Welsh National back-up plan for Aintree-bound Native River

Ever-popular 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River will reappear in either the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree in a fortnight or the Coral Welsh National at Chepstow over the Christmas period.

The Colin Tizzard stable is in great form and the trainer’s son and assistant, Joe, admitted to being left a little frustrated after a lack of rain scuppered the Dorset yard’s plans to run in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.

He explained: “Native River is ready to run – he was ready to run in the Betfair Chase at the weekend, but we promised ourselves to run him in his ideal conditions, so we are just waiting on the rain. It was a bit frustrating, really.

“He has a Welsh National entry, but we are leaning towards the Many Clouds and hoping it will rain in the next fortnight.

“The Many Clouds is the next option for him, as he is fit and ready to run and that’s the favourite for him.

“He is 11 now, going on 12, and still retains a lot of ability, and we just want it to rain. So, as long as the rain comes, he’ll go to Aintree.

“We haven’t had a drop of rain for three or four weeks, which is not something we are used to at this time of year and it is not fair to run him on ground that is not perfect for him.”

Tizzards looking to Aintree with Native River

Joe Tizzard is praying the rain arrives to allow Native River to make his seasonal reappearance in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree next month.

The 2018 Gold Cup hero had been pencilled in to return to action in Saturday’s Betfair Chase, but connections decided against a trip to Haydock due to the unseasonably good ground.

Providing conditions are suitable, the 11-year-old is likely to be rerouted to the Many Clouds Chase on December 4 – a race he won in 2019 and finished third in last season.

Tizzard, assistant to his father, Colin, said: “We promised ourselves that we would only run Native River in the right conditions this season as he is that bit older now.

“It (Betfair Chase) looks quite a hot race to be running in on ground that would probably be a little bit quicker than ideal.

“Hopefully, the rain will come soon as he is ready to run. The Many Clouds looks the obvious race to go provided the rain comes in time.

“I couldn’t be any happier with him. If the ground was soft at Haydock, he would have been running.”

A day after Native River’s intended comeback, his Haldon Gold Cup-winning stablemate Eldorado Allen is set to bid for further big-race honours in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.

Tizzard added: “They have put Eldorado Allen up 4lb for his Haldon Gold Cup victory up to a rating of 155.

“It looked like he was crying out for two and a half miles at Exeter and this (Peterborough Chase) looks the obvious route to go.

“Hopefully he is an improving horse as he has been handicapped that way.”

Brewin’upastorm may be back in big time after Aintree romp

Olly Murphy hopes Brewin’upastorm may yet make his mark at the highest level after a successful start to his campaign at Aintree.

The Warwickshire trainer has never made any secret of the regard in which he holds the eight-year-old, who has been placed in Grade One company on multiple occasions and last season won the Grade Two National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell.

Having undergone a wind operation for a second time during the summer, Brewin’upastorm was a 5-1 shot for his return to action in the Betway Hurdle – and he delivered a dominant display.

After travelling powerfully into the straight, Aidan Coleman’s mount stamped his class from the second-last – powering nine lengths clear of If The Cap Fits, who pipped Lisnagar Oscar to second.

Murphy said: “I thought it was a very good performance, giving 6lb to the majority of the field.

“I’ve never shied away – I’ve always thought this lad was very good, (but) he has to have everything go his way.

“He got a terrible fright when he unseated in Cheltenham the guts of two years ago, and it’s taken me a long time to get this horse back.”

On future plans, he added: “He’s a hard horse to campaign now in England really – because he’s probably not a three miler, and he’s definitely not a two miler.

“I’m not sure where we’ll go next, but he might one day go over the water (Ireland) for those small-field graded races over there.

“He can be very bad and put in a lackadaisical round of jumping, but I hope he can win a Grade One one day – because on his day he can be very good.”

Linelee King made a winning debut over fences
Linelee King made a winning debut over fences (Simon Marper/PA)

Brewin’upastorm’s victory completed a double on the card for Murphy and Coleman, with 17-2 shot Linelee King earlier winning the Betway Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

“He’s a nice horse who didn’t achieve what I thought he’d achieve over hurdles, but his schooling over fences has been very good – and for a horse having his first run over fences, I thought he jumped immaculately,” said the trainer.

“He’s a horse who is going to carry on improving, and I hope he could win a nice race at some point.”

Hillcrest leads the way at Aintree
Hillcrest leads the way at Aintree (Simon Marper/PA)

Hillcrest carried the colours of the late Trevor Hemmings to victory in the Betway EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle.

Making his first appearance since landing a Wetherby bumper in the spring, the Henry Daly-trained six-year-old travelled strongly for much of the two-and-a-half-mile journey under Richard Patrick.

