Posts

National weights – what they say

Trainer Tom Lacey – Kimberlite Candy (10st 10lb)

Tom Lacey has high hopes for Kimberlite Candy
Tom Lacey has high hopes for Kimberlite Candy (Steven Paston/PA)

“From an early age we joked and said he could be a Grand National horse as he was such an accurate jumper and that seed was sown in the Becher Chase first time out when he wasn’t beaten far by Walk In The Mill.

“The winner of this year’s Becher (Vieux Lion Rouge) hosed up, but I was still satisfied with the run of Kimberlite Candy. He feels like the finished article now.

“He has not done much wrong over park fences but he has jumped very impressively around there (Aintree) twice in the Becher and he seems to be very slick over them. All he needs is that bit of juice in the ground with an April shower or two.

“The Grand National has been the target from the moment he walked back in the yard this season. I’d like to think he can go there with a real live chance.”

Trainer Willie Mullins – Burrows Saint (10st 13lb), Acapella Bourgeois (10st 12lb), Brahma Bull (10st 8lb), Class Conti (10st 6lb), Cabaret Queen (10st 5lb), Robin Des Foret (10st 5lb), Saturnas (9st 13lb), Bellow Mome (9st 2lb)

Burrows Saint on his way to winning the Irish Grand National
Burrows Saint on his way to winning the Irish Grand National (PA)

“The Grand National is what we’ve been aiming for now for the last 24 months with Burrows Saint. He’s got a nice racing weight on 10st 13lb – we can’t complain about that.

“He’s yet to really come into form for me (this season), but I’m hoping that we can do that in the near future. We’ve got a few runs into him and the ground has been unusually heavy – I think he’s always better on spring ground.

“He could have another run before (Aintree). The Bobbyjo (Chase, Fairyhouse, February 28) is usually our preferred route, so both he and Acapella Bourgeois could go there.

“Acapella is getting on now as an 11-year-old and might be past his best, but we’ll see how he gets on in the Bobbyjo.

“I’m happy enough with Brahma Bull’s weight. He’ll love the trip I think and keep jumping away.

“I thought Class Conti ran a cracker in the Thyestes Chase (finished third), so that’s him coming back to form.

“Cabaret Queen was disappointing in the Thyestes and she will definitely have another run, while hopefully Robin Des Foret will just squeeze in.

“I think we’ll probably have to start looking for an alternative for Saturnas, maybe the Irish National, as he’ll need luck to get in.

“Bellow Mome has got no hope of getting in, so we’ll be going down the handicap route I’m sure as well.”

Trainer Paul Nicholls – Yala Enki (11st 3lb), Give Me Copper (10st 4lb), Shantou Flyer (9st 7lb)

Paul Nicholls views Yala Enki (right) as a legitimate National contender
Paul Nicholls views Yala Enki (right) as a legitimate National contender (Julian Herbert/PA)
Your first 30 days for just £1

“The horse I’d love to run is Yala Enki and I’ve got to sweet-talk his owners into letting him run.

“To be fair to him he did fall at the first in the Becher, but that might not all be lost on him as he woke up fairly quickly and he jumped round loose afterwards very well.

“He is an experienced horse and he has been round everywhere. To me he is the ideal horse for the National.

“Give Me A Copper was a bit disappointing when he ran at Doncaster the other day and is not the easiest horse to train. The biggest challenge I’ve got to be honest with you is getting him there – it will be like a winner if he gets there.

“Shantou Flyer won’t get in the race.”

Trainer Nicky Henderson – Santini (11st 10lb), Beware The Bear (10st 10lb), Pym (10st 10lb), OK Corral (10st 8lb), Gold Present (10st 2lb), Valtor (9st 13lb)

Beware The Bear will bid to provide Nicky Henderson with a first Grand National win
Beware The Bear will bid to provide Nicky Henderson with a first Grand National win (Nigel French/PA)

“I’ve gone for the scattergun approach this year! The two that are most likely to go for the race are Beware The Bear and OK Corral, though Pym is another possible.

“I’m not saying I would retire on the spot if I won it, as I wouldn’t, but it would be awfully nice to win the race. It’s a very special race and goes a long way back in history – it would be sad if I didn’t manage to win it at some point.

“We’ve left Santini in it as this is something he ought to be trying at some stage of his career. The aim is the Gold Cup, as it was last season, but one day we would like to have a crack at it as his game is staying and he is built for the fences.

