French trainer Francois Doumen is hoping to secure a first Gallic triumph in the £800,000 John Smith’s Grand National in over 140 years, when he saddles the brothers L’Ami and Kelami in the world’s most famous steeplechase at Aintree on Saturday, April 5.
Doumen revealed today: “Both horses are absolutely on course for the race. Kelami is not 100 per cent certain to get in, but I would hope he will make the cut.”
Kelami, winner of the Grade Three William
Hill Trophy at the 2005 Cheltenham
Festival, is 46th in the list of entries with a weight of 10st 9lb and
stands a very good chance of making the final field of 40 for the Grade
Three epic over four and a half miles and 30 fences.
Twelve months ago, the J P McManus-owned L’Ami finished 10th behind
the victorious Silver Birch in the John Smith’s Grand National.
The nine-year-old has been allotted 11st 1lb for this season’s
L’Ami, fourth in the 2006 Grade One totesport Gold Cup at Cheltenham,
bounced back from two disappointing efforts to finish a gutsy third,
two and a half lengths behind the winner An Accordion, in the Grade Three
William Hill Trophy on March 11, at the Cheltenham Festival.
Doumen reported: “L’Ami ran a splendid race last time. He came from far off the pace and made a very good effort, so I was happy with that.
“I have a fair confidence in the horse. We know you need luck in the race and it is almost an impossible dream to win the John Smith’s Grand National, especially when you come all the way from France, and the results have not been too good up to now. But if you don’t take the challenge you don’t get anywhere.”
McManus is seeking a coveted first success in the great race, while
Doumen is hoping to become the first native Frenchman to saddle a John
Smith’s Grand National winner. The last French-trained winner was
the Duke Of Hamilton’s Cortolvin in 1867, trained across the Channel
by the Englishman Harry Lamplugh, who was repeating his success of 1862
when the Viscount de Namur’s Huntsman prevailed.
Doumen continued: “It would be amazingly satisfactory for me to get the first John Smith’s Grand National victory to Mr McManus, but it’s never done in advance and we need a lot of luck, so I will remain very sober about our chances.”
Kelami runs in the Halewood International Ltd colours made famous by Amberleigh House, who carried them to John Smith’s Grand National triumph in 2004. Kelami, unluckily brought down at the first fence on his initial attempt at the spectacular marathon in 2004, was pulled up before two out last term.
Doumen believes that the 10-year-old is in far better shape ahead of
this year’s race, a fact borne out by his fantastic effort in the
Grade Three Racing Post Chase at Kempton on February 23, when he was
three quarters of a length second to Gungadu.
The trainer said: “We have a bit of a different horse this year.
He had a few problems last year which were not big problems but, as he
proved in the Racing Post Chase, he has no problems at all this year.
We have the horse in very good shape now.
“I would think he will get the trip at Aintree. He was unlucky with my son (Thierry) when he was brought down at the first fence four years ago, but he’s a horse who has always stayed three miles and when he won the William Hill Trophy at Cheltenham it was a good test of staying power. Obviously, the John Smith’s Grand National is a longer distance but I am okay with that.”
The 161st running of the John Smith’s Grand National is the highlight
of the fantastic three-day John Smith’s Grand National Meeting,
which commences on Thursday, April 3, and is the North West’s premier
Friday, April 4, is the extremely popular Ladies’ Day, while John
Smith’s Grand National Day, Saturday, April 5, commences at 12.40pm
with the John Smith’s People’s Race, offering ordinary people
the unique opportunity of competing in a real horse race.
Tickets remain available for all three days fo the John Smith’s
Grand National Meeting - go to www.aintree.co.uk or ring 0151 522 2929.
The next confirmation stage for the John Smith’s Grand National
is at the five-day stage on Monday, March 31.
The John Smith’s Grand National takes place at Aintree Racecourse, which is in Liverpool, the 2008 European Capital Of Culture.
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