In the end, the 11-4 joint-favourite was made to pull out all the stops by Our Jet – with three-quarters of a length separating the pair at the line.

Triple Grand National-winning owner Hemmings loved nothing more than a winner at Aintree, and Daly was visibly moved after this first Aintree success in his famous colours since his death.

He said: “For this horse to win today, with lots of Trevor’s family here – it’s pretty cool.

“He might be very good, we’ll see. A slow-run race like that was not playing to his strengths, and he bunny-hopped one or two (hurdles), but the faster it got the better it suited.

“He’s a big boy – a classic ‘T Hemmings’. My measuring stick goes up to 18 hands, and it won’t go over him! I don’t know how big he is because of that.

“We’ll crack on over hurdles, and try and teach him a bit.”

Koshari (left) on his way to winning at Aintree
Koshari (left) on his way to winning at Aintree (Simon Marper/PA)

There were scenes of jubilation in the winner’s enclosure after 80-1 shot Koshari sprang a surprise in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle.

Formerly trained by Willie Mullins, the nine-year-old walked through the Doncaster sales ring unsold last month, but was subsequently snapped up by Northern Ireland-based David Christie.

Given a patient ride by Jonathan Moore, Koshari finished with a flourish to deny Deise Aba by a neck, with Remastered a close-up third.

“I was expecting a good run and I couldn’t believe the price – the boys (owners) were on him each-way,” said Christie.

“He’s a good horse. It’s not that long ago he won a hundred-grand race in Punchestown, and he was sixth in the Galway Plate in the summer, which takes some doing.

“He went to the sales and wasn’t sold, and I just happened to be at Thurles one day and chatted to Ruby Walsh and he said ‘that horse is fine’, so we bought him privately.

“Ruby actually rang me yesterday, and there’s no better man than him to ride any racecourse over here. He said just sit and sit and come at the last and he was spot-on, so well played to Ruby!

“These folks have never been over here with a horse of any kind. This is their first trip to Aintree – and isn’t that what racing’s all about?”

Darling Du Large was a 6-1 winner of the Betway Supports Safer Gambling Week Handicap Chase for Tom George and Jonathan Burke, while the concluding Betway ‘Junior’ NH Flat Race went to the Milton Harris-trained Legionar (100-30), ridden by Mitchell Bastyan.

Mac Tottie enters National frame with Grand Sefton victory

Mac Tottie sparked dreams of a tilt at Grand National glory after enhancing trainer Peter Bowen’s excellent record over the famous fences in the Betway Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at Aintree.

The Welsh trainer has saddled four winners of the Topham Chase at the National meeting, with Dunbrody Millar’s 2007 triumph followed by the popular Always Waining’s hat-trick between 2010 and 2012.

Bowen also came close to winning the big one in 2007, with Mckelvey beaten three-quarters of a length by Silver Birch – and in Mac Tottie, he believes he has another contender for the Aintree spectacular.

A well-beaten last of four on his seasonal reappearance at Fontwell early last month, the eight-year-old appeared invigorated by the switch to the National fences, jumping well throughout for the trainer’s son James.

The well-fancied Senior Citizen loomed up looking a big danger on the run-in, but 20-1 shot Mac Tottie dug deep to see him off by a length – with Manwell a further 12 lengths behind in third.

“That was good. It’s the fifth time we’ve won round those fences – it’s been a lucky place for us,” said the winning trainer.

“I have no idea why they seem to take to it. We do a lot of loose schooling, and they seem to find their own way from there.”

Bowen added: “We just missed out in the National with Mckelvey, and hopefully this will end up being a National horse – I think he’ll stay.

“He came here in good form. Things didn’t go quite right for him last time, because he lost a shoe and didn’t really stride out after that.

“He could come back here for the Becher next month, but we’ll see how he is and speak to the owners.”

The winner rider was thrilled to claim his first victory over the National fences, adding his name to the roll of honour in a race his brother Sean has won twice for champion trainer Paul Nicholls.

“It’s unbelievable. To do it for my dad makes it extra special,” he said.

“I didn’t miss one fence. He’s only small, but he’s so neat and has got loads of scope.

“I got to the front way too soon, but the loose horse helped me out for a little while, and he probably kept a little bit up his sleeve.

“I’d ride any of dads’ horses over a National fence. It’s nice to come here and have the confidence in them to go and jump.”

Sefton starting point for National hope Time To Get Up

Time To Get Up sets off on the road to a potential tilt at the Grand National with a first spin over the famous fences in the Betway Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at Aintree.

Moved from its traditional slot in December, Saturday’s two-mile-five-furlong contest will be the first race to take place over the National fences in front of a full crowd since the Becher Chase two years ago.

Time To Get Up is well fancied to strike gold for Jonjo O’Neill and JP McManus, having rounded off last season with victory in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter.

