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Aintree briefing: Improving Silver Gift to handle step up in grade.

Byline: Roy Biggs

Handicap hurdle (3m12 f)

Notable runners

Ultra-consistent Noel's Pride has won three of his last four races and only just failed to give a stone and a half to the winner at Market Rasen last time. All Cill Churnain's five wins have come this year, but he had a particularly hard race last time. Ballynattin Blue stole this race from the front last year when beating Young Dalesman (now 1lb better off when taking into account his rider's allowance) by two lengths. Ballylusky ran promisingly on his first run for Jonjo O'Neill and looks the pick of the trainer's trio.

Quotes

Malcolm Jefferson, trainer of Noel's Pride

"My horse gets the trip well and is very consistent. I'm expecting another good run, although I wouldn't want the ground to get too soft."

Sue Smith, trainer of Cill Churnain

"I'm hopeful he will run a big race providing the ground doesn't get much worse. He's only a small horse and he bounces off good ground, but will handle good to soft. He gets three miles well."

Andy Streeter, trainer of Young Dalesman

"This horse will be one of my last runners and we are desperate to go out in a blaze of glory. He finished second in this race 12 months ago and was fourth last time at Market Rasen when he ran a little bit flat. He is very fit and well, although we are right up there with his handicap mark."

Lucinda Russell, trainer of Caesar`s Palace

"He will like the ground and should run a good race as he's in very good form. I think he's harshly handicapped for his ability - he's not as good as he was - but he's nice and fresh."

Jeremy Billinge, trainer of Ballynattin Blue

"He's in extremely good order - my wife Sarah rode him out this morning and he went very well. He's been getting better each year and is probably stronger and happier than he's ever been. It would be nice to win the race again."

Joe Fierro, trainer of Silver Gift

"It's always been the plan to go to Aintree with this mare, who has done very well and deserves a crack at a good prize. She's in good heart, has been going in the right direction all season and will take all the beating. She's only small and wouldn't want heavy going."

Naylor looks to start chasing career in style

Novice chase (3m1f)

Notable runners

Joss Naylor boasts the best hurdling form of this small field (won a valuable novice at Warwick and second in Coral Eurobet Cup at Cheltenham last term) and has an outstanding chance if running up to his best on his fencing bow. Wildfield Rufo sauntered home in a novice hunter chase at Catterick by nine lengths, before finishing a good fourth in a valuable, similar event at Aintree. Jungle Jinks, a winning Irish pointer, won two of his four hurdle starts last term.

Quotes

Andy Crow, trainer of Bold Navigator

"He may not have beaten much at Hexham but couldn't have done it any easier. He came out of that race bouncing and the more rain the better for him."

Howard Johnson, trainer of Dionn Righ

"He's a big, gross horse having his first run for me and will probably need it."

George Moore, trainer of Jungle Jinks

"He's schooled well and is a natural jumper. He stays the trip well and the softer the ground the better."

Kate Walton, trainer of Wildfield Rufo

"The ground was a bit quick for him when he ran well here in April, but it should be fine this time. The trip is no problem, he's a good jumper and seems well in himself, although he'll probably come on for the race."

Johnson fears trip may find out Rasher

Tripleprint Chase (2m4f)

Notable runners

Shamawan did well in his first season over fences, culminating in a good second to Batswing in valuable handicap at Punchestown. Dulas Bay sidestepped yesterday's big race at Kempton to run here. Ballybough Rasher, a winner over fences on the corresponding card 12 months ago, made an excellent reappearance at Wetherby.

Quotes

Philip Hobbs, trainer of Saragann

"We're hoping two and a half miles will suit him better. He wouldn't want the ground to turn too soft, though."

Mark Pitman, trainer of Dulas Bay

"He had another thoroughly rewarding time last season, but his rating has soared from 78 to 119 since joining us which will make life difficult."

Howard Johnson, trainer of Ballybough Rasher

"I was very pleased with his seasonal debut at Wetherby, but I fear the trip will find him out."

Charlie Mann, trainer of Merchants Friend

"He won well at Pardubice on his first run for me earlier this month and he seems nicely handicapped."

Lucinda Russell, trainer of Uncle Bert

"He loves Aintree and won this race two years ago. He's out of the handicap but there aren't that many options for him."

The Spotlight verdict

He returned with promise at Wetherby, where he should have won but for an awful mistake. He can go close here. Richard Austen's assessment, page 41
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Oct 27, 2002
Words:856
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