Aintree News 12th - 14th April 2007 

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John Smith's Extends National Sponsorship Until 2010

It was announced today that Scottish & Newcastle (owner of John Smith's) has extended its current agreement to sponsor the world's greatest steeple chase until 2010.



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Charles Barnett, Managing Director of Aintree Racecourse said: "This is tremendous news for The National and jump racing as a whole. The original contract with John Smith's included the 2005, 2006 and 2007 meetings. This has now been extended until the 2010 renewal with an option for a further three years."

For John Smith's, Head of Public Relations and Sponsorship, Nigel Pollard said: "We entered our agreement in 2004 with great expectations; and we have been more than delighted with the results achieved so far. There was no doubt in our minds that a three year extension was the right move for John Smith's and that this new agreement will enable both parties to further develop the world's greatest steeplechase. An important part of this decision was the warmth, co-operation and business-like approach we have experienced with the team at Aintree - a vital ingredient in making this sponsorship work so well for the UK's favourite Ale."

Today's announcement coincided with Aintree's traditional media stable visit to the previous National winning stable.

At Martin Brassil's Co. Kildare stables, the Trainer reported last year's winner to be in fine fettle. "The plan is to run Numbersixvalverde over hurdles at Leopardstown over the Christmas period. We may then consider the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup in mid February, again at Leopardstown, and then perhaps another outing over hurdles before Aintree."

Owner Bernard Carroll confirmed that he and his family were looking forward to returning to Aintree for another crack at the big one next April. "Owners dream of a National winner and when you are lucky enough to experience it, you realise nothing could ever have prepared you for the exhilaration and excitement, it is unbelievable."


Numbersixvalverde and Niall Madden

Numbersixvalverde and Niall Madden

John Smith's Grand National winning jockey, Niall Madden will head to Aintree this weekend targeting another victory over the famous National fences in only his second ever meeting at the course. Madden, who turned 21 on Saturday (11th November) will ride the Davy Fitzgerald trained Pearly Jack in the £100,000 Becher Chase on day two of the North West Masters meeting (Sunday 19th November). Day one of the North West Masters will take place at the nearby Haydock Park Racecourse on Saturday 18th November.

Racing at Haydock Park will feature the three-mile Betfair Chase, which is the initial leg of the Betfair Million, jump racing's £1million bonus which involves winning the Betfair Chase followed by either the Stan James King V1 Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day or the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28th, plus the totesport Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.

On Sunday, Aintree will stage two races over the National fences, the £100,000 Becher Chase and £60,000 totepool Grand Sefton Steeplechase. The Becher Chase, one of the highlights of the jump season, is established as a stepping-stone to the world's most famous Chase, the John Smith's Grand National.


Once again, the total prize money for the John Smith's Grand National meeting has risen, this year by £90,000 with £2,320,000 (3,480,000) to be won over the three-day meeting (April 12th - 14th 2007).

On Thursday, the John Smith's Anniversary 4YO Hurdle has increased by £10,000 to £130,000 (195,000), whilst on Friday the most significant uplift is the John Smith's Melling Steeple Chase which receives a £50,000 boost to £200,000 (300,000).

Prize money on John Smith's Grand National day rises to £1,150,000 (1,725,000) with the John Smith's Maghull Novices' Steeple Chase over 2 miles increasing by £15,000 to £125,000 (187,500) and the Scottish and Newcastle Aintree Hurdle up £10,000 to £160,000 (240,000).

It remains an ambition of Aintree Racecourse and Scottish & Newcastle (owner of John Smith's) to increase the total prize fund of the John Smith's Grand National to £1million during the course of the sponsorship period. The John Smith's Grand National will again be the 5th race on the card and has a scheduled off time of 4.15 pm.


Tickets and corporate hospitality packages for the 2007 John Smith's Grand National meeting have been on sale since August and Aintree is predicting another bumper crowd when it opens its new facilities for the 2007 showcase event.

"Sales for all enclosures, including Aintree's new grandstands, the Earl of Derby and Lord Sefton stands have been exceptionally strong on Ladies' Day (Friday) and Grand National Day. However, there is still County Enclosure capacity available on all three days of the meeting. With the finalisation of phase two of our redevelopment project, it's going to be a very exciting three-day meeting and I advise racegoers wanting to attend any day of the 2007 event to purchase in advance to avoid disappointment," said Charles Barnett.


The John Smith's Topham Chase, to be run over the National fences on Friday 13th April, will change to an "early closing" race in 2007. For many years Aintree has maintained a policy of 5-day entries for all races other than the John Smith's Grand National. However, the Topham Chase has developed into a highly competitive race in its own right and will now be run as an open handicap with no rating band. As is the case with the John Smith's Grand National, BHB Senior Jumps Handicapper, Phil Smith, will frame a handicap specifically for the race.

"At this stage we intend to try this as a one year experiment and obviously the four week gap between Cheltenham and Aintree will help next year. We want a post Cheltenham early closing so the closing date for this contest will be Wednesday 21st March 2007," said Charles Barnett.


In order to introduce some flexibility in respect of jockeys who may have the necessary experience to ride in the John Smith's Grand National (e.g. a jockey who has ridden a host of Point-to-Point winners or has successfully competed over the National fences), but who may not have ridden the 15 winners over hurdles and steeple chases as required by the present race conditions, jockeys who have ridden 10 or more such winners, may apply to the HRA by April 5th 2007. If, and only if, they apply by this date and are deemed to have had the required level of experience, dispensation to ride in the John Smith's Grand National may be granted. It has however been stipulated that this dispensation will only be granted in exceptional circumstances.

Malcolm Wallace, HRA Director of Regulation, said "We are introducing flexibility in order to strike the right balance so as not to eliminate somebody unnecessarily who may have the experience to take part in this unique test of horsemanship."


Once again, the successful breeders received their awards at today's stable visit.

Representing the late Major F.B. Boyd, joint breeder and son J.G. Boyd collected the award for breeder of the winning horse, Numbersixvalverde.

In addition, a similar award was made to Mr and Mrs R Crank, breeders of the first British bred horse to finish, Forest Gunner; this being the second consecutive year they have collected this prestigious prize.

An award was also presented to winning lad, Valentyn Gevelenko.


The traditional John Smith's Grand National Meeting Top Tipster Award was this year won by Julian Armfield, who attends the meeting on behalf of the BBC World Service.


Barnett also announced today that plans were underway for the staging of "Sport Celebrates the Grand National", a charity ball due to be held at the Landmark Hotel, London on Thursday 19th April 2007.

"The event will be backed by John Smith's and will raise vital funds for the Spinal Injuries Association and the Retraining of Racehorses. It promises to be a truly spectacular occasion," he said.

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