The eight-year-old is already a general 20-1 shot for the world’s most famous steeplechase in early April, and those odds are sure to contract if he can make a successful reappearance on Merseyside.

O’Neill said: “We are having a go over the Grand National fences and we will see how we get on, but the ground looks perfect for him.

“He is in good form at home and hopefully he will run respectably.

“He won the Midlands National last season, and it would be nice to go for the Grand National this season, but we will have to see how he gets on here first.

“He is a big lad and hopefully he will love those fences, but we will find out on Saturday.”

Hogan’s Height on his way to winning the Grand Sefton two years ago
Hogan’s Height on his way to winning the Grand Sefton two years ago (David Davies/PA)

Time To Get Up’s rivals include the 2019 Grand Sefton hero Hogan’s Height, who completed the course for a second time when down the field in the Grand National seven months ago.

The veteran’s trainer Jamie Snowden reports his charge in rude health for his bid to regain his crown, following a recent comeback run over hurdles at Newton Abbot.

He said: “He’s in great shape. It was wonderful when he won the Grand Sefton a couple of years ago, and we never really got lift-off last season when the poor chap ended up with one thing going wrong after another.

“It’s nice to really get him back, and he had a good blow out the other day at Newton Abbot.

“He’s 4lb higher than when he won it in 2019, but he goes there with a chance.”

The Lambourn-based trainer has an interesting second string to his bow in the form of Thomas Macdonagh, who was last seen finishing second in a novice handicap chase at Haydock in March.

“He’s fit and ready to go. We wanted to get a prep run into him, but the ground was too quick,” Snowden added.

“He loves soft ground. I think there’s mileage in his handicap mark, and he’s jumped really well over the National fences in Lambourn.

“So long as there’s plenty of juice in the ground, he goes there with every chance.”

The Alan King-trained Senior Citizen is another horse with previous experience of the fences – having finished seventh behind Beau Bay in last year’s Grand Sefton and third in the Topham Chase in April.

The eight-year-old warmed up for his return to Aintree by winning a valuable handicap chase at Market Rasen three weeks ago.

King said: “The more it dries out the better for him, and it looks like it should be dry up to the race.

“He ran very well in this last year, but didn’t quite get home on heavy ground.

“He ran well in the Topham too, so we know he likes the fences.”

Cat Tiger was third in the Foxhunters’ Chase in the spring for owner-rider David Maxwell, giving trainer Paul Nicholls confidence for this handicap debut.

“He also had entries at Wincanton and Auteuil, but the Grand Sefton was the logical choice after he took to the National fences like a natural in the Foxhunters’,” the Ditcheat handler told Betfair.

“Cat Tiger and his owner rider David Maxwell enjoyed a brilliant spin that day, leading two out and only being caught at the elbow.

“He’s a horse that goes well fresh and must have a fair chance, running off a mark of 135.”

Irish hopes are carried by Edward O’Grady’s The West’s Awake and Spyglass Hill, whose trainer Henry de Bromhead famously teamed up with Rachael Blackmore to win this year’s Grand National with Minella Times.

Henry de Bromhead saddles Spyglass Hill
Henry de Bromhead saddles Spyglass Hill (Brian Lawless/PA)

Of Spyglass Hill, he said: “He’s had a couple of good runs. He ran well in the Munster National the other day, and we just thought maybe the drop back in trip might suit him.

“Hugh (Morgan, jockey) gets a great tune out of him, and it’s a great opportunity for him.

“He’s a great rider – he’s been with us for years and he’s doing really well, so (I’m) delighted for him.

“We’re looking forward to it.”

Minella Times out to turn National dreams into reality again

Minella Times will bid to make Henry de Bromhead’s impossible dream come true a second time as he sets out this season to try to retain his Randox Grand National title.

De Bromhead was responsible for a remarkable one-two at Aintree in April, with 100-1 stablemate Balko Des Flos chasing home the Rachael Blackmore-ridden winner.

Blackmore’s success was a major sporting milestone, in the world-famous race no female jockey had ever won before – and, of course, it was an achievement which followed her and County Waterford trainer de Bromhead’s phenomenally successful Cheltenham Festival.

Minella Times will soon begin to tread a path back to Liverpool next spring, even as his jockey is still getting her head properly round this year’s victory.

“It’s something that everyone would dream about,” said Blackmore.

“It is THE race, I suppose, and it’s still hard to believe you’ve actually won it – it’s incredible.

“It’s definitely a replay I love watching! It’s still hard to comprehend it all.

“I know that might be silly to say … but it was such an incredible day.

“It hit me just when we crossed the line. It was an incredible feeling and one that I’ll never forget.”

