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Bank on Bay for National service; RACING PREVIEW.

Byline: NAOMI MATTHEW

CALGARY BAY can keep the John Smith's Grand National (4.15) on home soil for a fourth consecutive year.

Henrietta Knight's chaser is far too big a price in the betting, yet represents much more than a calculated risk in keeping at bay another strong Irish challenge.

A punt must admittedly be taken on his ability to stay the distance, of course, which is why he has been overlooked in the market.

Although the eight-year-old has never won over farther than three miles, his jumping prowess holds the key.

A big, powerful animal, Calgary Bay looks tailor-made for the National, having yet to fall in 15 starts over fences.

To that end, the precise manner in which he jumps should help reserve priceless energy for when the screw is inevitably turned along the second circuit.

Although the well-worn cliche of a two-and-a-half-miler being an ideal type for the National is nothing short of bunkum, history has shown us that horses with a similar profile to that of Calgary Bay can win.

Gay Trip, for instance, was considered a speed horse before his success in 1970, and had never even won over three miles, let alone four and a half, before arriving on Merseyside.

Other than the issue of stamina, it is tough to find negatives when staking a claim for Calgary Bay.

Knight's representative has lots of class, which is so important in fast-ground Nationals.

A Grade Two winner at Cheltenham a couple of years ago, his performances in the 2010 Gold Cup and in this season's Vote AP Gold Cup were just short of top drawer.

There was also not a great deal wrong with his fourth in the totesport Bowl over the Mildmay course on his last visit to Aintree.

Indeed, his second behind Wishfull Thinking in January is worthy of added scrutiny as the winner that day subsequently earned his spurs at the Cheltenham Festival.

The forecast dry spell before the race will be ideal - especially in terms of him lasting the trip - while he is also beautifully weighted on 10st 10lb.

Knight, famously a three-time Gold Cup winner with Best Mate, continually adopts a cautious slant with her racehorses, and has only had a handful of National runners in the past.

But for a few years, now, she has mooted Calgary Bay as being an ideal type for the race, which in itself must be of significance.

For those who love a National yarn, there is also subtext.

Knight and her new stable jockey, Hadden Frost, have had an awful season - especially the young rider, who was pilloried for riding a circuit too early at Folkestone in February.

Frost will therefore be keener than most to make positive headlines this weekend on his first start over the birch fences.

The fact his father, Jimmy, won the race on Little Polveir in 1989 - before Hadden jnr was born - is the stuff of folklore which seems to have gone hand in hand with Grand National winners of yore.

Ireland can dominate the minor placings, with Backstage, Bluesea Cracker and Arbor Supreme expected to run with great honour.

Last year's winner Don't Push It heads a maximum field of 40 runners in the race.

The 11-year-old gave multiple champion jockey McCoy an emotional first victory in the world's most famous steeplechase 12 months ago, and bids to repeat the dose under top weight.

Racing purists will be looking forward to the John Smith's Aintree Hurdle (2.50) with as much fervency as the National, such is the stellar cast on show.

And in what is a tough call, Binocular is taken to narrowly outpoint Peddlers Cross.

The latter was brilliant in this year's Cheltenham Hurdle, and only lacked the finishing kick of Hurricane Fly inside the final 50 yards or so.

Donald McCain's six-year-old is a tough cookie, but connections will have done magnificently in getting him back to the same level of fitness for this.

If there is a lingering residue of fatigue, Champion Hurdle absentee Binocular will snaffle up any weaknesses.

There is not much in it between the two horses, but Nicky Henderson's seven-year-old should have the physical edge and will be unruffled by the step up to two and a half miles.

Henderson will also be disappointed if he does not pocket the John Smith's Maghull Chase (2.15) with Arkle runner-up Finian's Rainbow.

PINSTICKERS' Grand National guide - see Page 46.

Tomorrow's tips AINTREE: GAZETTE BET: 4.15 1 What A Friend, 2 Backstage, 3 Golden Kite, 4 Grand Slam Hero. NAOMI MATTHEW: 1.45 Cue Card, 2.15 Finian's Rainbow, 2.50 Binocular (nb), 3.25 Reve De Sivola, 4.15 1 Calgary Bay (nap), 2 Backstage, 3 Bluesea Cracker, 4 Arbor Supreme, 5.00 Ciceron, 5.35 Go All The Way BANGOR: GAZETTE BET: 2.25 Midnight Appeal. NAOMI MATTHEW: 1.55 Railway Dillon, 2.25 Mud Monkey, 3.05 Charming Lad, 3.40 Three Chords, 4.45 Locksmith, 5.15 Valid Point, 5.45 Ebanour CHEPSTOW: GAZETTE BET: 3.10 Indian Pipe Dream. NAOMI MATTHEW: 2.05 Paddy Partridge, 2.35 Chicago Alley, 3.10 General Kutuzov, 3.45 Laneguy, 4.50 J'Adhere, 5.20 Marias Rock, 5.55 Colour Squadron LINGFIELD: GAZETTE BET: 5.40 Beaubrav. NAOMI MATTHEW: 2.00 Rio Royale, 2.30 Holyfield Warrior, 3.00 Tinkertown, 3.30 Dawn Lightning, 4.00 A'Faal, 5.05 Advertisement, 5.40 Tominator THIRSK: GAZETTE BET: 3.15 Tax Free. NAOMI MATTHEW: 1.35 Henry Morgan, 2.10 The Osteopath, 2.45 Even Stevens, 3.15 Hamish McGonagall, 3.50 Ubi Ace, 4.55 Frognal, 5.25 Smalljohn, 6.00 Khaleeji WOLVERHAMPTON: GAZETTE BET: 8.20 Set To Music. NAOMI MATTHEW: 6.20 Avonlini, 6.50 Cavitie, 7.20 Kassaab, 7.50 I Confess, 8.20 Miss Chicane, 8.50 Monster Munchie, 9.20 Blackstone Vegas

CAPTION(S):

BAY OF PLENTY: Calgary Bay pictured with Tony McCoy on their way to victory at Cheltenham. Hadden Frost gets the ride on Henrietta Knight's chaser in tomorrow's John Smith's Grand National and can make it count in the Aintree showpiece
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Apr 8, 2011
Words:1019
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