“You never know what can happen. He could fall at the first in the Gold Cup, or go lame on the day then be fine the next day and miss the Gold Cup. Then you would have to think about running him in the National.

“We’ve still got to do a bit of work with Ok Corral, but we’ve got time. He looks like a good stayer and was going for the race last year until it was cancelled. I think 10st 8lb looks a good weight.

“We’ve given Beware The Bear a break over the winter and he looks as fresh as paint. He is about to have a run in the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster and proper staying trips are what he wants.

“Pym is definitely a possible. He stays all day and he is a pretty level, easy sort of horse.

“Valtor would run if he gets in and Gold Present has jumped well around there in a Topham – he just needs good ground.”

Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies – Bristol De Mai (11st 10lb), Ballyoptic (11st 1lb), Crievehill (9st 11lb), The Hollow Ginge (9st 11lb) and Flying Angel (9st 10lb)

Bristol De Mai is at the head of the weights
Bristol De Mai is at the head of the weights (Clint Hughes/PA)

“Bristol De Mai would have run in the race last year – we have just simply delayed it by 12 months. There is no reason why he can’t carry top-weight as he has the class to.

“I’m not worried about the ground as it will never be fast so that isn’t going to be a problem. He galloped them all into the ground over three miles in heavy ground at Haydock so I think he will get the trip as he is a real stayer.

“Ballyoptic has not had the best of seasons, but he has now come down the weights a little bit which is good. The plan is to run him at the weekend where he holds entries at Ascot in the race he won last year and the Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock.

“If Crievehill got in we would have a look it, but I think he will struggle, as will the other two.”

Trainer Christian Williams – Potters Corner (10st 6lb), Cap Du Nord (9st 13lb)

Potters Corner after winning the Welsh Grand National
Potters Corner after winning the Welsh Grand National (David Davies/PA)

“It’s been a quiet season for Potters Corner up until now, with everything geared towards Cheltenham and Aintree.

“Last year the main aim was the Welsh National while this time it is Aintree, so we’re just prepping him for the latter half of the season.

“He was a bit disappointing at Exeter on Sunday and I’m going to take a blood sample off him and scope him. It was a hurdle race, so perhaps he just needs those bigger fences now to spark him.

“The plan is to go for the cross-country race at Cheltenham followed by Aintree, so there’s no big panic yet.

“Cap Du Nord could be quite exciting and the unexposed one. He ran really well to finish third in soft ground at Doncaster last time – and on better ground I think it would have been a different result.

“He could be a lively type if he sneaks in.”

Trainer Jessica Harrington – Magic Of Light (10st 13lb), Jett (10st 7lb)

Magic Of Light finished second in the 2019 Grand National
Magic Of Light finished second in the 2019 Grand National (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Magic Of Light is off a fair mark. I think she’s lower than she was going to be last year and is 2lb better off with Tiger Roll.

“All roads lead to Aintree. I’m not quite sure where she’s going to run next as I don’t want to run her on heavy ground, but she may come to Cheltenham to run at the Festival.”

Trainer Ted Walsh – Any Second Now (10st 9lb)

Any Second Now represents Ted Walsh
Any Second Now represents Ted Walsh (Paul Harding/PA)

“That’s roughly around what I thought he would get, so I’m happy enough with the weight – it’s much the same as what he had last year.

“I was disappointed with him when he ran in the Thyestes Chase, but Mark (Walsh) said he didn’t handle the very heavy ground and pulled him up. I’ll run him again either at Naas or at Fairyhouse in two weeks’ time.

“The trip won’t be a problem, the only problem will be whether he takes to the Aintree fences or not. Some horses love it – the 40 runners and the hustle and bustle of it – and some don’t and I hope he’s one of those who’ll relish it.”

Top golfer and part-owner Lee Westwood – Bellshill (10st 10lb)

Bellshill is part-owned by professional golfer Lee Westwood
Bellshill is part-owned by professional golfer Lee Westwood (Brian Lawless/PA)

“The Grand National is very high up in my affections. For people in horse racing it is very high up, but I think for people who don’t watching racing regularly it is probably the most famous race of all.

“It’s a bit like the Ryder Cup in a way – the majors draw in all the fanatical golf followers, but the Ryder Cup pulls in sport followers and I’d say the Grand National is the same.

“Sandy Thomson (trainer) is great with these older racehorses. Getting an old-ish horse like Bellshill there is an even bigger achievement and if he races you just want him to come back safe and sound.

