Trainer Ben Pauling faces an anxious wait before discovering whether Le Breuil will make the cut for the Randox Health Grand National.
The eight-year-old has had the world’s greatest steeplechase as his primary objective ever since claiming Cheltenham Festival glory in the National Hunt Chase last March.
However, having being pulled up over hurdles on his seasonal reappearance at Wetherby in early November, Le Breuil has finished down the field in both the Becher Chase at Aintree and in the Classic Chase at Warwick, performances which have seen his mark drop from 150 to 145.
Pauling’s charge was 71st on the list when the weights for the Grand National were officially unveiled – and the Gloucestershire handler is undecided whether to run his charge again between now and the big race on the first Saturday in April.
“It’s annoying situation to be in, but we are we are and we’ll have to make the best of it,” said the Bourton-on-the-Water-based trainer.
“There are seven horses rated 145, so he’s effectively somewhere between 66th and 72nd on the list. If you run above your mark between now and the National you’ll get nearer 66 and if you run and run poorly you’ll be closer to 72, that’s how I’ve read it.
“We need to decide whether to give him a run somewhere or roll the dice and go straight there. I think he would probably like a run, so that could be to our advantage, but we’ll have a think about it over the next week or two.
“Having looked at the race, I think if you’re 69 or 70 you’re probably going to get in, but it’s obviously going to be tight.”
Should Le Breuil run again before the National, he could bid for a second win at the Cheltenham Festival next month.
Pauling added: “We’ll probably give him a couple of entries at Cheltenham, in the Ultima Handicap Chase and the Kim Muir, although the Kim Muir is probably unlikely.
“Looking at it from a positive point of view, if he was to get in the National, he would carry 10st, with Tiger Roll now a confirmed runner, which is a pretty exciting weight.
“In my opinion, of the horses in the race rated 145, he is one of the more progressive ones – I’m fairly confident he can run better than that mark in the right circumstances.”
Le Breuil is not Pauling’s only Grand National contender, with Kildisart a little more prominent in the order of entry on a mark of 151.
After finishing third behind the top-class Lostintranslation at Carlisle in the autumn, the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned gelding has disappointed twice at Ascot, but Pauling is hopeful of an improved showing if he runs 888Sport Handicap Chase at Kempton on Saturday.
“He is very much in the mix (for the Grand National). We didn’t give him the entry lightly,” said Pauling.
“He is possibly going to run at Kempton and then he might go to Cheltenham for the Ultima as well. Those two races will dictate where he goes, but the owners do like having runners in the National, so we’ll see.
“Even though this season hasn’t gone to plan for him, I do think he’s a very progressive horse.”