CHARLIE Longsdon admits it would be a great way to start 2024 if Guetapan Collonges could take the next step towards becoming a future Randox Grand National contender at Warwick on Saturday (January 13) in the Wigley Group Classic Handicap Chase.
The progressive eight-year-old will bid to give Chipping Norton handler Longsdon a timely boost in what has so far been a difficult season by taking his form to new heights over fences on his second appearance in the three miles and five furlongs test which is Warwick’s biggest race of the season.
Last year Guetapan Collonges finished fourth when sent off the 5-1 favourite to capture the Premier Handicap, after previously triumphing on his return to action at the track over an extended three miles and a furlong.
However, after the Saddler Maker gelding finished third behind the re-opposing Malina Girl at Cheltenham last time out, Longsdon believes the more streetwise eight-year-old has a better chance in his bid for glory in the £100,000 feature prize.
Longsdon said: “We had a difficult end to 2023. Our horses were not healthy in October and November and it has taken time to get going. We have had to be a bit boring and patient, but winning this would be a great way to kickstart 2024.
“This race has been the plan for Guetapan Collonges for some time. We thought about going for a race at Cheltenham during the Christmas Meeting but then we thought we would wait for this.
“He is a lot more experienced compared to this time 12 months ago when I thought we were going right in the deep end.
“Although he had won at Warwick the time before he had only had a handful of races over fences against small fields and he was still very inexperienced.
“Since last year’s race he has run in the Midlands National and a big handicap chase around Cheltenham. He is a lot more experienced now and a lot more streetwise.
“He must have an each-way chance with all the form he has now and having finished fourth in the race last season.”
As things currently stand, Guetapan Collonges would struggle to get in this year’s Randox Grand National off his current BHA rating of 136, but Longdson admits that could all change depending on the result at the weekend.
He added: “I think he is definitely a Grand National horse at some point, but it did take him a long time to get the hang of jumping a fence in his first season over them.
“He is rated 136 so he would probably struggle to get in this year’s Grand National, but I think we would all hope he ends up in the race one day.
“We know how much his owner (JP McManus) likes the Grand National and if he went and won a race like this on Saturday then I’m sure the race would be on their sights.”