Aintree Grand National Horses 5th April 2008 

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Grand National 2008 -
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ch g Lute Antique (FR) - Voltige De Nievre (FR) (Brezzo (FR))
9-11-01 Form: 225542/F05F0121F143/3324243/534200-63003
Owner: J P McManus
Trainer: Francois Doumen
Breeder: Marc Trinquet & Bernard Trinquet


L’Ami, a brother to fellow John Smith’s Grand National contender Kelami, raced four times on the Flat in France with his best effort coming when third on his debut in October, 2003. Subsequently sold by Doumen’s Haras d’Ecouves to Jim McCarthy, L’Ami made his chase debut over an extended two miles and a furlong at Auteuil in September, 2003. He finished second that day and filled the same spot in a similar event one month later. Doumen’s charge raced six times that season, finishing second again on his final start in March but failing to notch a victory. L’Ami had a busy second season over fences as he raced 12 times. He showed little in five further starts at Auteuil before capturing an elusive first win in an extended two miles, five furlongs handicap at the Parisian venue on November 7, 2004. A second-place finish in a Listed contest later that month booked his ticket to Lingfield for the three-mile Grade Two December Novices’ Chase on December 11, in which he defeated Distant Thunder. After another win at Warwick, he proved himself a classy staying novice with a fourth-place finish in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase behind Trabolgan and was then third to Like-A-Butterfly in the John Smith’s Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree in April. He returned to Auteuil at the start of the 2005/2006 season, finishing third in two prestigious events, before returning to England for the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury in November, when second to Trabolgan. A fourth to Kicking King in the King George VI Chase at Sandown in December was followed by a runner-up finish behind stablemate Innox in the Racing Post Chase at the Esher track in February. He ran another fine race when fourth in the 2006 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup won by War Of Attrition. J P McManus purchased the gelding privately ahead of Aintree in 2006, when he finished third behind Celestial Gold in the Grade Two totesport Bowl. The 2006/07 season commenced with a fifth placing over hurdles at Auteuil ahead of taking third spot behind the great Kauto Star in the Grade One Betfair Chase. He went to Leopardstown in December for the Grade One Lexus Chase but was no match for The Listener on heavy going and came home fourth. L’Ami then took on Kauto Star again in the Grade Two AON Chase at Newbury in February and, in receipt of 10lb, he got to within a neck of causing an upset. However, he was no match for Kauto Star in the 2007 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 16, as he crossed the line in seventh. On his first start in the John Smith’s Grand National last season, L’Ami ran well for much of the contest before fading to finish a tired 10th. This season, L’Ami again started his campaign over hurdles at Auteuil before running a sound race when finishing third in a Grade Three chase at Cheltenham in November, then returned to the Cotswold track to finish 10th in a Listed handicap chase the following month. After a below par effort in a similar contest at Doncaster in January 2008, L’Ami returned to form with the application of cheekpieces, finishing a close third behind An Accordion in the Grade Three William Hill Trophy Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on March 11.

Race Record: Starts: 36; 1st: 3; 2nd: 7; 3rd: 7; Win & Place prize money: £326,055


J P McManus
Few people have enjoyed a closer association with jump racing in the last 30 years than John Patrick ’J P’ McManus, who was born in Co Limerick on March 10, 1951. He left his father’s plant hire business at the age of 20 to become a racecourse bookmaker, but then took the less well-trodden route of gamekeeper-turned-poacher when becoming a professional punter. McManus recalls one of his first bets as being on Merryman II in the 1960 Grand National when he was just nine, but the bet that changed his life was £4 on Linden Tree in a Newmarket maiden in 1970, the horse winning at 100/8. He had another £4 on when Linden Tree won the Observer Gold Cup at 25/1, and £5 each-way at 33/1 for the Derby, when the horse beat all bar Mill Reef. Although still one of the highest-staking punters on the racecourse, “The Sundance Kid” (as he was dubbed by journalist Hugh McIlvanney after a number of major gambles in the ring during the 1970s) is also the biggest National Hunt owner in terms of numbers in Britain, Ireland and France with over 250 horses and has a string of other business interests including dealing in financial markets from his Geneva base and part-ownership of the Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados, where he also has a house. With John Magnier, he bought a 28.7% stake in Manchester United through the Cubic Expression company before subsequently selling out to US tycoon Malcolm Glazer. The pair have also invested in the Barchester chain of nursing homes, which was revalued at £1 billion in 2006, Castlebeck care homes, a property company that owns Unilever House in London and leisure clubs, including the Chelsea Harbour Club. Since Mister Donovan landed the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 1982, he has enjoyed 29 Festival successes, headed by three-time Champion Hurdle hero Istabraq and Baracouda, who landed the 2002 & 2003 renewals of what is now the Ladbrokes World Hurdle and finished second in 2004 and 2005. Istabraq and Baracouda are now retired at McManus’s Martinstown Stud in Co Limerick. He does a lot of work for charity and his Pro-Am golf tournament, where Tiger Woods regularly plays, has raised millions of euros. McManus is also a keen backgammon player and a big hurling fan. He owns Jackdaws Castle, the Gloucestershire yard that Jonjo O’Neill trains from, and has invested heavily in improving facilities. He was British champion owner for the last two seasons (2005/06 & 2006/07) and looks like being so again this season. He has become increasingly serious about trying to win the John Smith’s Grand National, having five runners in 2004, six in 2005, four in 2006 and two in 2007. Clan Royal went close when second in 2004, was carried out when in the lead at Becher’s second time around in 2005 and was third two years ago. The Sunday Times Rich List estimated McManus’ wealth at £561 million in 2007.