Minella Times produced a flawless round of jumping to claim the famous marathon by six and a half lengths, and Blackmore realised from a very early stage he was adapting perfectly to the unique National fences.

“He was phenomenal,” she said.

“I knew after jumping two or three fences on him that he was really going to take to them.

“When we landed over the last I still felt like he was galloping for me – he was picking up for me.

“I suppose one side of my head was saying ‘you’re going to win the Grand National, we’re going to win’ and the other side was saying ‘nah, something’s going to pass you in a couple of seconds’ so the feeling when you cross the line and you know that you’re in front is unbelievable.”

Minella Times’ 2021-22 campaign will revolve around repeat bid for the race, and Blackmore believes he has the credentials to emulate all-time greats Red Rum and Tiger Roll by successfully defending his title.

“I can’t see why not!” she said.

“He loved it around there, which is a big help. I’m sure Henry and JP (McManus, owner) will discuss his plans for the season, but he’s a very special horse to me.

“He’s such a genuine horse. He’s fantastic to jump – he’s been trained to perfection.”

Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore celebrate Minella Times' Aintree victory
Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore celebrate Minella Times’ Aintree victory (David Davies/PA)

De Bromhead is less bullish at this early stage, and finds it hard to envision how last season’s superb campaign could ever be topped.

The Irishman, who also trained the first two home in last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, said: “You dream of winning it once – I wouldn’t dare to dream of winning it twice.

“I’m not sure (how we follow last year) – I suppose try not to change too much. Keep it the same as last year – and then expect the worst, and hope for the best!

“It was all pretty surreal. Still now when I see the photos I suddenly go ‘my God, we won the National and the Gold Cup!’.

“It was just incredible, the whole thing, and we’re probably still waiting to wake up.”

Minella Times had never previously run over the National course, and De Bromhead was unsure as to whether his jumping style would suit the track.

He said: “I suppose you never really know – some people would say he nearly jumps too well, in the sense that he makes such a shape over them.

“You don’t really know until you go and do it. We made some makeshift fences here, and the first day we schooled him he was having a right look at them.”

Any concerns were quickly dispelled, with Blackmore and her partner expertly navigating their way around.

“It was brilliant, and he was giving them so much height, nearly jumping them too well,” added De Bromhead, whose third National contender Chris’s Dream was still in contention too when he unseated four fences from home.

Reflecting again on Minella Times’ performance, he said: “It was an exhibition – he jumped brilliantly the whole way, (and) Rachael was brilliant on him.

“I suppose the first round is survival, and they’re all still standing. To have three in it and three going out on the second circuit was amazing.

“Then you jump the Canal Turn, and they’re all still there – it’s starting to go well and it’s unreal.  Then unfortunately we lost Chris’s Dream, and we see Balko tanking away, but Rachael is cantering and winging fences. It’s nearly disbelief to me.

“I’m looking at (eventual third) Any Second Now and thinking ‘I hope he’s not going to come back and beat both of mine’. You’ve watched it every year for so long, and you can see how races can be lost.

“Rachael had kept plenty. She was getting in the right place – they say you need a lot of luck in the National, and I think we got that. Also, just the way Rachael was manoeuvring around there was incredible.”

Testing ground may scupper Lavelle’s Sefton plan

Ground conditions will dictate whether Manofthemountain will tackle Aintree’s Grand National fences in the Betway Grand Sefton Handicap Chase on Saturday.

Winner of the Grade Two Silver Trophy at Cheltenham in the spring, the eight-year-old blew away any cobwebs when filling the runner-up spot on his seasonal reappearance at Chepstow last month.

Trainer Emma Lavelle believes that effort will have left Manofthemountain cherry-ripe for a big-race assignment, but warns he will only head for Merseyside if the ground is suitable.

She said: “The ground needs to dry back a bit for him to be going for that.

“It’s always been the plan and then it rained a lot, just in random places as well – there are plenty of tracks that are still riding quick.

“He was in good order at Chepstow, but he was a bit fresh and was always going to come on for it, which he’s done.

“If the ground is all right Aintree is the plan and if not we’ll probably go for the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham (on Saturday week) instead.”

TauntIrish Prophecy winning at Tauntonon Races – November 12th
Irish Prophecy winning at Taunton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Lavelle is also targeting a major weekend prize at Wincanton, with dual course winner Irish Prophecy firmly on course for the 60th Badger Beer Handicap Chase.

“The ground there looks perfect for us,” the trainer added.

“It’s going to be a more competitive race than the one he won last time, but he jumped well and travelled well and did it all right that day.

“If he can do it in the same way on Saturday it would be great.”

Summerville Boy to return for title defence at Aintree

Summerville Boy is set to make his comeback from injury in time to defend his title in the Betway Hurdle at Aintree.

