Aintree Grand National Meeting 2008 

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Silver Birch on Target for 2009

Silver Birch, last year’s John Smith’s Grand National winner who has been sidelined through injury this season, is reported to be doing well and it is still the intention to bring him back for racing’s most famous chase next year.

“Silver Birch is great. He’s on the walker at the moment so it’s all systems go for next year but he won’t run for four or five months. He owes us nothing so we won’t risk him if he is not right but, at the moment, it is all looking good for a tilt at next year’s race,” explained last year’s Grand National winning trainer, Gordon Elliott.

Although Gordon will not be saddling a runner in this year’s renewal on Saturday, April 5, he could have another memorable week at Aintree with runners who hold live chances in their respective races.

Salford City, the 2004 Epsom Derby fifth and a Grade Two winner over hurdles in Ireland, is reported by the Irish trainer to be in top shape ahead of Friday’s £60,000 Littlewoods Direct Imagine Appeal Top Novices’ Hurdle (4.20pm), a Grade Two event over an extended two miles.

“He’s in great form. He worked very well around Fairyhouse with Nina (Carberry) last Monday (March 24). I was very happy with him and he’ll run on Friday, provided the ground is on the soft side of good,” explained Elliott today.

Captain Cee Bee and `Choc` Thornton (left) (Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices` Hurdle Cheltenham 11-03-08)

Cornish Rebel

“It looks like a hot contest with Captain Cee Bee and a couple of others but if the ground comes up to suit, he’ll jump out and make it. We would be hoping that he would get placed. Nina will ride him again.

“I wouldn’t be worried about the fact that he has not run since November because he has worked at Dundalk as well as Fairyhouse so he is fit and well enough to take his chance.”

Captain Cee Bee, fresh from his Grade One Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices’ Hurdle success at the Cheltenham Festival, is among the 28 entries for what looks to be a superb renewal of the £60,000 contest.



Also entered is Triumph Hurdle second Franchoek, Supreme Novices’ Hurdle fourth Kalahari King, the Paul Nicholls-trained Pierrot Lunaire, the Nicky Henderson-trained Khyber Kim and Pigeon Island from Nigel Twiston-Davies’ stable.

The Gordon Elliott-trained Harper Valley, entered in Thursday’s Grade One £130,000 John Smith’s 250th Anniversary 4-Y-O Novices’ Hurdle (3.10pm), had his final prep race ahead of Aintree on the Flat at Dundalk on Friday and recovered his best form after a below-par run at Musselburgh in February with a comprehensive win in an extended mile and a half handicap. Conceding weight to his 10 rivals, he threw down his challenge entering the straight before quickening away to score by four and a half lengths.

Elliott added: “Harper Valley won very well at Dundalk and I was more than pleased with him. He has come out of his run in great form.

“Like a lot of our runners, if the ground is on the quick side he won’t run, but I’d be hopeful that it will be okay and that he will run a good race.”

Among his 19 rivals is JCB Triumph Hurdle winner Celestial Halo, along with Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up Binocular.

Elliott has also entered Newton Bridge, a runner-up on his last two starts, in the Listed £60,000 John Smith’s Handicap Hurdle (5.30pm) on Thursday, but the seven-year-old might not make the cut.

“Newton Bridge might struggle to get in to the John Smith’s Handicap Hurdle, but there’s the £40,000 John Smith’s Winner’s Tipple Novices’ Handicap Chase for amateur riders on Saturday and, if he gets into that, he will run and won’t be too far away. Nina will ride him as well.

“He is also in good form and came out of his run over hurdles at Fairyhouse well. He ran a great race there and is fit and well.”

Meanwhile, Tom Taaffe, who will be represented in Saturday’s feature by both Slim Pickings and Tumbling Dice, is hoping for a big run from his In The High Grass in Friday’s £110,000 John Smith’s Topham Chase (3.45pm) over the National fences.

A winner on his latest start in a Listed three-mile chase at Cork, In The High Grass will carry 10st 4lb in the extended two miles and five furlong contest should the Michael Hourigan-trained top-weight Hi Cloy stand his ground.

“In The High Grass was confirmed this morning for the John Smith’s Grand National as well and it will literally be a 9.55am decision on Friday morning but at the moment he is going for the John Smith’s Topham Chase.

“If he gets into the National, he will go there. He has a great chance of getting in because he now goes to the top of the 10st 6lb horses.

“He won well at Cork - a slightly different type of fence and there will be a few more runners at Aintree but he has been schooling over Aintree style fences and he is very good in that department.

“I’d like genuine, nice ground. Irish good to yielding or good, safe ground would do me for all my runners over the three days. He has a good competitive weight for both races.”

Among the bumper 63 entries in the John Smith’s Topham Chase are the Paul Nicholls-trained pair of Natal and Gwanako, the Nicky Henderson-trained Kenzo III and the Tom George-trained Nacarat, while the Irish raiding party includes the Arthur Moore-trained Well Tutored and Vintage Treasure from Charles Byrne’s yard.

The 161st running of the £800,000 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 social event.

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 of the John Smith’s Grand National Meeting - go to or ring 0151 522 2929.

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