COMPETITIVE FIELDS FOR totesport BECHER CHASE AND totepool GRAND SEFTON CHASE - Richard Guest outlines his plans, Charlie Mann represented in both races
The totepool Grand Sefton Handicap Chase, run over two miles, five and a half furlongs of the Grand National course, is worth a record £60,000 this year and Richard Guest is chasing the prize with two new recruits.
Guest is well-acquainted with the big Aintree fences, having partnered Red Marauder to a famous success in the 2001 Grand National. The trainer has Tipsy Mouse and Shannon's Pride engaged on Sunday.
Both horses arrived at Guest's Brancepeth base this summer. Tipsy Mouse, a full-brother to 1995 Grand National winner Royal Athlete, arrived from Sue Smith's yard and has seen action three times already for Guest, running fourth to Luneray in a three mile chase at Ludlow on his latest start.
The County Durham handler said: "It may be a little sharp for Tipsy Mouse. Two miles five would be as sharp as he wants but on a great big galloping track like that, he'd be staying on at the end for sure. They're both tremendous jumpers - that's their forte and obviously that's what you need around there.
"It's a law unto itself over those big fences so you can forget about trips and things like that. The most important thing is that the pair of them are really terrific jumpers and I'm sure they'll both be there at the end."
Tipsy Mouse was eighth to Forest Gunner in this race last season but has dropped significantly down the handicap since then.
Guest, who's new charge won the four mile Scottish Borders National at Kelso in March 2004, said: "Tipsy Mouse is a very well-handicapped horse. There's a big staying chase prize in him. Other than this being around the National course, I wouldn't run him over this trip normally but he's a particularly good jumper.
"I bought him for the Eider Chase and that's what he'll be aimed at. There's also the Borders National for him. I think the way he's handicapped, there are a couple of those staying chases with a 140 lid on them and they're the sort of races he's got to have a big chance in."
Shannon's Pride, formerly trained by Nicky Richards, has run twice for the Guest yard and was second to Ross Comm on heavy going at Carlisle last month. This will be the nine-year-old's first taste of the big fences.
Guest commented: "I'd say that two miles five is ideal for Shannon's Pride. He's never won beyond that trip. I know he was only just beaten the other day over three and a quarter miles but I think that was a little bit of a stretch of his stamina.
"They're both out of a similar mould really. The ground should be ideal for the pair of them. It's drying out all the time but I should think both of them will handle it fine. I think it's going to be good to soft on the day and that will be perfect."
Another trainer hoping for success over the Grand National fences is Lambourn-based Charlie Mann, who is represented by Rheindross in the totesport Becher Chase and Melford in the totepool Grand Sefton Chase.
Mann reported today: "Rheindross won the Summer National well at Uttoxeter last time and he's in great form at home. He's been round the National course before and the ground won't be a problem for him. He's got a good racing weight and Noel Fehily rides - I'm looking forward to running him.
"Melford came to us from Henrietta Knight and jumped really well when winning round Haydock the other day. He's only seven years old and hasn't been round the big fences before, but he's great jumper and I think he's got a live chance. He's won on good to soft and as long as the going is not really testing he should be alright."
The totepool Grand Sefton Chase has 23 runners in total. Plenty of the field will be trying the famous fences for the first time, although one notable exception is Cassia Heights, who will be returning to the scene of his greatest triumph following his 2004 Topham Trophy success.
Two former Grand National winners line up in the £100,000 totesport Becher Chase, run over three miles and three furlongs of the Grand National course.
Perennial Aintree favourite Amberleigh House, who scored a memorable triumph for Ginger McCain in the 2004 Grand National, makes his 10th appearance over the famous course in the totesport Becher Chase. In addition to his National triumph last year, Amberleigh House also won this race in 2001 and finished runner-up in it in 2002 and 2003. He was also third in the 2003 Grand National.
The other former Grand National winner among the 19 declarations for the totesport Becher Chase is Bindaree, hero of the world's greatest chase in 2002. He will be making his seasonal reappearance and having his eighth start over the Grand National fences for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
Two other horses come into the race with the benefit of winning form over the Grand National course including Forest Gunner, successful in both the Foxhunters Chase and the Grand Sefton Chase in 2004. He again showed his aptitude for Aintree when fifth in last season's John Smith's Grand National under Carrie Ford. Today he is partnered by another leading female jockey in Nina Carberry. The other contender with winning course form is Irish raider Cregg House, who scored a shock 50/1 success in last season's John Smith's Topham Trophy but is reckoned by his trainer Shane Donohoe to be "an Aintree horse, simple as that."