Trainer Tom George is looking forward to getting the nine-year-old back on track on Saturday, for the first time since finishing fifth to McFabulous in the Relkeel Hurdle in January.

That Grade Two contest was switched from its usual home at Cheltenham to Kempton, and George believes Summerville Boy did not handle the Sunbury course.

“We’ve not seen him for a long time. He’s going back to Aintree for the race he won there last year,” said George.

“He won that last season, and then the Relkeel Hurdle was abandoned and they ran it at Kempton – the track didn’t suit him, he picked up an injury and he hasn’t run since then.

“He’s fine now, and we’re looking forward to getting him back on track. Two and a half miles is his optimum, and he’s in good form and working well, so we’re going back to Aintree.”

Summerville Boy is one of 10 initial entries, which also include the hugely promising but very lightly-raced Dusart from Nicky Henderson’s powerful yard, Olly Murphy’s Grade Two winner Brewin’upastorm and 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle hero Lisnagar Oscar, for Rebecca Curtis.

The Betway Grand Sefton Handicap Chase will provide a spectacle, over the Grand National fences, on Saturday’s card – and there were 22 confirmations on Monday.

Henderson’s Caribean Boy tops the weights – with Donald McCain’s new recruit Mister Whitaker and Jonjo O’Neill’s Midlands Grand National winner Time To Get Up also catching the eye.

De Rasher Counter pencilled in for National service

Emma Lavelle will aim De Rasher Counter at next year’s Randox Grand National as the top staying chaser returns to training this season.

De Rasher Counter has been off the track with a tendon injury since a solitary run over hurdles at the start of the previous campaign.

The nine-year-old was a tenacious winner of the hugely competitive Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in 2019 but was then a well-beaten fourth and pulled up in two subsequent runs that winter – in Grade Two company at Cheltenham and under top weight in the Midlands Grand National.

Lavelle is delighted to have him back at her Wiltshire yard, but will be patient before choosing an initial target en route to Aintree.

“He came back in yesterday, and it is hugely exciting having him back in,” she said.

“He has been in Wales trotting up hills, hardening his legs off, having picked up an injury last season.

“The plan for this season will be geared around the Grand National. We will scan his legs and if everything is all right, we will be able to start cantering with him.

“He will have a decent level of fitness from what he has been doing. If the ground is not bottomless, hopefully we can start him in January and have a couple of runs before the National.”

Lavelle is mindful that, although De Rasher Counter is a three-times winner in heavy ground, it may be best to steer clear of especially testing conditions.

She added: “I think we will keep all options open, and I’m not saying we won’t run him over hurdles, but I think it will depend where the races are, what the ground is like and what makes sense.

“Everything will work back from the Grand National, though.

“The ground in the Cotswold Chase was bottomless, and he is a lovely-moving horse and he probably doesn’t want it like that. We had to have a crack at it, to see what the right route was.

“The Ladbrokes Trophy is a competitive handicap, and they put a lot into running in races like that. He was a progressive novice the season before that, and the Ladbrokes probably took more out of him than we gave him credit for.”

Wishing And Hoping an easy Aintree winner

Wishing And Hoping made every yard of the running to claim a cosy success in the Jewson Tool Hire Veterans’ Handicap Chase at Aintree.

The 11-year-old has not seen too much racing for a horse of his age, with this three-mile-one-furlong contest just his 18th start under rules having previously been trained by Alan King and Phil Rowley.

Now handled by Rowley’s wife Mel, Wishing And Hoping (11-4) was last seen winning a hunter chase at Worcester in May but jockey Alex Edwards was eager to take an early lead on his first run in 156 days.

Wishing And Hoping was happy to bowl along in front, turning up the pace before eventually pulling clear before the last and galloping out for an eight-and-a-half-length win over Rolling Dylan, with Robin Des Foret third.

Phil Rowley said: “The horse was originally with Alan King, and we point to pointed him with a few hunter chases as well and my wife took her licence out. The problem with him with his rating is he was always carrying 12st and over in hunter chases and I always felt he wanted better ground so he could be able to roll.

“Peter and Trish Andrews (owners) were very happy for him to come down this route and when we walked the course, I thought ‘fantastic’ as it was rolling good ground. It’s a great day and they’re wonderful people.

“I think the veteran route is a good route for him, though we’ll have to pick our course a little bit as he wouldn’t want Cheltenham in a bog or something. Mel’s got the professional licence and I do the point to pointing and it’s all going great.”

Gelino Bello made a successful start over obstacles in the Jewson Birkenhead, Price Street Maiden Hurdle.

Trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Harry Cobden, the five-year-old stepped up on his bumper efforts that saw him win at Plumpton and finish third in Listed company last term.

