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Tuesday, January 19, 2010



MON MOME UNFAZED BY SNOW AND LAST YEAR’S JOHN SMITH’S GRAND NATIONAL WINNER RUNS ON SATURDAY




Mon Mome remains on target for Aintree on Saturday, April 10, when he will attempt to become the first horse since Red Rum (1973 & 1974) to win back-to-back renewals of the John Smith’s Grand National.


The recent inclement weather has foiled trainer Venetia Williams’ plans for the 10-year-old, who has not raced since finishing a fine third to Tell Massini in a three-mile Grade Two novice hurdle at Cheltenham on December 12.

That came after he was pulled up behind Denman on his seasonal return in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in November.


Williams revealed: “The weather has disrupted Mon Mome’s schedule somewhat. I didn’t run him at Chepstow in the Welsh National because I felt the ground was still frosted and the alternative was supposed to be the Gold Cup at Warwick last Saturday (January 16) which he was placed in a couple of years ago. But that was abandoned.


“We are now planning to run him at Haydock this weekend (in the Peter Marsh Chase). The ground is going to be pretty testing which he needs if running over three miles on a flat track. I hope they don’t go that quick because I don’t want him disappointed.

“If you looked at how our horses have run since Saturday before our winner today, he does not have much chance! But I hope he runs a good race - it looks on paper like it will be a very competitive race. Our horses have seemed a bit behind - but you cannot do too much too soon.


“Mon Mome had a nice canter this morning and he will do some stronger work tomorrow. But we are playing catch up.


“There is every chance he will join Miko De Beauchene at Haydock again for the Haydock Park Gold Cup next month (February 20). He is entered in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham which is not a target but an option.

“The snow has disrupted his work but that doesn’t affect him in the long term, with regard to Aintree - that’s a long way away. He himself is not bothered at all by the snow.


“He can be grumpy in his box but he’s a very happy chap out of it and the snow hasn’t made any difference in that respect. I have been very pleased with him so far this season

“Vida (Bingham - Mon Mome’s owner) kindly allowed her horse to be paraded all summer. I was rather worried when he went to racecourse for the first time this season because he might have thought that all he had to do was show up, ponce around the paddock a couple of times, have his photograph taken, do a couple of pony rides and then go home.


“I was concerned that he might have forgotten how to race. But he ran very well in a hurdle race at Cheltenham last month. He knows he is very much a racehorse, not a show pony.”

Following Jenny Pitman, successful with Corbiere (1983) and Royal Athlete (1995), Williams became the second woman to train the winner of John Smith’s Grand National when the Vida Bingham-owned Mon Mome won well at 100/1 - the joint longest odds ever - on Saturday, April 4, 2009.


The Herefordshire handler also saddled Stan in last year’s running of the four and a half mile showpiece, with the Paul Beck-owned 11-year-old falling at the seventh. After a brief spell in the care of Tim Vaughan, Stan returned to Williams’ yard recently.


She commented: “Stan has just come back into the yard a few days ago so it’s a bit early to say where he’s going at this stage. He had a nasty fall last year in the National and I would not want a repeat of that.”

Williams’ stable at King’s Caple in Herefordshire home to various potential challengers for the John Smith’s Grand National, which is worth a record £925,000 this year.

Ginolad has already won a Grand National - the VRC version at Flemington, Australia, in July, 2008 - although that race was over much smaller obstacles which have very little resemblance to Aintree’s Grand National fences covered in spruce.


The 10-year-old, who finished down the field in both the Pegasus Jump and the Grade One Nakayama Grand Jump at Nakayama, Japan, last spring, won decisively on his British debut at Fontwell on December 8.

Ridden by Aidan Coleman, Ginolad scored easily by a distance in a beginners’ chase over two and three quarter miles.


However, he finished a well-beaten third to Tazbar in a Huntingdon novice chase over an extended two and a half miles on Saturday (January 16).


