BERTIE Milan faces 11 rivals at Perth today as he bids to land the big race for the second year running.
Trainer Nick Alexander also saddles Wicklow Lad in the £20,000 G A Engineering Group Highland National Handicap Chase over 3m 7f.
He said: “Bertie wasn’t running so well before Christmas but improved with the visor back when second at Musselburgh in January. This has been his target ever since and it would be nice to win it again.
“Ideally Wicklow Lad would prefer softer ground. He ran a big race in the Eider and this represents a drop in class.”
Opposition for the locally-trained pair include Henry Daly’s top-weight Grove Pride who gained a one-length success off the same mark at Taunton last month.
Donald McCain is within two of another seasonal century after Witness In Court landed the Old Mout Cider Handicap Chase yesterday to give Wayne Hutchinson his first Perth victory.
Adrian Lane, representing McCain, said: “He deserved that as he was going well when unseating at Valentines in the Topham at Aintree. This better ground helped and this is his time of year.”
Matt Griffiths was also recording his maiden course success when guiding Gunna Be A Devil home for Jeremy Scott in the Turley Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase. “I’d say he’s unlikely to run in the Highland National on Friday as he’s had quite a hard race on deadish ground,” Griffiths said. “It was quite an eventful race and both my previous two rides here came second. His jumping kept him in it as the track was plenty sharp enough.”
Appropriately enough there was a Hawick winner of the Bill McLaren “Voice Of Rugby” Hunters Chase which went to the Gavin Hamilton-trained Wayupinthesky.
Meanwhile, Davy Condon has been forced to retire from the saddle due to a spinal injury. Condon was riding Portrait King in the Grand National at Aintree when he fell at the third last, leaving him with a spinal concussion. It was the second time within a year that he suffered a similar injury.
Condon had resigned himself to the fact he would be out of action for a lengthy period of time but after seeing a specialist on Wednesday he has been advised to call time on his career.
Dr Adrian McGoldrick, chief medical officer of the Irish Turf Club, issued a statement on behalf of Condon which read: “Davy Condon suffered a spinal injury in a fall during the Grand National at Aintree. This was on the background of a previous spinal concussion from which he had recovered fully and had been passed fit to ride by our consultant neurologist. Davy was reviewed yesterday by Dr Brian Murray, consultant neurologist, on behalf of the Turf Club.
“Dr Murray has recommended that Davy retire from horse riding, be it professional or recreational, due to the risk of further spinal injury. Davy has fully accepted the medical advice and will be liaising with the Irish Jockeys’ Trust with a view to future career options.”
Condon’s best days in the saddle in recent years came when riding for Gordon Elliott and the trainer was quick to take to Twitter to pay tribute to him.
“Very sad to say that Davy Condon has been forced to retire from racing due to injury,” said Elliott. “Davy has been an integral part of the team and has ridden some of the biggest winners I have had in my short career.”
Condon’s last major win came at Ascot in The Ladbroke on the Elliott-trained Bayan, which was only his third ride back since the first bad back injury he suffered in August.