Ridden with confidence by Cobden, the 11-8 favourite made smooth progress throughout before coming home six lengths clear of Ree Okka.

Nicholls’ assistant Harry Derham said: “It was a nice performance and his bumper form was good for a horse who we thought would never really be much of a bumper performer.

“He jumped beautifully and Harry got him in a nice position. He’s a very relaxed horse and he probably showed a turned of foot today that we might not have thought was there, so he’s an exciting horse.”

The rider later made it a double aboard the Alan Jones-trained Lady Excalibur in the closing Jewson Southport, Bispham Road EBF Mares’ Open National Hunt Flat Race.

Lucinda Russell and Derek Fox were on the mark with Corach Rambler (5-2 favourite) in the Jewson St Helens Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase and a crack at the Scottish National could now be on the cards.

Russell said: “I’m absolutely delighted and he’s Scu’s (partner Peter Scudamore) favourite horse. It’s brilliant for the owners who’ve come here today and he was always going to be a chaser. He just stays forever and ever and he even takes a photo well!

“It was kind of the plan to come here today really. We knew the trip would be too short for him at Perth (last month) but we just wanted to give him the experience before we came here.

“I’ve got a few more races in mind coming up and I’d love to go to the Scottish National, I know he’s only a novice but he’s definitely got the ability to stay, he’s that type.”

Uno Mas (11-4 favourite) was another visually impressive victor in the opening Jewson Click And Collect Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, while Mackelduff (11-2) finished with a flourish to lift the Jewson Wallasey Handicap Hurdle for Olly Murphy and Aidan Coleman.

Allmankind on top at Aintree

Allmankind made almost all to defy top weight in the Jewson Monet’s Garden Old Roan Limited Handicap Chase at Aintree.

A Grade One winner over hurdles as a juvenile and a top-level scorer too as a novice chaser last term, a mark of 160 ensured Allmankind shouldered the steadier of 11st 10lb in this Grade Two.

Trainer Dan Skelton had given him a prep run over hurdles at Chepstow this month – and while he could finish only third as favourite on that occasion, he made no mistake back over the bigger obstacles.

A noted front-runner, Harry Skelton’s mount was swiftly into stride, with Killer Clown and Itchy Feet trying to make their presence felt in the early exchanges as Allmankind set a decent pace.

He built up a couple of lengths lead at one point, but at the top of the straight there were really only three in contention – with Midnight Shadow travelling well in the hands of Ryan Mania.

A mistake from Allmankind three fences out briefly handed the initiative to Midnight Shadow, but the 9-4 favourite took the last obstacle much better to grab back the lead – and he kept finding for pressure all the way to the line.

Itchy Feet, who made a couple of errors in his fencing, finished with real purpose but was beaten a length at the line – with the same distance back to Midnight Shadow in third.

Paddy Power make Allmankind a 10-1 from 20s for the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, while he is 20s from 33-1 for the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The winning handler said: “He’s magic. Everything went well the whole pre-season, and I knew I had to go to Chepstow over hurdles to get a run into him, because I was saying the whole way along that he can’t win here unless he gets a run in – so it was so important that he got that run in over hurdles.

“There’s not many horses that you can switch hurdles to fences and back and know that you’re going to get that consistency with – but he breaks a lot of rules, this horse.

“He’s only five years old and he’s just won a handicap off 160 – it’s big, and I’m very proud of the horse, forget all the rest. He doesn’t know how to let himself down or anyone around, and he’s just an absolute credit to the game.

“He wants to win, and it’s just a great attitude to have – some are born with it, and some aren’t. To have that desire, and ability to match, is unusual – and that’s why he’s top-class. He’s just a fantastic horse to have anything to do with.”

Skelton has a long-term plan to return to Aintree in the spring. His route to the Melling Chase has yet to be determined – although it will be limited.

He added: “We’ll forget future plans for now – this was his big day, and he’s only a five-year-old. There won’t be any big plans, and we’ll just look after him. Ultimately he’ll come back here for the Melling Chase, and he’ll get one run between now and then.

“I’m not going to over-race him – let’s not empty the well, and leave something there for when he’s seven, eight and nine. If you over-race him this year, you’re going to inevitably come to the end of your journey with him – and I don’t want that.

“Ultimately next year I think he’ll race over three miles, and I said last year that Cheltenham wasn’t really his track. He might not even run this side of Christmas, but we’re all very proud of him, and I can’t tell you how much I love him.”

Itchy Feet pleased trainer Olly Murphy in defeat
Itchy Feet pleased trainer Olly Murphy in defeat (Steven Paston/PA)

Itchy Feet was third in the race 12 months ago, and went one place better this year – a performance which pleased his trainer Olly Murphy.

