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Teillee and Mesnil feature among 15 seeking National Trial gold

Ramses De Teillee tops the weights as Lord Du Mesnil remains on course to try to go one better than last year in Haydock’s William Hill Grand National Trial Handicap Chase.

Richard Hobson’s Randox Grand National entry, just outdone by shock winner Smooth Stepper here 12 months ago, is among 15 confirmations for Saturday’s Grade Three handicap over an extended three and a half miles.

Lord Du Mesnil, last seen when only ninth in the rescheduled Welsh Grand National at Chepstow six weeks ago, is joined among the Haydock possibles by several old rivals.

Nicky Martin’s The Two Amigos was in front of him as runner-up at Chepstow, but could manage only a distant fourth in this race last year.

David Pipe’s Ramses De Teillee, winner of the Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle on this card 12 months ago, was a long way behind both Lord Du Mesnil and The Two Amigos at Chepstow.

Also still in the reckoning this time are the lightly-raced Sojourn, runner-up here in December for Anthony Honeyball, Fergal O’Brien’s veteran Perfect Candidate, Alan King’s Warwick Classic Handicap Chase hero Notachance and ex-French Ascot winner Enqarde, for Dr Richard Newland.

Enqarde also has the option of heading back to Ascot for another three-mile handicap on Saturday, but his trainer is favouring both the left-handed track and move up in distance.

“It will probably be Haydock,” said Newland.

“He did jump slightly left (at Ascot), and I just think also the extra trip will probably suit him.

“Obviously, three miles (and) four furlongs on very heavy ground at Haydock is going to be hard work for any horse.

“But yes, he’s in good form, so I can’t see why we wouldn’t have a go at it.”

There are 13 in the mix for the Prestige, with Jeremy Scott’s dual Wincanton winner Sizable Sam and Young Buck, for Paul Nicholls, catching the eye.

Jennie Candlish’s Mint Condition, a narrow runner-up at Warwick last time, also has an alternative entry in the other Grade Two on the card – the William Hill Rendlesham Hurdle.

In potential opposition there, among 13 entries, are last year’s winner Emitom – for Warren Greatrex – shock 2020 Stayers Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar, for Rebecca Curtis, and Pipe’s course-and-distance winner Main Fact.

Pipe launches dual attack on rescheduled Cleeve prize

David Pipe fires a two-pronged assault with mud lovers Main Fact and Ramses De Teillee in the William Hill Cleeve Hurdle at Wetherby on Saturday.

The Grade Two contest was rescheduled after Cheltenham was abandoned last weekend and it has an open look about it with Paisley Park not making the journey to West Yorkshire.

Main Fact was well-beaten behind Paisley Park in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, but Pipe felt he ran below par that day and is expecting a better performance.

Main Fact had won his previous nine races, six over jumps and three on the Flat, and had seen his hurdles rating rocket from 98 to 154.

Main Fact bids to get back to winning ways
Main Fact bids to get back to winning ways (Tim Goode/PA)

“Main Fact should like conditions. I’m not sure he put his true run in last time, so going back left-handed will suit and hopefully he has a chance,” said the Nicholashayne handler.

“Maybe he had an off-day at Ascot or that is as good as he is. We’ll find out this time.”

Ramses De Teillee won a pair of Grade Two novice hurdles last spring and switches back to the smaller obstacles after three runs over fences following a fruitless trip to Auteuil for the French Champion Hurdle in October.

“He’s a hard horse to place nowadays, so we thought we’d try him back over hurdles. He did well over hurdles last year,” said Pipe.

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Ramses De Teillee won over fences at Cheltenham back in November
Ramses De Teillee won over fences at Cheltenham back in November (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Again, he won’t mind the ground. Track and conditions should suit.

“They’ve both got their flippers on!”

Olly Murphy is giving Itchy Feet a confidence-boosting run over the smaller obstacles after he burst a blood vessel on his last start over fences at Ascot in December.

The Stratford trainer has been pleased the way Itchy Feet has been schooling and believes the seven-year-old has each-way claims.

Itchy Feet is having a confidence-boosting run over hurdles
Itchy Feet is having a confidence-boosting run over hurdles (Steve Paston/PA)

“He’s in good nick. He’s obviously reverting to hurdling and will hopefully get his confidence back,” he said.

“He’s a horse with a big engine and if things go right, he has a good each-way chance.

