Aintree a possible option for Adrimel

Tom Lacey still has Aintree in mind for Adrimel.

The Herefordshire trainer’s Grade Two winner faded tamely to be pulled up behind the impressive Vanillier in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at last week’s Cheltenham Festival.

Lacey reports the six-year-old, previously unbeaten in three starts over hurdles, to have recovered well from his experience.

Both he and Tea Clipper, third in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham, may therefore head to Aintree’s Grand National meeting next month.

Lacey said of Adrimel: “Nothing has come to light – he seems very well in himself.

“Obviously, it was a concern how quickly he stopped. But nothing has come to mind – I had a long conversation with (jockey) Richard Johnson (this week).

“He’ll have an entry in the three-mile novice and the two-and-a-half-mile novice at Aintree – and I think we’ll just have a wait and see what the ground does.”

Adrimel had raced exclusively on soft or heavy ground up to last week, and won five of six starts under rules – as well as an Irish point-to-point.

Tea Clipper appeared to have a preference for a quicker surface, but ran as well as he ever has with some give in the ground as a 33-1 shot at Cheltenham.

Lacey is considering another move up in trip for the useful handicapper and former Larkhill point-to-point winner.

He said: “I think we might go for the three-mile race at Aintree.

“I think he wants nice ground, but that was probably the softest surface he’s performed with real credit on – so I’m asking myself now ‘how dependent is he on proper good ground?’

“I think the jockeys all concurred it was good to soft, if not a little bit slower.

“At Aintree they do a super job of watering.

“If they did get some rain on top, what you wouldn’t probably want is for it go to soft. But good to soft throughout is not going to be an excuse for him now.”

Albert Bartlett fits bill for Adrimel

Tom Lacey is leaning towards the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle next week as he goes in search of his first Cheltenham Festival success with Adrimel.

The six-year-old’s sole defeat in six outings under Rules came in the Champion Bumper at the showpiece meeting 12 months ago.

He booked his return ticket with a gutsy success in the Grade Two Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick in January when conceding a penalty, and Lacey feels a further step up in trip will bring out even more improvement.

“I’d probably be leaning towards the Albert Bartlett (over the Ballymore), because it looks the weaker of the two races, though we will just follow the weather a bit,” he said.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“We will probably confirm him for both races, but I think the Albert Bartlett might be the right race for him. He shouldn’t be taken off his feet going up to three miles, and he should have plenty of time to jump the hurdles.

“I know his win at Haydock was over two miles, but it was only through Richard Johnson’s perseverance that he won.

“He was tenacious last time and he had a 3lb penalty as well, whereas this time he will be meeting them off level weights. You have to earn your right to run in a Grade One, and I think he earned that last time out at Warwick.”

Lacey will also be running Tea Clipper at Cheltenham, with the Coral Cup his most likely target.

“I’d imagine he will go for the Coral Cup, because the owners are keen on that,” he said.

“A fast run two (miles) on the New Course in the County Hurdle would suit, but I think he will end up in the Coral Cup.

“He has had a prep run in an all-weather bumper at Newcastle and he hit the line hard there, so two-five in the Coral Cup shouldn’t be a problem. At Newbury he was disappointing because his jumping just went to bits up the straight for whatever reason, but that wasn’t him.

“He is off a good weight. It is just a case of if he is good enough. He wants a nice surface, so if he gets that I’d think he would have a good each way chance.”

Adrimel sets sail for Leamington glory

Trainer Tom Lacey claimed the first Grade Two success of his career after Adrimel made all to land the Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick.

Challenged by a host of rivals entering the home straight in the two-mile-five-furlong prize, the 7-2 shot continued to find more out in front on the run down to the final two flights.

Although getting the last wrong Adrimel stuck to the task well to hold off Cheltenham scorer Mint Condition by a neck, with Make Me A Believer the same distance away in third.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Lacey said: “It was wonderful. I’m extremely delighted for Lady Bamford and Alice (Bamford) for allowing me to train him, as it was not necessarily on the cards. I was asked to buy them a couple of horses and I was very grateful to be given one to train.

“It’s testament to the horse that he has been winning over two (miles). We were always excited and waiting to step him up in trip, but I saw no need while he was doing what he was doing.

“(But) Haydock really enforced that he needed to go up in trip as he was just out of his comfort zone way too early in the race. The cheekpieces just helped his jumping, as it was slicker.

“He went through the race in a much more professional manner. He was in the right palace throughout and it’s hard to make up ground in the grade on that ground.

“If he had jumped the last he would have won with a bit more up his sleeve. He hasn’t done much wrong, so I’m not going to grumble.”

Assessing future plans, Lacey has not ruled out stepping Adrimel up to three miles at the Cheltenham Festival for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, for which he was made a 25-1 chance by William Hill.

He added: “I think he would cope with a quicker surface, but ultimately on spring ground you might have to go up (in trip) again. That would be the obvious thing to do, I imagine.

