Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Parrain Proving He's a Dark Horse

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Parrain Proving He's a Dark Horse

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Curran

PAUL NICHOLLS admits he was not aware just how good Mon Parrain was until he romped home on his British debut at Sandown last month.

Now the champion trainer knows what to expect this time as the French import returns to action in the John Smith's Topham Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree tomorrow.

Another easy victory here could see the five-year-old promoted to the elite group at Nicholls' yard in Somerset ahead of a challenge for next year's Cheltenham Gold Cup.

"I was astounded by the way he won on his first run for me at Sandown last month," said Nicholls. "He'd only been with me for a few weeks and hadn't done that much work at all because he'd had a bit of a problem before he came over from France.

"Yet I could see he was running away with Ruby Walsh from an early stage of the race and his jumping was brilliant throughout. You will not see a better exhibition from a five-year-old.

"I was so impressed I considered running him in the Grade One totesport Bowl at Aintree on the opening day. But it makes sense to go down the handicap route first. He was put up 16lbs for his Sandown victory which still leaves him on a fair mark tomorrow."

In a race with a maximum of thirty runners over the daunting national fences, a fierce pace is guaranteed and Walsh could be in for a memorable ride on Mon Parrain. Normally, a trainer would not consider running such a young horse in a contest of this quality, with so many seasoned campaigners in the field.

But French-bred jumps horses are naturally precocious. Cyfor Malta was only five when he gave an unforgettable exhibition of fencing at speed for Martin Pipe in this race in 1998 and Nicholls won it with another former French-trained fiveyear-old, Gwanako in 2008.

Course specialist Dev will be a danger having crept into the race at the foot of the weights and Fine Parchment has clearly improved in recent weeks. …

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