The Two Amigos is all set for his chance to stand tall on the big stage in next month’s Coral Welsh Grand National.
Nicky Martin’s diminutive stayer made giant strides last season, with three victories over marathon trips – including the valuable Sussex National at Plumpton.
The seven-year-old front-runner returned to fences this month with a fine third under a welter top-weight in Fontwell’s Southern National – and the Minehead owner-trainer was suitably encouraged to point the way to Chepstow next.
She said: “He was carrying (nearly) two stone more than the horse that won (at Fontwell), so I think he did a very good job – (because) he’s a very small horse.
“He’s in fine order, back on form again, and he’s entered for the Welsh National – and I hope we’ll go there.”
The Two Amigos was prolific in west-country point-to-points two seasons ago, and Matt Griffiths has since ridden him to highly-successful effect in his career back under rules.
There is only one way to get the best out of him, though, as Martin explains.
“He has to do it the hard way, and we’ve learned with that horse that he’s got to kid the jockey he’s taking off with them the whole time,” she said.
“If you drop him in, and try to dictate to him, he just doesn’t like it. He just likes to front-run and do his own thing.”
She hopes everything should be in his favour at Chepstow.
“In the Welsh National, if Native River runs, he’ll only carry 10 stone – if he doesn’t run, he’ll carry about 10st 7lb, so that is the plan,” she added.
“As a rule, that meeting is always bottomless – which is what he wants – so we just hope it rains and rains and rains, because the wetter the better.”
However The Two Amigos fares on his trip from Exmoor to the other side of the Bristol Channel, Martin will not be tempted to ask him an unfair question next spring over the Grand National fences at Aintree.
“I wouldn’t even consider it – he wouldn’t even see over the top of them,” she said.
“He’s only 15 hands two – he really is tiny – and it’s not a race I’ve ever particularly wanted to run a horse in.
“If he goes well in the Welsh National, then I don’t know where we go from there.”
That is a nice problem to consider for a horse bought on a whim and, to reference another of Martin’s big winners, with the help of some ‘beer goggles’.
“I got him already broken-in – after a very boozy day at Punchestown, I bought him at the auction in the evening by accident,” she said.
“Then I sent him to David Pipe’s for a season hurdling. Obviously that didn’t go very well, so we brought him back and did a season’s point-to-pointing with him – and he just won one after the other.
“He’s just gone forward from there, and he does love his fences.”