John Smith’s Grand National Record: 1982 Deep Gale (Fell 1st), 1988 Bucko (PU bef 27th), 1992 Laura's Beau (3rd), 1994 Laura’s Beau (Fell 6th), 1996 Wylde Hide (UR 24th), 1997 Wylde Hide (UR 22nd); 1998 Gimme Five (5th), 2002 Spot Thedifference (UR 27th); 2003 Youlneverwalkalone (PU bef 13th); 2004 Clan Royal (2nd), Spot Thedifference (5th), Risk Accessor (UR 6th), Le Coudray (Fell 22nd); 2005 Innox (7th), Spot Thedifference (18th), Shamawan (21st), Clan Royal (CO 22nd), Le Coudray (PU before 21st), Risk Accessor (UR 2nd); 2006 Clan Royal (3rd), Risk Accessor (5th), Innox (Fell 1st), First Gold (UR 23rd); 2007 L’Ami (10th), Clan Royal (11th)


Francois Doumen
Born by the side of the road in wartime France on June 11, 1940, Francois Doumen first came to the attention of the British racing public when Nupsala, a 25/1 outsider, grabbed a shock victory over Desert Orchid in the 1987 King George VI Chase at Kempton. Doumen has built on that success to land other notable prizes in this country. It is the exploits of The Fellow, winner of two King George VI Chases (1991 & 1992) and the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup (1994), which stand out. The Fellow fell at the Canal Turn on the second circuit in 1994 on his only attempt at the John Smith’s Grand National. Doumen’s spectacularly successful raids over here have helped boost the popularity of French half-bred horses with British trainers. Doumen, whose father Jean trained successfully, spent seven years running a fashion business in South Africa before taking out a licence to train in 1977, having ridden more than 100 winners as an amateur between 1956-70. Other good horses he has handled include King George winner Algan, Ucello II, Ubu III, Djeddah, Bog Frog, Val d’Elene, Moulin Riche, L’Ami, Innox, Kelami, Snow Drop, winner of the 2000 JCB Triumph Hurdle, and the great Baracouda, winner of the Ladbrokes World Hurdle in 2002 and 2003, as well as the 2000 King George VI Chase winner First Gold, who also won the totesport Bowl at Aintree in 2001 and 2003. Doumen also trained for the late Queen Mother. His horses were stabled at Lamorlaye near Chantilly, but three quarters of them are now at La Beauvoisiniere in Normandy and the rest have left Lamorlaye for a new yard at Chantilly. Much of his string is now Flat-orientated and has included the globe-trotting star Jim And Tonic, bred by his wife Elizabeth, whose successes include the 1999 Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin. His son Thierry was a jockey and is now also a trainer. Doumen Snr’s Aintree successes also include Bilboa in the 2001 John Smith’s Anniversary 4YO Novices’ Hurdle, and he is bidding to become the first French-based trainer to win the John Smith’s Grand National since Harry Lamplugh sent out Cortolvin from Chantilly to triumph in 1867.

John Smith’s Grand National Record: 1994 The Fellow (Fell 24th); 1998 Ciel De Brion (Fell 26th); 2000 Djeddah (9th); 2001 Djeddah (UR 8th); 2002 Djeddah (UR 4 out); 2003 Djeddah (11th); 2004 Kelami (Brought down 1st); 2005 Innox (7th); 2006 Innox (Fell 1st), First Gold (Unseated 23rd), 2007 L’Ami (10th), Kelami (PU Bef 29th)

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