DUAL winner Silver By Nature features among some fascinating names in the 18 entries for Saturday’s Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock.
Lucinda Russell’s grey took the 2010 and 2011 renewals but has not been seen since finishing 12th in that year’s Grand National at Aintree. But among potential rivals are last year’s winner Giles Cross as well as Monbeg Dude and Teaforthree, who fought out a thrilling Welsh National at Chepstow.
Venetia Williams’ Rigadin De Beauchene, who took Warwick’s Classic Chase, will be another leading contender, along with Cannington Brook, winner of the Tommy Whittle Chase at the Lancashire course before Christmas. Others of interest will be Gary Moore’s lightly-raced Sussex National winner Well Refreshed, Brian Ellison’s stayer Neptune Equester, Viking Blond and Evan Williams’ National hope Cappa Bleu. Williams has, though, warned last year’s Aintree fourth may well warm up with a run elsewhere.
Another one of Russell’s stable stars, Tap Night, is on a recovery mission at Ayr today, as long as the Craigie course survives a morning inspection, with temperatures having been expected to plummet overnight.
Despite back-to-back victories over fences Tap Night could only finish fourth in a hot little contest at Musselburgh nine days ago, and the stable is aiming the JP McManus-owned six-year-old at a novice chase today presumably in the hope of a quick confidence booster. AP McCoy makes the long jounrey for the ride, one of two runners he is booked to partner today – the other being Tim Easterby’s Deepsand in the opening novice hurdle.
Hallmark Star ran a decent at Ayr on his second start over timber to suggest he is fancied go one better back at the track today.
Russell gives the former Gerald Butler-trained gelding the opportunity of making it third time lucky in the BetVictor Wlsh Open Final Frame Insurance Maiden Hurdle.
Hallmark Star improved plenty from his Wetherby debut to run Veloce to a length and a half last time and can gain due reward.
Salut Honore can bounce back from a fall at this track to win the Breathe Spa Lingfield Marriott Handicap Chase.
The Alex Hales-trained seven-year-old only got as far as the second fence in a four-horse affair won by Double Dash, but he is better judged on his previous run at Uttoxeter. He had virtually come home alone, by 43 lengths, from the only other finisher when four horses started.
• Grands Crus still has the Ladbrokes World Hurdle and Ryanair Chase as his possible Cheltenham Festival targets as the grey recovers from an ulcer problem. Third in the King George VI Chase after having a breathing operation, the eight-year-old ran poorly once again when pulled up in the Argento Chase at Cheltenham last month.
Trainer David Pipe told his website: “He was given an easy time of things after his race while we tried to get to the bottom of his lacklustre effort and he is now being treated for gastric ulcers. He is back on the gallops and looks well in himself so I will need to speak with his owners and decide the plan of action. “Tomorrow [Tuesday] there is a forfeit stage for the Gold Cup, Ryanair Chase and World Hurdle and I can inform you that he will be scratched from the Gold Cup but will be left in both the Ryanair Chase and World Hurdle.”
Pipe’s horses ran well all weekend and he confirmed Swing Bowler could be given the option of the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle after her fine effort behind My Tent Or Yours in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. His two Exeter winners, Vieux Lion Rouge and The Liquidator, are in contention for the Champion Bumper, while Broadway Buffalo remains unbeaten after his hurdling debut at Newcastle. Pipe said of Broadway Buffalo: “His jumping improved as the race went on and by the time they reached the long Newcastle straight he was pinging his hurdles.
“With the right horses coming to the forefront, the way in which he comfortably drew 17 lengths clear of his rivals bodes well for the future. He is entered in the Neptune Investment Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.”