Williams revealed: “I don’t think Ginolad is going to be a John Smith’s Gran National horse. I have yet to have the conversation with the Australian owners but if you saw the obstacles he jumped over there you would not be thinking about Becher’s Brook.”

Miko De Beauchene’s dodgy jumping last season means the recent Welsh National fourth may not be entered for the John Smith’s Grand National by the deadline of February 2 but stable companions Never So Blue, Officer De Reserve, Pretty Star and Flintoff could be put in though Williams considers they might have better chances in the 2011 renewal.


Williams commented: “They could be candidates for the John Smith’s Grand National this year or in the future.”

Mon Mome’s victory in the Grand National was a tremendous thrill for Williams, who saddled her first runner in the great race in 1997.

As an amateur rider in 1988, she was knocked unconscious when her mount Marcolo came down at Becher’s Brook. Prior to securing a famous victory last year, the trainer had saddled 12 runners, with Mon Mome’s 10th place in the 2008 renewal her best previous position.


“Amazing, fantastic and wonderful. It was a complete feeling of elation when he crossed the line and an element of incredulity.


“I think in everybody’s mind, subsequently, it was a surprise that he went off at 100/1. In the lead-up to the race, he was about 33/1, which I think was probably where his mark was. But for some extraordinary reason he drifted right out in the betting.


“He can be quite game in his races but, having said that, he ran badly in his two outings before the National, which is probably why he went off at such a big price. He had actually put up a career best when he won a £100,000 race at Cheltenham in the December beforehand.


“Mon Mome’s Grand National win is certainly the pinnacle of my career to date. I did not have much luck in the race before he came along - I didn’t raise my hopes too high but I thought he had a squeak.

“I was pleased with the way he jumped around the previous year but he got badly hampered at Becher’s second time around and was not able to get back into the front rank thereafter but there was plenty of promise to be gleaned from that run.”

The trainer hosted a John Smith’s Grand National stable visit for the media today at her Aramstone yard near King’s Caple.


She paraded eight horses Atouchbetweenacara, Never So Blue, Miko De Beauchene, Officer De Reserve, Pretty Star, Something Wells, Flintoff and finally Mon Mome.


She commented about her stable star: “He is probably the most insignificant looking horse of the eight you have seen. He is small - he has a rather unusual action - and he is very wide behind.

“He is a very intelligent horse with abundant stamina and I think it is a combination of those two traits that had him streaking away from everything after he jumped the last at Aintree.


“He certainly enjoyed Aintree last year. This year he is going to be pretty near the top of the weights. I don’t know what statistics will tell you but it seems a fair assumption that a big weight will slow down a smaller horse more than it would a horse like Miko De Beauchene.”


MATALAN EXTENDS ITS PARTNERSHIP WITH WORLD’S GREATEST STEEPLECHASE

Aintree Racecourse today announced at its annual visit to the Grand National winning trainers’ yard, that UK retail chain, Matalan, has extended its official partnership of the John Smith’s Grand National meeting for the 2010 meeting. Following on from a successful inaugural year, Matalan will take naming rights to two BBC televised races, the 2.35pm Matalan Anniversary 4YO Novices’ Hurdle on Thursday, April 8 and the 2.35pm matalan.co.uk Mildmay Novices’ Chase on Friday, April 9.


Matalan will also continue to work with Aintree as a fashion partner for the racecourse’s style competition, Style 2010. The contest, staged on Thursday and Friday of the meeting, will again see Aintree’s most stylish racegoer win an exclusive lifestyle prize, including a starring role in Matalan’s autumn fashion campaign, along with a trip to a top London Studio to be personally styled and directed by International Fashion Designer & Matalan Ambassador, Jeff Banks.


Matalan join title sponsor John Smith’s and betting partner Tote as supporters for the 2010 race meeting.

