Famous Bridge out to bounce back in National Trial

Famous Bridge could open the door to a shot at the Randox Grand National when he returns to Haydock for the Virgin Bet Grand National Trial Handicap Chase on Saturday.

Nicky Richards’ eight-year-old has built up a real love affair with the Lancashire venue this term and followed up a win at the course in November by claiming the Tommy Whittle a month later.

Famous Bridge forms one half of a strong hand for the famous Hemmings Racing silks alongside Jonjo O’Neill’s Welsh Grand National runner-up Iron Bridge and Richards feels conditions are perfect for his charge to return to his best having faltered at Doncaster last month.

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“He acts around the place really well and seems in grand fettle,” said Richards.

“It will be deep old heavy ground and hard work for everybody, but we’re looking forward to it. He’s very well and I think he will run a big race.”

Famous Bridge was pulled-up in the Great Yorkshire Chase at Doncaster, but his handler lays the blame on his poor start at Town Moor, and said: “If you were watching the race, it was at the start where the problems happened.

“He was coming in lovely the first time but the starter wouldn’t let them go and when they turned round Sean (Quinlan, jockey) just didn’t get the rub of the green at the start at all.

Nicky Richards, who is confident Famous Bridge can bounce back on Saturday
Nicky Richards, who is confident Famous Bridge can bounce back on Saturday (Tim Goode/PA)

“It’s the same old story in those big handicaps, they can be won or lost at the start really and it was lost at the start with him. Sean wisely pulled him up after a mile and a half and he was clearly never going to get into it – the winner made all.”

Famous Bridge does hold a Grand National entry, but currently rated 139, connections feel Famous Bridge will need to win on Saturday to stand any chance of sneaking into the National field at Aintree now that the safety limit has been reduced to 34 runners.

Richards added: “I think it will depend on what happens Saturday and what will the bottom weight be to get in the National?

“We thought 145 or 146 might sneak him in and we know what he will have to do. Let’s hope he does it.”

James Best celebrates aboard My Silver Lining
James Best celebrates aboard My Silver Lining (Adam Morgan/PA)

Disputing favouritism with the Hemmings duo is Emma Lavelle’s Classic Chase heroine My Silver Lining, who appears to have all the attributes to make another bold bid in a marathon event.

However, the one unknown the Warwick scorer will have to prove is her ability on really testing ground with Haydock sure to pose a stern stamina examination.

Lavelle said: “Ground-wise, is heavy ground what she wants? I don’t know, she has won on it but she’s pretty versatile with regards to everything really.

“She was so game at Warwick and she’s gone up 5lb. She jumps brilliantly and when these staying chasers can get in a rhythm it counts for a lot.

“She’s very straightforward, at home and in her races, and that helps. You don’t want to use or waste energy when you don’t need to.

“She’s in such good order we just decided to let her take her chance as there aren’t going to be that many runners, there’s a lot of positives.”

Anthony Honeyball’s Credo has made the podium at Haydock twice this term before finishing a respectable fourth behind My Silver Lining in the Classic Chase, while Sam Thomas’ Iwilldoit has been a model of consistency once more this term and another sure to be up for this particular challenge on the forecast going.

Venetia Williams has won this three times in the last 10 years, including 12 months ago with Quick Wave, and she saddles both Fontaine Collonges and Becher Chase hero Chambard, with Dan Skelton’s Snipe arriving in Merseyside an improving chaser.

Gavin Cromwell has enjoyed some successful raids to the UK this season
Gavin Cromwell has enjoyed some successful raids to the UK this season (David Davies/PA)

Meanwhile, Gavin Cromwell will attempt to become the first Irish winner of this in almost 30 years as he saddles Yeah Man.

The Pat Fahy-trained Nuaffe was the last raider to pick up this prize back in 1995, but Cromwell has been no stranger to success in the UK this term and Yeah Man went close to picking up a big pot at Ascot just prior to Christmas.

“I am not certain that the heavy ground is going to be completely to his liking, but the trip certainly won’t be a problem,” said Cromwell.

“He’s had a couple of good runs at Ascot without winning and deserves a win at this stage. When he fell at the last on his penultimate start, he was rattling home and it’s one of those ones where we’ll never know.

“He definitely stays really well. The early part of the race and staying in the race can be an issue with him but I don’t think it’s going to be an issue on heavy ground at Haydock.

“I have no experience of the fences at Haydock, but they should not be a problem.

“The Kim Muir at Cheltenham could be an option in the future, but it might come a bit too soon after Saturday. The Irish National could also be an option, but we’ll see what happens on Saturday first.”

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