Dr Richard Newland is aiming to send Abolitionist into the Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham Festival next week, ahead of his intended appearance in the 2019 Grand National. Despite a lack of race fitness, the eleven-year-old ran well at Newbury in the three-and-a-quarter-mile Veterans’ Handicap on Saturday, the runner finishing fifth to Carole’s Destrier. This was his second appearance since finishing unplaced at Killarney back in August 2017 and his first outing over fences since finishing third in the Irish National earlier that same year.
The Worcester handler said: “He’s fine after the race, which is good news, and he’s one piece, so it’s onwards and upwards
“He did get very tired and I think he just basically needed the run.
“I’m not surprised. We had about for weeks off around Christmas time and we trained him quite softly, softly because of his injuries in the past.
“He came there as though he might win at one point, then he just petered out a bit. I just hope it was purely fitness.
“I’m going to run him one more time before Aintree and will probably try to run him in the Pertemps Final over hurdles.”
An alternative entry for Abolitionist at the Cheltenham Festival is the Kim Muir, a possibility should he fail to take part in the Pertemps the same day.
“I’ll probably run him in that (Pertemps) and will keep him in the Kim Muir as well just in case he doesn’t get in there as he’s not certain to get a run. To run him in something is the plan,” said Newland.
“He’s number 30 in the Pertemps and the first 24 get in. We’ll see at the five-day stage. That will be our first choice and the second choice is the Kim Muir.
“He has an 11lb-lower mark over hurdles than fences so it’s quite tempting. Whether he’s got the pace, I’m not sure.
“It’s a case of trying to get him super straight for Aintree.”
Newland’s 2014 Grand National winner Pineau De Re appeared in the Pertemps en-route to Aintree glory and the trainer would dearly love Abolitionist to follow a similar path.
He said: “Pineau De Re ran in the Pertemps and finished third.
“To me it looked as if Abolitionist needed the run. These older horses get quite stuffy. He did well first time out over hurdles at Aintree in the autumn.
“He was 22lb lower there and this was tougher – three and a quarter miles and 22 fences. It was his first chase for two years.
“His jumping got better and better as the race went on.
“I might put cheekpieces on him next time, but the main thing is he’s sound.”