After seeing Vyta Du Roc run in November and December, very few people would have fancied him strongly to win a race, let alone the biggest race on the national hunt calendar. However, a transformation thanks to the application of cheekpieces saw him put in a brilliant round of jumping on the 1st of January to pick up a nice prize at Cheltenham. There could be more to come from him now the key has been found, and that puts him right in the Grand National picture.

Now he is nine years old, this is probably the best chance Vyta Du Roc will have to win a national, so expect to see his team look after his handicap mark in the build-up to the race. That means we are likely to see him run once more, although that run will not come until the Grand National weights have been published, any further weight increase would make life a lot tougher after a nine-pound rise for his Cheltenham win.

The change that day was that the horse wore cheek pieces, to help him concentrate. These can have a variety of different effects depending on the horse. However, based on what we have seen so far, Vyta Du Roc is a horse that thrives in them and uses them to his advantage. After seeing him finish midfield in the Ladbroke Trophy handicap, it appeared that Vyta Du Roc would struggle to win a race off his current mark at nine. However, he looks a completely different prospect now, and one that a lot of people will have their eye on next time he runs.

The risk with cheek pieces is that they will not have the same effect when used for a second or third time, and that is something that would make a huge difference to the horse’s chances. With the cheek pieces, he looks brilliant, but without he looks extremely badly handicapped and on the decline.

In the past, we have seen Vyta Du Roc jump well, although he has never been foot perfect, something he was on New Year’s Day at Cheltenham. He flew around the difficult Cheltenham fences with ease to put in a great round of jumping that was admired by those in attendance that day. He eventually won the race by 22 lengths, thanks to his out and out jumping and staying ability, something which has come to life thanks to the headgear.

A repeat of that run would see Vyta Du Roc remain well handicapped and he is a fascinating horse to follow next time out. We won’t know until we see him on the track again just what effect the cheek pieces are going to have, but if they have a positive effect on him again, he has to enter national calculations. He stays all day, and has shown us he can jump for fun at Cheltenham, and those two ingredients put him right in the mix for the big one in April.