“Possibly he has got the Albert Bartlett or the Ballymore, but what is coming over from Ireland as there will be some smart horses.

“He is still a young horse, only six. He is a big frame of a horse that will fill out and improve. The world is his oyster.”

Pipe banks on Believer to keep fine run going

Make Me A Believer bids to provide David Pipe with another big-race victory in the Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick.

The Pond House handler has enjoyed several Saturday successes this season, with the prolific Main Fact scoring at Haydock, Vieux Lion Rouge landing the Becher Chase at Aintree and Adagio striking Grade One gold in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow just last weekend.

Make Me A Believer made a winning start to his campaign at Cheltenham last month and faces a step up in distance and class for this weekend’s Grade Two assignment.

Pipe said: “He’s a horse we like, and it was a good performance at Cheltenham last time.

“We’re stepping him up in trip, and hopefully he can run a good race.

“We’re hoping that he’ll develop into a nice three-mile chaser, and this is a nice stepping-stone for this season anyway.”

Make Me A Believer is joined at the head of the market by Adrimel, who actually won an Irish point-to-point in which Make Me A Believer fell almost two years ago.

Adrimel in winning action at Sandown
Adrimel in winning action at Sandown (Michael Steele/PA)
Your first 30 days for just £1

Adrimel has since won twice in the bumper sphere and twice over hurdles – and while he missed a top-level engagement in the Tolworth Hurdle a fortnight ago, he is reported to be back in good form by trainer Tom Lacey.

“I just wasn’t happy with him going into the Tolworth, but I’m very happy with him now,” said Lacey.

“We’re stepping up in trip, but that should suit him. He’s obviously got to carry a 3lb penalty, which doesn’t help, but he’ll get his ground and we’re looking forward to running him.

“We’ve put cheekpieces on him in the hope they engage his brain more than anything. I don’t think anyone could question how genuine he is, but he needs to go through his races in a slightly more professional manner, and his jumping might be a little bit cleaner as well.”

Jay Bee Why will attempt to maintain his unbeaten record over hurdles by making it two wins from as many visits to Warwick (Tim Goode/PA)
Jay Bee Why will attempt to maintain his unbeaten record over hurdles by making it two wins from as many visits to Warwick (Tim Goode/PA)

Alan King hopes to learn a lot more about Jay Bee Why, who made his hurdles debut a winning one over course and distance last month.

The Barbury Castle trainer said: “We can’t really get a handle on the form, because not many have run out of the race, so we will learn a lot on Saturday.

“We’ve not asked him many questions at home since, but whether he is up to this grade we will see.

“We thought he was very good before his bumper last year, but he just boiled over beforehand and didn’t really show up.

“He just had a little wind problem and he was only just ready to run at Warwick last time, so it was a pleasant surprise he won, but this is a big step up in class. ”

Dan Skelton believes Leicester scorer Midnight River has strong claims of making it three wins from four starts over hurdles this season.

Skelton said: “He is a very nice horse that is a future chaser – but having said that, he has done well over hurdles so far.

“He is in great form and he goes there with a live chance, I believe.”

Connections of the Colin Tizzard-trained Oscar Elite, who is chasing a hat-trick following back-to-back victories at Chepstow, hope he can take a step up in class in his stride.

Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard said: “He is two from two in novice hurdles, so this looks the obvious next step.

“He is the highest-rated in the race, but this is another step forward from what he has done.

“The trip will be fine for him, and he won on heavy ground last time at Chepstow – he doesn’t have to have it, but he copes with it.”

Mint Condition (Jennie Candlish), Lord Of Kerak (Olly Murphy), Optimise Prime (Ben Pauling) and Pure Bliss (Harry Fry) are other recent winners in what promises to be an informative contest.

Adrimel given Warwick aim by Tom Lacey

Tom Lacey is confident Adrimel can take a step up in trip and class in his stride in the Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle.

The five-year-old will put his unbeaten record over hurdles on the line in the two-mile-five Grade Two contest at Warwick on Saturday.

Adrimel, whose sole defeat under rules came in last season’s Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival, followed up his debut victory over hurdles at Sandown with a game success at Haydock last month.

Lacey said: “He won’t be going back to Haydock and the plan all being well is to go to Warwick for the Grade Two there.

“He wants plenty of give in the ground so it should be ideal for him there.

“This is a big step up in trip but it should be to his advantage.

“It just shows what a good horse he is that he has been winning over two miles.”

Although Adrimel was a late absentee in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown last weekend, the Herefordshire handler reports his rising star to be in good order.

He said: “I just wasn’t happy with him and I’ve had one or two horses that I’ve not been entirely happy with.

“If you are going to go into a Grade One you need to be 110 per cent but he seems fine now.”