He said: “He ran a cracker. He’s a horse that I think is going to be going up in trip before too long – and I thought on the whole he jumped a lot better in what looked a warm renewal, so it’s a good starting point.

“He’s a good horse and he just needs everything to go right – and Dan’s horse had a run, and this is our starting point.

“We’ll be going up in trip at some point. I’m not sure where we’re going next, but he’s a horse who’s going to be competing in all the good races.”

Nuts Well primed for Roan run

Owner Ian Hamilton expects Nuts Well to put up a staunch defence of his crown in the Jewson Monet’s Garden Old Roan Chase at Aintree on Sunday.

The 10-year-old secured the biggest victory of his career to date when landing the Grade Two limited handicap 12 months ago.

Just as he did last season, Nuts Well warmed up for his trip to Merseyside with a handicap success at Kelso and connections are confident he remains at the top of his game, despite his advancing years.

Hamilton, whose wife Ann is the trainer, said: “We think he’s as good as he’s been, so we’re looking forward to it.

“We think he’s on top form. He did it easily at Kelso, but this is a bit hotter I think.

“I think he’s getting better with age – I’m getting worse with age, but he’s getting better!”

The Olly Murphy-trained Itchy Feet finished third when favourite for last year’s Old Roan and is fitted with cheek pieces for his second attempt.

Itchy Feet winning at Sandown
Itchy Feet winning at Sandown (Steven Paston/PA)

“He’s going into the race a fresh horse and he usually runs well fresh,” said Murphy.

“His jumping has been a lot better, so hopefully he can translate that to the track.

“Hopefully the cheek pieces help him going forward – he’s schooled well in them this week.

“It’s a competitive renewal, but the prize-money is very good and he’s got a good each-way chance if he puts in a good round of jumping.”

Allmankind was one of last season’s leading novice chasers and trainer Dan Skelton hopes a recent spin over hurdles at Chepstow has left him cherry-ripe for his latest big-race assignment.

He said: “I was surprised last year when he got beaten first time out in a four-year-old hurdle at Cheltenham. His form before that and his form after that suggests he should have won, but he needed it badly.

“With that in mind, we wanted to get a run into him before coming here. If he hadn’t gone to Chepstow he’d have no hope hope whatsoever of winning this – it was so important to get that run in.

“He’s been grand since and loves jumping fences. This has been the plan and I’m happy with everything.”

Paul Nicholls, who has previously won the Old Roan with the great Kauto Star (2006), Sound Investment (2015) and Frodon (2018), is this year represented by Tamaroc Du Mathan.

Killer Clown (Emma Lavelle), Fanion D’Estruval (Venetia Williams), Huntsman Son (Alex Hales) and Midnight Shadow (Sue Smith) complete the field.

Itchy Feet on course for Old Roan

Olly Murphy’s Itchy Feet will try to better his 2020 third-placed finish in the Grade Two Monet’s Garden Old Roan Limited Handicap Chase at Aintree.

The seven-year-old was two and a half lengths behind the winner Nuts Well 12 months ago and went on to be placed in further Graded contests through the rest of the campaign.

Last seen finishing third again in the Grade One Marsh Chase in April, Itchy Feet will return to Aintree on Sunday to make his seasonal debut on the Mildmay course.

“The plan is to go for the Old Roan with Itchy Feet. He is in good form,” said Murphy.

“He had a very good run at Aintree at the back end of last season.

“He will be going up in trip before long – but he ran well in the Old Roan last year, so it makes sense to start him off there again.

“I see him being aimed at all the good two-and-a-half-mile to three-mile chases this season if he keeps on progressing over fences – which I can’t see why he won’t.”

Multiple champion trainer Paul Nicholls has won the Old Roan three times and may bid to do so again with Tamaroc Du Mathan, winner of the Grade Two Pendil Novices’ Chase at Kempton in February.

“He won the Pendil Novices’ Chase very nicely last season and then went to Ayr,” said Nicholls.

“I thought he would go OK, but all mine there ran terribly.

“He is a very nice horse that loves a flat track. He likes to be fresh, and I might look at the Old Roan with him at Aintree because that would suit him well.

“He is not the biggest and might be on the limit of his mark, but we will see.”

Nuts Well is due to defend his title for Ann Hamilton, with Grade One winner Allmankind also entered for Dan Skelton alongside stablemate Bennys King.

Nicky Henderson has both Fusil Raffles and Pistol Whipped in the reckoning, with Evan Williams on course to run Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Coole Cody.

Ewan Whillans has put forward Cracking Destiny, with Venetia Williams represented by Fanion d’Estruval at this stage and Alex Hales supplying Huntsman Son.

Killer Clown holds an entry for Emma Lavelle – with Sue Smith’s Midnight Shadow, Colin Tizzard’s Reserve Tank, Henry Oliver’s The Big Bite and Brian Ellison’s Windsor Avenue completing 16 possibles.

