Hobbs plans Aintree for Rock The Kasbah

Trainer Philip Hobbs will plot a route to the Grand National at Aintree on April 16 for Rock The Kasbah following the eight-year-old's victory in the G3 £60,000 three-mile, three-furlong Handicap Chase at odds of 9/1 at Cheltenham on Saturday.

Ridden by champion jockey Richard Johnson, Rock The Kasbah swept past long-time leader and top-weight Coneygree to win by a length and a quarter from Royal Vacation, with former Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Coneygree five lengths further back in third.

Hobbs and Johnson won this race in 2015 with Sausalito Sunrise who, like Rock The Kasbah, was owned by Diana Whateley.

Hobbs said: "His jumping was fantastic which is always a great plus, especially around here, and he kept on really well.

"He always seems to run well at Chepstow and it was disappointing [he was sixth behind The Young Master on October 13], although the race has worked out really well since. Maybe, as he has got older, he has needed the run but he was alright today.

"If you keep on asking him at his fences, he will keep coming up. Sometimes, he hits a flat spot in his races and loses ground at the wrong time but he didn't do that today.

"The main thing, which we have talked about for some time, is that we have the Grand National in mind. What we do before then I really don't know - maybe ideally the Becher Chase, but he wouldn't want to go there if the ground was very, very soft. He is in the Ladbrokes Trophy [at Newbury] with a small penalty, which is tempting, but I don't suppose we will be doing that.

"He's better on better ground and he wants a long trip."

 Johnson said: "Rock The Kasbah has been a fantastic horse and, to be fair, he only had three runs last year. He won, was second at Sandown and the one run on very soft ground at Haydock, when he disappointed.

"He has done very little wrong in his life and it was a good run at Chepstow. He probably came on a bit for that and it's nice for him to come here today and win like he did.

"I knew that he stays but you don't really want to be on your own for too long. I thought that we would be upsides Coneygree until at least the last but, when I was on my going to the last, you hope that they don't get too lonely on their own.

"Rock The Kasbah has responded every time and deserved that. His run at Sandown last season was fantastic and you felt a bit sorry that he had such a quiet year. Philip's horses are in great order again now and, fingers crossed, we have lots to look forward too.

"If we could have good or good to soft ground, the National would be the ideal race for him. Obviously, the Becher Chase is an option - there is Newbury as well - but, if we could guarantee that the ground is not too soft, Aintree next month might be somewhere to go."Rock The Kasbah runs in the colours of Mrs Diana Whateley, who also won this event in 2015 courtesy of Sausalito Sunrise, who was also trained by Hobbs and ridden by Johnson.

Whateley commented: "It's a long time since we have had a winner in a big race like this over this distance and it's very, very, very exciting. It's been a while since we retired some of our good old horses.

"We thought that Rock The Kasbah had something to offer at Sandown Park at the end of the last season and we were very excited with him then, but his Chepstow run wasn't great, when the ground maybe didn't suit."

Rock The Kasbah is a 33/1 shot for the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree in April with Betfair, Paddy Power and Unibet.

 1.50pm Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 3f 71y

1 Rock The Kasbah (Diana Whateley) Philip Hobbs 8-10-13 Richard Johnson 9/1

2 Royal Vacation (Jean Bishop) Colin Tizzard 8-10-09 Tom O'Brien 14/1

3 Coneygree (The Max Partnership) Mark Bradstock 11-11-12 Sean Bowen 12/1


15 ran

11/2 Fav Singlefarmpayment (4th)

Non-Runner: The Young Master, (Self Certificate, Not Eaten Up)

Distances: 1¼, 5

Tote Win: £8.50 Places: £3, £5.60, £4.80 Exacta: £139.20