Commenting on the extension of the partnership, Julian Thick, Aintree’s Managing Director said, “We are delighted to be continuing our relationship with Matalan, who prove a great fit as a partner for the meeting. It is exciting to be working with a company which has such a large national presence, and is also a large employer in the North West.”

Matalan Chief Executive, Alistair McGeorge, commented, “Matalan is delighted to announce that it will be working for the second year in a row with Aintree as an official partner for the John Smith’s Grand National. As a leading UK fashion retailer, we will be its fashion partner for Style 2010 following the exceptional success of our partnership with it last year.”

“We are a national retailer with our roots locally, so we are particularly proud to be supporting such a high profile local event. We look forward to another successful partnership and enjoying the excitement the days bring.”


2010 JOHN SMITH’S GRAND NATIONAL UPDATE

With just over 11 weeks to go until the 2010 John Smith’s Grand National meeting gets underway (Thursday, April 8 -10), Aintree reported today that tickets and hospitality sales remain strong despite the global economic downturn.


As predicted, all seated enclosures have been very popular since going on sale in August (2009). However, selected grandstand seats are still available on all three days of the meeting, together with a selection of roof and terrace badges. Tattersalls tickets are available for all three days of the meeting.


Julian Thick, Aintree’s Managing Director, commented: “Sales have been particularly strong on the opening day of the meeting (Thursday, April 8), which in 2010 will see the inception of ‘Liverpool Day’. We have been pleased with demand for tickets and hospitality since going on sale last August and we have held many ticket prices from 2009, which has been well received by our customers.”

The racecourse advises anyone who wishes to attend any day of the John Smith’s Grand National meeting, to purchase their desired option in advance to avoid disappointment. Tickets can be purchased online at www.aintree.co.uk, or by calling the Ticket Hotline on 0844 579 3001. Hospitality enquiries should call 0151 522 2911.


With John Smith’s sponsorship of the famous race extended for a further three years beyond 2010, Aintree and John Smith’s look forward to developing some exciting joint initiatives.


Gareth Turner, Senior Brand Manager - John Smith’s, said: “It is a very exciting period for John Smith’s Racing. In addition to our earlier announcements about Smithy the Horse, we are working with Aintree to launch a Grand National Hall of Fame in 2010.

“John Smith's 'Grand National Legends' will celebrate the stars of the Grand National - Equine and Human. A shortlist of legends will be announced at the Official Launch of the 2010 John Smith’s Grand National in London on Tuesday, February 16, when we will announce further details on how racing fans can get involved and vote for their favourite legend.”



ARGENTO, THE LEADING ARGENTINIAN WINE BRAND, SPONSORS £100,000 HIGHLIGHT OF FESTIVAL TRIALS DAY




Cheltenham Racecourse announced today that the major race on Festival Trials Day, Saturday, January 30, is to become the Argento Chase, following a sponsorship deal with wine merchant Bibendum, joint-owner and importer of the hugely successful Argentinian wine brand.

A major trial for the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Argento Chase has produced three subsequent Gold Cup winnerss in the recent past, namely Looks Like Trouble, See More Business and Master Oats.

Peter McNeile, Cheltenham’s Director of Sponsorship, said: “We’re delighted to welcome a new sponsor to such a prestigious high profile race. I’m sure that this sponsorship will help to spread the name of Argento wine still further and will tempt many horseracing fans to sample the brand.”

Marcus Rann, of Bibendum, added: “We’re thrilled to be involved in such an important chase at the home of Jump racing. Argento and wines in general from Argentina are rapidly growing in popularity and this sponsorship will give us the opportunity to expose the country’s signature grape varieties such as Malbec to an even wider audience.


“We have also agreed a deal to provide Argento wine to Jockey Club Racecourses so racegoers on Festival Trials day will be able to give the wine a try themselves.”

The £100,000 Argento Chase, run over three miles and one and a half furlongs, is due off at 2.35pm on Saturday, January 30. The first race on the day is scheduled for 12.55pm.



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