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Monday, October 20, 2003


Aintree reopens for business on Sunday, October 26, with some excellent action in prospect after today's five-day entry stage for the six-race programme sponsored by George Ward's Grunwick Group.

This fixture has been named Spooky Sunday' for a Halloween-themed day with attractions including an illusionist show, ghost train, Halloween land train, face painting, balloon modelling and roaming ghostly entertainments.

Sunday's feature, the £25,000-added bonusprint.com Handicap Chase (2.45pm), over two miles and four furlongs, has attracted an excellent 23 entries with the weights likely to be headed by Idaho D'Ox, winner of his last four starts for Martin Pipe, followed closely by Midland Flame, who has not run since winning the Martell Cognac Novices' Handicap Chase at Aintree in April.

The Heather Dalton-trained Quality First, was another to run well at the Liverpool course earlier in the year when sixth behind Clan Royal in the Martell Cognac Sainsbury's Topham Chase.

"The bonusprint.com Handicap Chase is the intended target for Quality First," said Dalton. "It depends a little bit on the ground as we were hoping to go to Wetherby last week when all the chases were cancelled and the ground was too firm. He's possibly best with a bit of cut but as long as it's genuine good ground at Aintree then I think he'll be alright on that.

"He's done well over the summer and he's definitely ready to run. He's a quirky horse who refused to race last time out at Bangor but as long as he puts his best foot forward then I think he's in top form.

Reflecting on the Un Desperado gelding's effort in the Topham, Dalton continued: "I thought it was a brilliant run and it was just a shame that Davy Russell [jockey] hadn't had the opportunity to ride him previously or that Chocolate' Thornton wasn't able to ride him.

"If Chocolate had chosen to ride him or Davy had been able to ride him before then they would have known him better because basically he came cruising there and hit the front at the last and of course stuck his head in the air and said: I don't do the front thank-you. So he put the brakes on, the little monkey!

"Davy Russell or Chocolate' Thornton will hopefully ride on Sunday as they both get on with him really well now."

Trainer Ferdy Murphy believes that he has Ichi Beau in tip-top condition for the bonusprint.com Handicap Chase following a third to Hit Royal at Huntingdon in September.

"Ichi Beau is a definite runner and he'll come on for his run at Huntingdon which he needed," said the North Yorkshire trainer. "We hadn't finished the gallop here. We now have a new five and a half furlong Eurotrack gallop and he's been on that and is spot on and ready now.

"He just blew up in the last furlong at Huntingdon because we hadn't been able to get as much work into him as we would have liked on account of the firm ground up here.

"He wants good or better ground - he wouldn't want it to go softer. It went soft at Huntingdon, they had 22mm of rain that morning and there were soft patches, that doesn't suit him as he wants good, fast ground. We're desperate for rain at the moment but we don't want it at Aintree!"

Sunday's feature contest is well-supported by the £11,000-added Doubleprint Novices' Chase (2.15pm), over three miles and one furlong, which has attracted 15 entries.

Whereareyounow has been entered by Nigel Twiston-Davies, who unlike Murphy is hoping for some rain in the next few days.

"I don't know if Whereareyounow will go to Aintree as I want some rain," said Twiston-Davies. "If it comes, and some people say it will come this week while others say that it won't, then we could run there."

Whereareyounow was unplaced behind Royal Predica on his last start in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, having put in a number of promising starts in novice company earlier in the campaign.

"He's done very well and he's great. The idea was to put him away after Cheltenham to keep his novice status for this season," added the Gloucestershire trainer.

Andrew Tulloch, Aintree's Clerk of the Course, said today: "This is a record entry and naturally we are delighted that so many of the leading trainers have entries at this meeting.

"We trust that this will end up in competitive fields and hope this reflects our policy to produce ground no faster than good."


The second, third, fourth and sixth placed horses in the Cheltenham Gold Cup earlier this year are included in the entries unveiled today for the Grade 1 James Nicholson Wine Merchant Champion Chase at the Northern Ireland Festival of Racing staged at Down Royal on November 7th & 8th.

The second day feature has attracted Gold Cup runner-up Trucker's Tavern, Harbour Pilot, Valley Henry and Commanche Court in addition to Irish Chasing Star, Beef or Salmon and Galway Plate winner, Nearly A Moose.

Somerset trainer Paul Nicholls is doubly represented having entered both Valley Henry and Sleeping Night, the latter having joined the Nicholls team and is a multiple jumps winner in France, while on his two starts in Britain finished runner up to Baracouda over hurdles and filled the position behind Sackville on his British chasing debut. See More Business finished runner up in the Ulster Festival showcase race last year for the top British trainer who again intends to target a small high profile team the Down Royal Festival which is the Flagship Promotion of the Northern Ireland Events Company.

Entries Grade 1 ( 140,000) James Nicholson Wine Merchant Champion Chase:

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