting. Whether he’s got the pace, I’m not sure.
“It’s a case of trying to get him super straight for Aintree.”
Abolitionist would be following a familiar path if he goes for the Pertemps, as that is the race Newland’s 2014 National hero Pineau De Re took in on the way to Aintree glory.
He said: “Pineau De Re ran in the Pertemps and finished third.
“To me it looked as if Abolitionist needed the run. These older horses get quite stuffy. He did well first time out over hurdles at Aintree in the autumn.
“He was 22lb lower there and this was tougher – three and a quarter miles and 22 fences. It was his first chase for two years.
“His jumping got better and better as the race went on.
“I might put cheekpieces on him next time, but the main thing is he’s sound.”