The big hurdle race of the day is the £25,000 William Hill/Stanleybet Children In Need Handicap Hurdle (2.15pm) where the 12 declarations include Nicky Henderson's highly-promising performer The Market Man, formerly a very useful performer on the Flat in New Zealand and a winner of three of his four starts over hurdles.
In the opening Weatherbys Bank Juvenile Novices' Hurdle (1.05pm), eight go to post including Philip Hobbs Fair Along, successful at Cheltenham last week in a Grade Two juvenile hurdle, George Moore's consistent performer Aviation, triumphant in a Listed race at Wetherby last month and Ortolan Bleu, an interesting French recruit for the Howard Johnson team.
The penultimate Intersky Novices' Chase (3.20pm) is one of the best contests of its type so far this season with the likes of Jonjo O'Neill's Feel The Pride, the Paul Nicholls-trained Cerium and Roman Ark, a Grade Two winner over hurdles at Haydock Park last season, all set to do battle.
Bringing action to a close is the Jim Ennis Construction Novices' Hurdle (3.50pm), where the 10 declarations include a very interesting contender in Flying Jody, a winning point-to-pointer and useful hurdler in Ireland who will be having his first start for Brindley-based permit holder Sir John Barlow.
The North West Masters is an innovative new two-day festival of racing staged at Haydock Park and Aintree on Saturday and Sunday, November 19 and 20 and promises to provide a feast of high-quality action with 13 races worth a combined total of over £500,000 spread throughout the weekend.
Haydock stages the initial day of the North West Masters tomorrow, Saturday, November 19, and the thrilling feature is the new £150,000 Betfair Chase which has eight declared runners including the 2005 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Kicking King.
The three-mile Betfair Chase is also the initial leg of the Betfair Million, the first £1-million bonus in jump racing, which also involves winning the Stan James King George VI Chase at Sandown on December 26 and the totesport Gold Cup at Cheltenham on March 17.
Haydock also stages the most valuable three-mile handicap hurdle run in Britain, the £70,000 betfairpoker.com Handicap Hurdle, on the same seven-race card.
Aintree the next day, Sunday, November 20, has another fabulous set of races, headed by the £100,000 totesport Becher Chase and the £60,000 totepool Grand Sefton Chase, both of which take place over the world famous Grand National fences and are being staged on the same day for the first time. Thanks to the support of the tote, both races have gone up significantly in value, with the totesport Becher Chase, run over three miles and three furlongs, rising by £25,000 and the extended two mile, five furlong totepool Grand Sefton Chase getting a £10,000 boost.
WEEKEND TOURISM BOOST FOR REGION
Merseyside's tourism industry is looking forward to a bumper weekend as thousands of visitors are expected travel to the region for the North West Masters.
Liverpool and St Helens hotels have completely sold out, whilst there is only very limited stock available in Southport, as the region prepares to host the biggest new event in the British racing calendar.
Haydock Park and Aintree Racecourse have teamed up to create the event which features a full weekend of racing at two different venues.
Advance ticket sales have been strong for both racedays. The Mersey Partnership's tourism website www.visitliverpool.com has welcomed almost 1,000 unique users looking for information on the event. Tickets will also be available on the gate for both days of the North West Masters.
Martin King, Director of Tourism at The Mersey Partnership, said: "Our hotels are full this weekend, right through Liverpool, Southport and St Helens. Merseyside has one of the finest festival line-ups in the country and the North West Masters only adds to this impressive roster. And for a brand new event the take-up has been amazing - hopefully this will become an annual fixture in our calendar."
After the North West Masters racing at Haydock on Saturday, St Helens town centre will see rock group Texas play live at the spectacular Christmas lights switch-on. Doubling as the official NW Masters party, this free event will also feature other live music, acts and entertainment, including a full set by tribute band the Bootleg Beatles.
THE NORTH WEST MASTERS PROGRAMME
Haydock, Saturday, November 19, 2005
12.45pm £20,000 Drink J. W. Lees Bitter Jump v Flat Jockeys Handicap Hurdle 2m
1.20pm £25,000 Gordon Plant Memorial Newton Novices' Hurdle 2m