“Just see him jump the fences would be a real buzz if it happens.”

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.”

Honour takes Lingfield Glory

Glory And Honour moved a step closer to an outing at the Cheltenham Festival after proving a cut above his rivals at Lingfield.

The Tom Lacey-trained five-year-old had little trouble following up his November success over hurdles at Huntingdon in the first division of the Follow At The Races On Twitter “Jumpers Bumper” National Hunt Flat Race.

Maintaining a handy position throughout, the 8-13 shot quickly put the race to bed when sent on by Richard Johnson down the home straight, crossing the line eight and a half lengths clear of runner-up My Boy James.

Lacey said: “He hasn’t done much wrong in all fairness as he bumped into two nice ones when he got beat in Any News and Isolate.

“Jerry Hinds, who owns half of him with Ashley Head, is very ambitious and he would love to find a handicap hurdle at Cheltenham in March if we can.

“He is clearly a stout stayer given the way he has run out there. Maybe we could look at the County Hurdle or the Martin Pipe. He has got a great temperament to handle either race.”

Glory And Honour was introduced at 25-1 for the County Hurdle by Paddy Power.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Whitlock and Nico de Boinville storm to glory at Lingfield (Alan Crowhurst/PA Images)
Whitlock and Nico de Boinville storm to glory at Lingfield (Alan Crowhurst/PA Images)

Too Darn Hot’s former lead horse Whitlock secured his first success since joining Nicky Henderson when obliging by a length and a quarter in the second division of the two-mile prize.

Nico de Boinville, winning rider, said: “We will have to go back to the drawing board now as he has answered a few questions, but created some more.”

Rose Of Aghaboe (5-2) continued to go up in the estimations of trainer Nick Gifford when rallying close home to deny Now Children by a neck in the Sky Sports Racing On Sky 415 “Jumpers’ Bumper” National Hunt Flat Race.

Gifford said: “I was getting a little bit worried when Tabitha (Worsley, rider) was scrubbing him along half a mile out, but all she does is stay though.

“You can see when she is in front she doesn’t like getting beat, she really puts her head down and that was her third win this season.

“We’ve got a soft spot for her after she won the race named after dad (Josh) at Plumpton. ”

Joe Tuite received more than he bargained with stable stalwart Black Kalanisi (7-1), who ran out a two-and-a-half-length winner of the Watch Sky Sports Racing In HD “Jumpers Bumper” National Hunt Flat Race.

He said: “It was better than expected, though I did think it might pan out that way. I told Daryl (Jacob, jockey) just to take his time and sit in behind and wait for the openings.

“We will go back over fences with him now, but I need decent ground and if we can’t find any we will wait until the spring when it dries out a bit.”

City Derby made amends for unseating Paddy Brennan on his debut at Hereford when getting up by length in the Visit attheraces.com Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race to initiate an across the card double for Fergal O’Brien.

The winning trainer, speaking away from the track, said of the 3-1 shot: “It was hard to say if he would have won at Hereford, but the way he has won today, you would have thought he would have been there or thereabouts.

“He picked up a little injury after that race as he got loose and ran into a rail. I’m delighted for his owners as they have been very patient. He will make a lovely novice hurdler next season.”

Becky The Boo (1-2) completed O’Brien’s brace when becoming his 70th winner of the season in the EBF/Quinnbet Mares’ Standard National Hunt Flat Race at Newcastle.

Power and Lacey combine for Doncaster doubles

Trainer Tom Lacey teamed up with Robbie Power for a double with L’Incorrigible and Vado Forte at Doncaster.

Power had an instant reward for a rare visit to Town Moor when taking the opening bet365 Novices’ Hurdle on L’Incorrigible, who had been on the sidelines since winning a Warwick bumper in November 2018.

The five-year-old shrugged off his long absence to make a successful hurdles’ debut in encouraging fashion.

Always prominent, L’Incorrigible (100-30) was four and three-quarter lengths too good for Percy’s Word. Jack Sharp was a promising third three-quarters of a length away.

Lacey said: “He’s just a good horse. Any idiot can train a good horse. We’re just fortunate to have him.

“Obviously he’s had his problems. He had a stress fracture, then he had a tiny fracture of his pelvis. He’s been off a long time and his owners have been so patient, so it’s a grateful reward.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“We’ll give him a chance after such a long time off. He needs a chance to get over that and we’ll bring him along slowly. He’s got his life ahead of him now.”