Kimberlite Candy will continue his preparation for the Grand National with an outing at Ascot next month (Steven Paston/PA Images)
Kimberlite Candy will continue his preparation for the Grand National with an outing at Ascot next month (Steven Paston/PA Images)

Leading Randox Health Grand National contender Kimberlite Candy remains on course to make his next start in the Listed Keltbray Swinley Chase at Ascot on February 20.

The JP McManus-owned eight-year-old filled the runner’s up spot on his return to action for the second season in succession over the famous Grand National fences at Aintree in last month’s Becher Chase.

Lacey said: “Kimberlite Candy is in great nick. I’ve spoken to Mr McManus and his team and he will run at Ascot in a three-mile handicap after the National weights are out.

“Even though he was beaten 24 lengths, I didn’t expect him to get dropped by the handicapper as he picked up a good prize for second.”

Adrimel draws Haydock applause with gutsy success

Adrimel continued the impressive start to his career at Haydock in the Listen To Weighed-In On Betfair “Introductory” Hurdle – but he was made to work hard for it.

Trained by Tom Lacey, the five-year-old was winning for the fourth time under Rules from just five runs, with his sole defeat coming in the Champion Bumper.

Sent off the 8-11 favourite under Richard Johnson, he had to be kept up to his work for the whole length of the Haydock straight, but with Ranch Hand and Qualismart disappointing, it was 33-1 Grumpy Charley who kept him honest.

However, Adrimel was almost five lengths clear at the line.

“I was very nervous beforehand as I wasn’t sure Haydock was his track, but when it rained in the morning, it made my mind up and it was the right race for him,” said Lacey.

“He doesn’t have to have it deep, but he handles it very well. He was never going better than he was at the line.

“The way he finished, one would think he wants a step up in trip, but if the Tolworth came up very deep ground he might get away with it and we could think about fitting cheekpieces just to help him concentrate, not because he’s ungenuine.

“There is also the Leamington Spa at Warwick he could go in, so there are options, but he’s a lovely horse to have and I’m very lucky to have him.

“Hurdles are an inconvenience to him, hopefully he’ll be a nice chaser.”

Your first 30 days for just £1

Elsewhere on the card, Venetia Williams was on the mark with Royale Pagaille in the four-runner Back And Lay On The Betfair Exchange Novices’ Chase.

Sent off the 11-1 outsider under Charlie Deutsch, he jumped impeccably until the final two fences, but he still had enough left to see off 6-5 favourite Espoir De Romay, who was conceding 5lb, by seven lengths.

Late Romantic lived up to his name in the My Odds Boost On Betfair Veterans’ Handicap Chase.

Tristan Davidson’s 2018 Peter Marsh winner The Dutchman appeared to have done everything right, only to be caught in the dying strides by Ollie Greenall’s 10-1 chance.

The race was marred by a fatal injury to the 12-year-old Whisper, winner of the 2014 Coral Cup for Nicky Henderson as well as the Liverpool Hurdle twice.

The card was one of four on Wednesday that were among the first sporting events to welcome back limited crowds.

Ben Bramley travelled from North Yorkshire to Haydock and was pleasantly surprised by what greeted him.

Since June 1, aside from two pilot events in September, courses have only been attended by key personnel.

“I don’t think they sold 1,000 tickets, which surprised me, but it’s a really good set-up, a lot less restrictive than what I thought it would be having been to a couple of other courses as an owner,” he said.

“We’re effectively in the same zone as the owners, so the entire left-hand side of the paddock is accessible with good views – all the walkway from where the bookies are to the paddock is accessible.

“All the bars are open, although not selling alcohol. However, I expected a few to have the shutters down and a few buildings closed, but pretty much all buildings are open so it doesn’t feel like you are somewhere you shouldn’t be.

“The signage is very clear, it’s one way up and one way down stairs, it’s really impressive. They’ve made us feel really welcome.

“The whole process has been very straightforward from booking the tickets, getting the QR code – they’ve all been really helpful, quick and slick. We’ve had far more freedom than I anticipated. There are regular reminders over the PA about social distancing which you would expect.

There were a lot more people on track at Haydock than for Sprint Cup day in September
There were a lot more people on track at Haydock than for Sprint Cup day in September (PA Wire)

“There are four bookies on the rails and 10 in Tatts. There might not even be that many at a normal midweek meeting. There’s no segregation, so you’ve basically got Premier Stand access.

“I wasn’t sure if there’d be a big roar at the off for the first race, but it was more of a ripple! And given the first race was basically over with a circuit to run, there wasn’t much of a cheer for the winner either, but you can’t do much about that.

“There’s a quiet, sporting crowd, but there’s plenty of staff working and it’s been a really positive day. I didn’t think I’d get a ticket to be honest, but because those in Tier 3 like Manchester can’t go, that probably had an impact.

“The only surprise to me was not seeing anyone have their temperatures taken, but you did have to fill in an online Covid questionnaire to get a ticket, so they were trusting people.”