Yorkhill and Don Poli feature at RoR National Championships

Yorkhill and Don Poli are among the names set to appear at this week’s Jockey Club Retraining of Racehorses National Championships at Aintree.

The event, which begins on Thursday, has attracted 276 former racehorses and is the elite level for those thriving in a second career – with dressage, showjumping and showing classes held across four days.

This year’s entrants have run in nearly 4,000 races collectively, and won a combined total of more than £5.3million in prize money.

Both Yorkhill and Don Poli retired from racing last season and will be making their debuts at the championships, where they will compete in newcomer and in-hand classes respectively.

Yorkhill is best known for his unstoppable career as a novice, with his two winning bumper runs followed by a string of top-class hurdle races including the Tolworth, the race now know as the Ballymore Novices’ hurdle at Cheltenham and the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle – all Grade One contests.

A graduation to chasing was a success at first, and the chestnut picked up another Grade One prize when taking the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Festival – but his talent came with a certain waywardness, and his tendency to jump to the left started to prove costly.

He was tried over hurdles again before eventually changing hands, moving from Willie Mullins’ stable to Sandy Thomson’s Berwickshire base and giving his his new connections, plus his sizeable fan club, a swansong performance when taking Newcastle’s Listed Rehearsal Handicap Chase at 66-1 last November before retiring because of an injury.

Don Poli also spent much of his career with Mullins, winning at successive Cheltenham Festivals before finishing third in the 2016 Gold Cup and second in Aintree’s Bowl Chase.

The bay also completed the 2019 Grand National and is eligible, alongside Yorkhill, to join Saturday’s ‘Always A Star’ parade at the RoR Championships – where he will be joined by 12 other high-quality horses including Un Temps Pour Tout, Carole’s Destrier and Kimberella.

Don Poli was a two-time Cheltenham Festival winner in his racing days
Don Poli was a two-time Cheltenham Festival winner in his racing days (Nick Potts/PA)

The Jockey Club is the title sponsor of the event for the first time, and Aintree clerk of the course Sulekha Varma said: “We are delighted to welcome back the RoR National Championships to the Aintree International Equine Centre in 2021, and it is fantastic that the Jockey Club is now extending its support to become the headline sponsor of the event.

“It is great to see some familiar names among the entries, including Yorkhill and Don Poli who both enjoyed some great days here at Aintree.

“Retraining of Racehorses plays an absolutely vital role in the racing industry, and it is a great honour for Aintree to stage its flagship event and publicise the outstanding work it undertakes.”

Di Arbuthnot, chief executive of Retraining of Racehorses, added: “Due to the work that goes into preparing these horses for the championships, combined with the location, there is a special atmosphere and camaraderie across the four days of the event. We missed it last year – and along with more than 250 former racehorses, we are very much looking forward to returning to Aintree this week.

“Our thanks to the Jockey Club, the new title sponsor of the RoR National Championships. We greatly value their support for RoR generally – and this event in particular, which represents an opportunity to demonstrate the outstanding care given to former racehorses in this country, together with the range of opportunities open to them.”

Aintree announce Sefton switch

Aintree’s Grand Sefton Handicap Chase, one of five races staged over the famous Grand National fences each season, will now be contested in November.

The two-mile-five-furlong contest has been run as part of the track’s December meeting since its revival in 2003, starring alongside the longer Becher Chase which is also run over the National fences.

However, it will now move to a slot a month earlier, highlighting the November meeting at the track.

Aintree’s clerk of the course Sulekha Varma said: “By moving the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase forward a month to the November meeting there are now three fixtures a year where the Grand National fences are utilised, with the Becher Handicap Chase following at the December meeting and then the three contests at Randox Grand National Festival in April.

“We felt that the November meeting at Aintree lacked a highlight and this move should hopefully give it a boost. It always feels extra special at our fixtures when the famous Grand National fences are in use and it is exciting that the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase will now have its own billing.

“By having the opportunity to run a horse over the Grand National fences at a different time of year, we also hoping that moving the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase forward a month will assist trainers in their planning for the Randox Grand National Festival.”

Trainer Jamie Snowden saddled Hogan’s Height to victory in the 2019 Grand Sefton and the Lambourn handler believes the switch will open up the option for horses to go on and contest the Becher.

He said: “I think this is a sensible move, as it means that it will now be possible to run a horse in the Grand Sefton and then go on to the Becher the following month.

“I wonder if the possibility of having a bonus for a horse that can win the Grand Sefton, Becher and Grand National could ever be an option in the future.

“Hogan’s Height is being aimed at the Grand Sefton once again and I am also considering the race as an option for Thomas Macdonagh.”