Vado Forte (4-1 joint-favourite) bounced back from a below-par effort on unsuitable ground to get off the mark over fences at the ninth attempt in the Each Way Extra At bet365 Handicap Chase.

The seven-year-old collared Solar Impulse at the final obstacle and went on to win by two and three-quarter lengths.

“Robbie Dunne said at Chepstow the ground was holding and all his best runs have been on soft ground when he can get through it,” said Lacey.

“We thought Doncaster’s ground would be right up his street and it’s all come together.

“The horse deserved to win a race. He’s been so consistent without winning and it’s taken the handicapper a long time to drop him because of that.”

Rocky’s Treasure (17-2) landed his first success since the December Novices’ Chase on this card two years ago with a game display in the bet365 Handicap Chase.

The Kim Bailey-trained nine-year-old had led most of the way and briefly looked beaten when headed, but he rallied for David Bass to defeat Give Me A Copper by half a length.

Bass said: “He’s quite a funny horse and he can be in and out. Last year he had two bad experiences on almost unraceable ground and it took us a while to get him back to where he is now.

“I felt at Newbury he travelled well for a long way and was coming back to himself. He felt great today and was loving it in front.

“He’s got loads of ability and has some very good form.”

The Paul Nicholls-trained Wild Max (5-2) benefited from the fall of leader Mick Maestro at the third-last flight to land the bet365 Handicap Hurdle.

The five-year-old kept up the gallop to strike by nine and a half lengths from Twin Star to give 7lb-claiming amateur Angus Cheleda his ninth career win.

Cheleda said: “He’s travelled brilliantly. He was a bit keen if anything. He jumped really well.

“The faller didn’t help me. He was left in the lead a bit too soon, but he stuck it out well in the end.”

A second 7lb claiming amateur on the scoresheet was Joshua Newman, who guided Tipalong Tyler (15-2) home for trainer Kayley Woollacott in the bet365 Mares’ Handicap Hurdle.

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.”

Lacey sweet on Becher bid for Kimberlite Candy

Tom Lacey has another Becher Chase bid in mind for last year’s runner-up Kimberlite Candy.

The eight-year-old finished two and a half lengths behind dual Becher hero Walk In The Mill in the three-and-a-quarter-mile contest 12 months ago.

Lacey is now planning to return to Aintree on December 5 to take on the same race over the National fences.

“He’ll go for the Becher Chase, he’s in great nick, we’re really pleased with him,” he said.

“I’d have to refresh my memory, I think he went up for winning the Classic Chase and then he got another 2lb when The Conditional won at the Festival. That leaves him several pounds higher than he was going into the Becher Chase last season.”

Your first 30 days for just £1

After his Becher performance and an emphatic win in the Grade Three Classic Chase at Warwick, Lacey’s charge looked like a Grand National contender before the meeting was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Lacey has the marathon race pencilled in once again for the JP McManus-owned gelding, providing the Aintree going conditions are sufficiently soft.

“It would be the plan, but I think we’d be reliant on a wet spring,” he said.

“I think he would have run last year, it was drying up beforehand and the weather was just going against us initially, but they do a very good job of watering at Aintree.

“I think you see the best of him with some juice in the ground.”

Sebastopol (right) is heading for the Greatwood Hurdle
Sebastopol (right) is heading for the Greatwood Hurdle (Jeff Holmes/PA)

The Woolhope handler plans to give Scottish County Hurdle winner Sebastopol an outing in the Grade Three Unibet Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham on Sunday.

He said: “I’m very keen to have a go at the Greatwood with Sebastopol. If he is going to competitive this season, he has got to be in some of those decent handicap hurdles. He is immensely talented and I think ultimately we will end up going up in trip with him.

“A race like the Greatwood though, they will go flat out and it should be run to suit him.”

Stablemate Tea Clipper could bid to back up his Silver Trophy success from Chepstow at Cheltenham on Saturday.

Lacey added: “Tea Clipper could go to Cheltenham for the Listed hurdle there next weekend or we might wait for Haydock in what was the fixed brush hurdle.  I was really pleased with the way he picked up again at Chepstow.

“His hurdling probably needs to be slicker as he spends a lot of time in the air at his hurdles.

“Had he not won the Silver Trophy, we would have probably campaigned him over fences, but as he has won that we ought to campaign him over hurdles.”