“He just didn’t jump with any fluency at Ascot. He just had a bleed on his last run.

“I just thought it (reverting to hurdles) was the right thing to do. If he had another fright over fences we might be in all sorts of bother, so that’s why we’re back over hurdles. He’s been schooling well. All his form reads well.”

Nigel Twiston-Davies has put Ballyoptic back over hurdles
Nigel Twiston-Davies has put Ballyoptic back over hurdles (David Davies/PA)

Ballyoptic also reverts to hurdling as he bids to win a third big prize at the West Yorkshire track.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained gelding has won a Charlie Hall Chase and the Towton Novices’ Chase, but has made little show in three starts this term.

“He’s won a Charlie Hall at Wetherby and we’re looking forward to taking him back,” he said.

“He hasn’t run over hurdles in a long time, but we’re struggling to find races for him at the moment – where do you go with a horse rated as high as he is?”

On The Blind Side was not in the original race last weekend, but his trainer Nicky Henderson has given the go-ahead for the nine-year-old to take his chance a week later.

Henderson told Unibet: “He really is in a rich vein of form and hasn’t put a foot wrong at all since winning one of those jumpers’ bumpers at Newcastle around this time last year.

“I really like the way he knuckled down to win at Market Rasen last time when conceding 4lb to Lil Rockerfeller.

“This looks a decent race, but conditions are right for him and I’m hopeful of a big run.”

Vieux Lion Rouge out to extend unique Aintree record

David Pipe’s Vieux Lion Rouge returns to Aintree for the William Hill Becher Chase – and what will be his ninth run over the famous Grand National fences.

Winner of the Becher Chase in 2016, the 11-year-old has completed the course every time he has turned up on Merseyside – which includes four attempts in the big race itself.

He finished sixth behind One For Arthur in 2017 and has also been second in the 2018 Becher to Walk In The Mill, who will bid for a hat-trick on Saturday.

“Vieux Lion Rouge has jumped more Grand National fences than any other horse – 202,” said Pipe.

“He’s run in four Grand Nationals, four Bechers and he lights up to the occasion – and he actually jumps those fences better than the normal park fences.

“While he’s not getting any younger, he’s in great form at home, and for both of mine the more rain the better before Saturday.”

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Pipe is also set to run the fancied Ramses De Teillee, who won at Cheltenham first time out this season.

“We haven’t worked out who rides him (Vieux Lion Rouge) yet, but whoever does will no doubt be in for a wonderful ride,” Pipe added, in a call hosted by Great British Racing.

“Tom (Scudamore) will ride Ramses De Teillee after his great run at Cheltenham the other day.

“Obviously there won’t be the same amount of people as normal, but Vieux Lion Rouge knows the occasion. He knows the paddock – and once he gets shown the first fence, he knows what it is all about.

“I don’t know why he is better over these fences, but his track record tells you that he is.

Ramses De Teillee (left) came out on top in a battle with Yala Enki at Cheltenham
Ramses De Teillee (left) came out on top in a battle with Yala Enki at Cheltenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We’ve had both horses since they were four. Ramses is only eight, (and) I keep thinking he’s older than what he is – he loves soft ground, he battled well at Cheltenham and came out of that race extremely well.

“Obviously he ran in the Grand National last year – and while it said he didn’t complete what happened was at the Canal Turn second time round one of his reins broke and he did actually finish but just on one rein.

“We watched the video of the 2019 National with his owners, John White and Anne Underhill, to decide whether to come here or the Welsh National.

“He made mistakes at the third and fourth – but apart from that he jumped everything else very well, and we think it warrants having another go.

“Ramses would have to be the stronger fancy of the two – he’s going there in good form, which is why he’s running on Saturday, to strike while the iron is hot rather than wait another month (for the Welsh National), because you never know what is around the corner.”

Pipe has his own experience in the saddle over the famous fences as an amateur – having ridden Aherlow Glen for his father Martin in the 1993 Fox Hunters’.

“I stupidly rode over the fences in the Fox Hunters’ and finished nearly last,” he said.

“I had a great thrill. The tapes went up, and they went so quick I got left behind.

“There was a poor lady at the side of the rail taking pictures, which you were allowed to in those days. My dad asked her to take a picture of us – she was a complete stranger but she very kindly sent a picture in the post.”