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Tuesday, March 22, 2011



Trainer Lucinda Russell is counting down the days until the John Smith’s Grand National ahead of her bid to land jump racing’s most famous prize with Silver By Nature.


The nine-year-old is one of 74 horses going forward to the £950,000 contest, run at Aintree on Saturday, April 9, following today’s scratchings stage and Tayside-based Russell is looking forward to the race following Silver By Nature’s win in the totesport Grand National Trial at Haydock Park last month.


"It was a fantastic day at Haydock,” said Russell. “The horse had not run quite so well this season but we felt he was coming back to himself and it was great to see him annihilate the field at Haydock.


"He is definitely better on soft ground but he was very competitive on good ground at Perth a couple of years ago when he came down. He is maybe a better horse on heavy ground but he acts on good to soft.


"His owner (Geoff Brown) is chairman of St Johnstone Football Club. He is the longest standing chairman in Scotland. We made our minds up to come here after Haydock. He was never worried about having a runner in the National, he just wanted one to be competitive. He was there the day the horse was foaled and he adores him.   


"Silver By Nature has definitely got a chance but I'm just worried that the prize might be going back to Ireland. Willie Mullins has a fantastic chance and Oscar Time for the Waley-Cohens would be a great story. Aintree always throws up a great story and hopefully there will be another one.”


Russell was speaking at Aintree’s Northern Media Lunch at which trainer Ferdy Murphy paraded his big-race hope Big Fella Thanks.



“It’s lovely ground out there,” said Murphy. “Big Fella Thanks looks fantastic and I think he would have a very good chance.


"I think we will ride him more conservatively this year. To be fair to Barry Geraghty, he was thrust into the race last year at the last minute after Ruby (Walsh) got injured and the horse ran with the choke out a little bit.


"Hopefully we'll ride him the same way this time that Graham (Lee) did when he won on Amberleigh House, that’s to hunt round and leave it late and take our time and get the horse to settle.”


Chief Dan George, a faller at Cheltenham last week, is also on course for the John Smith’s Grand National.


His Cartmel-based trainer, Jimmy Moffatt, said: "He is a great jumper but racing is a great leveller. He had a tardy start (at Cheltenham) and never got into a rhythm. He was asked to do things that he would never be asked to do.


"He ended up a bit battered and bruised but he is now full of himself. He is a good jumper and I'm looking forward to bringing him back here.


"He missed out by two last year and (handicapper) Phil Smith told me that if he had got in, he would probably have gone off favourite. 


"It is just a job to get a horse to the parade ring. But, after that, if he gets into a rhythm over the first three or four fences and jumps well, he should go well. I school him at home. If everything goes right for him, he would have a good chance."


British Horseracing Authority Head of Handicapping Phil Smith was also at the lunch and he pinpointed a few contenders who had fared well since the weights were revealed last month.


“Arbor Supreme is interesting as he is going to be the top of the 10st 3lb horses to get in because he has subsequently run very well in Ireland and I’ve got him 8lb higher now,” said Smith.


“From this stage onwards, there are usually four or five horses that drop out from the top 40 horses which means he is very likely to get a run.


“As well as Arbor Supreme, the horses that are technically well in include Silver By Nature, by 7lb, Racing Post Chase winner Quinz, who is due to be 9lb higher, What A Friend is now 15lb higher after running fantastically well in the Gold Cup last week, and one that nobody has mentioned In Compliance, who has run twice since the weights and 7lb well in.


“But over the last four years, the only horse that has been technically well in to have scored has been Comply Or Die.”




A total of 74 horses remain in the John Smith’s Grand National following today’s second scratchings deadline. The world’s most famous chase takes place over four and a half miles at Aintree on Saturday, April 9, and boasts record prize money of £950,000 in 2011.

Just eight horses were taken out of the race today with the weights continuing to be headed by last year’s hero Don’t Push It on 11st 10lb. The 11-year-old recorded a famous success for owner J P McManus, trainer Jonjo O’Neill and jockey A P McCoy in 2010 and ran an encouraging race at Cheltenham last week when a staying-on 10th in the Pertemps Final, the same race he used for his Aintree preparation last year.

The Irish enjoyed a wonderful Cheltenham Festival with a record 13 winners over the four days and they also hold a strong hand in the John Smith’s Grand National as they are responsible for 26 of the remaining entries.  These include the Martin Lynch-trained Oscar Time, last year’s Irish Grand National runner-up, who could cap a dream season for amateur rider Sam Waley-Cohen following his totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup victory on Long Run last week.

Other contenders from Ireland include The Midnight Club, trained by Willie Mullins, who is currently 10/1 favourite with Aintree’s official betting partner totesport. He jumped to the head of the ante-post market with a defeat of stable companion Arbor Supreme in the Grade Two Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse on February 23. Gordon Elliott, who sent out Silver Birch to a memorable success in the 2007 John Smith’s Grand National, has another live contender in Backstage, who confirmed his wellbeing with a point-to-point victory on March 6 and is totesport’s 12/1 second favourite with Oscar Time.

The John Smith’s Grand National is one of the few races to have eluded champion trainer Paul Nicholls and he has four entries going forward including What A Friend, who is part-owned by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and was an excellent fourth in last week’s totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup. Nicholls also looks set to be represented by the 2009 Irish Grand National victor Niche Market.

The British-trained contingent also includes Silver By Nature, who put himself firmly in the John Smith’s Grand National picture with a storming 15-length victory in the Grade Three totesport.com Grand National Trial at Haydock Park on February 19 while the Donald McCain-trained Ballabriggs has had Aintree as his target all season and completed his preparation when finishing second at Kelso on March 5. Quinz put up an exhibition round of jumping when taking the Grade Three Racing Post Chase at Kempton Park on February 26 and is set to represent trainer Philip Hobbs.

The six-day confirmation stage for the John Smith’s Grand National is on Monday, April 4, with the final declaration stage at 10am on Thursday, April 7. There is a maximum permitted field of 40, plus four reserves.


John Smith’s Grand National - totesport bet: 10 The Midnight Club, 12 Backstage, Oscar Time, 14 Ballabriggs, Big Fella Thanks, Silver By Nature, 16 Arbor Supreme, Don’t Push It, Niche Market, Quinz, What A Friend, 20 Junior, Merigo, Synchronised, West End Rocker, 25 Becauseicouldntsee, Bluesea Cracker, Hello Bud, Majestic Concorde, Midnight Chase, Notre Pere, Skippers Brig, State Of Play, Vic Venturi, 33 Ballytrim, Calgary Bay, Character Building, Chief Dan George, Giles Cross, Imoncloudnine, In Compliance, One Cool Cookie, Our Monty, 40 Ballyfitz, Dooneys Gate, Killyglen, Northern Alliance, Surface To Air, The Tother One, Tidal Bay, 50 Belon Gale, Can’t Buy Time, Comply Or Die, Frankie Figg, Galant Nuit, Golden Kite, King Fontaine, Nedzers Return, Or Noir de Somoza, Ornais, Quolibet, Saddlers Storm, 66 Always Waining, Ambobo, Grand Slam Hero, Le Beau Bai, Pomme Tiepy, Roll Along, Royal Rosa, Sagalyrique, Scotsirish, The Sawyer, Toby Jug, Treacle, 100 Askthemaster, Dev, Duers, Faasel, Piraya, Putney Bridge, Regal Heights, Santas Son, Starzaan, That’s Rhythm.


¼ 1-2-3-4




9/4 Irish-trained winner


7/1 Paul Nicholls-trained winner


10/1 Ruby Walsh to ride winner


14/1 AP McCoy to ride winner


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