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Comply Or Die and Madison Du Berlais Set to Head Pipe Team

Trainer David Pipe looks to have a strong hand as he bids to join the elite list of trainers to have won the John Smith’s Grand National more than once. This year’s race carries record prize money of £900,000, boosted by £100,000, and takes place at Aintree on Saturday, April 4.

Madison Du Berlais

Madison Du Berlais

The Pond House handler revealed at a stable visit for members of the media organised by Aintree Racecourse that last year’s John Smith’s Grand National winner Comply Or Die is all set to try and become the first horse since Red Rum in 1974 to win the world’s greatest chase for a second time.

The David Johnson-owned gelding stayed on strongly to defeat King Johns Castle by four lengths in 2008 and is due to be joined again by Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup winner Madison Du Berlais, who travelled well before falling at the Canal Turn on the first circuit.

Since his Aintree victory, Comply Or Die has failed to sparkle in two appearances at Cheltenham this season but his trainer is hopeful that the 10-year-old can return to form prior to a second crack at the famous chase over four and a half miles and 30 fences.

Pipe said: “We are intending to give Comply Or Die and Madison Du Berlais an entry in this year’s John Smith’s Grand National.

“Comply Or Die seems to be in good form at the moment. He has obviously been very disappointing so far this season and there hasn’t appeared to be any reason for his lacklustre efforts.

“We may look at some of the decent long distance chases around but it is unlikely that he will make an appearance at Cheltenham prior to Aintree. He is rated too high for the totesport Eider Chase again but there still other options available to him. The blinkers will be put him on at some stage.

“The John Smith’s Grand National is the obvious target but it is going to be harder for him having won it last year. It would be great just to see him run a decent race beforehand.”

While Comply Or Die has yet to hit form, Madison Du Berlais has enjoyed an excellent start to the current campaign, following up a sixth in a competitive handicap chase at Ascot at the start of November with a superb three-length victory over Air Force One in Newbury’s Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at the end of the same month.

Pipe continued: “Madison Du Berlais has come out of the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup in good form. He was jumping well in the John Smith’s Grand National last year before falling at Canal Turn.

“He stays three miles and two furlongs well but the extra distance at Aintree is a bit of an unknown. He seemed to keep galloping at Newbury so I would be hopeful that he would get the National trip.

“I think his starting price of 25/1 in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup probably reflected his chance. He had previously won a Grade Three at Newbury in March, 2007, and he seems to be a little better around that course, but we thought that he was too high in the handicap.

“He’s got experience over the National fences so we will give him an entry in the race again this year and decide nearer the time. Milan Deux Mille, who finished 15th last season, will also be entered.”

Pipe also paraded several of his Aintree possibles at the stable visit. Our Vic may bid for a second consecutive victory in the £160,000 Grade Two totesport Bowl, highlight of the first day of the John Smith’s Grand National meeting on Thursday, April 2.

The 11-year-old, who runs in the same David Johnson colours as Comply Or Die, got up in the shadow of the post to defeat 2007 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Kauto Star in the three mile, one furlong contest last year.

He is set to appear at the Cheltenham Festival beforehand, where he may run in the Grade One totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup or bid for a repeat success in the Grade One Ryanair Chase.

Last year’s Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle runner-up Osana is also set to make an appearance at Cheltenham prior to a possible tilt at the £170,000 Grade One John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle on Saturday, April 4.

The seven-year-old, owned by Thomas Barr, was second to Aintree specialist Al Eile in the two and a half mile hurdle last season, having been runner-up to Blythe Knight in the Grade Two John Smith’s Top Novices’ Hurdle 12 months earlier.

Or Noir De Somoza could also be heading for Aintree. The seven-year-old gelding is yet to make his debut for Pipe, having previously been trained by Arnaud Chaille-Chaille in France, where he won Grade One contests over both hurdles and fences as a four-year-old.

Owned by Pegasus Farms Ltd, Or Noir De Somoza joined Pond House after finishing ninth in France’s most prestigious jump race, the Grade One Grande Steeple-Chase de Paris at Auteuil in May. The gelding is also being aimed at the Cheltenham Festival and has entries in the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Ryanair Chase and the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The outstanding but fragile Well Chief may make a fourth appearance at the John Smith’s Grand National meeting in the £200,000 Grade One John Smith’s Melling Chase, the feature race on Friday, April 3.

The David Johnson-owned chaser came home third behind Monet’s Garden on his latest racecourse appearance in the two and a half mile chase in April, 2007, having won the Grade One John Smith’s Maghull Novices’ Chase in 2004 and finished third a year earlier in the race now known as the Grade One John Smith’s Anniversary 4-Y-0 Novices’ Hurdle.

The 10-year-old is currently being targeted at the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, a race in which he finished second to Moscow Flyer in 2005 prior to falling early on when favourite two years later.

Entries for the John Smith’s Grand National, which has a maximum field of 40, close on Tuesday, January 27, and the weights will be revealed in London on Tuesday, February 10.

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