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True grit Buddy as Aintree goes West.

Byline: MIKE TORPEY

PUTTING up the 'blinds' worked a treat for quirky character Buddy Marvel at Aintree's autumn meeting.

The Mary Reveley-trained gelding had looked out of sorts on his return to action at Bangor a fortnight ago, but turned that form on its head to land yesterday's feature event, the pounds 20,000 Tripleprint Steeplechase.

Several were still in with a chance in the 2 1 2-mile contest as the field turned into the straight, but with the rail to help him, Jim Crowley galvanised Buddy Marvel to hold off the renewed challenge of Ryalux by a head.

County Durham trainer Howard Johnson makes no secret of the fact that Aintree is his favourite track and he enjoyed yet another winner after the day's most dramatic race.

With hot favourite Errand Boy unseating his rider at only the second fence of the 3m 1f Doubleprint Novices' Chase the likely winner looked to be the Irish invader Sadr, who had been up front throughout and was still full of running approaching the second last fence.

But Sue Bramall's bold chaser took off too early at that obstacle, bit the turf and that left Ballybough Rasher to take home the bacon.

Johnson said: "We would have won this race last year with Jay Walker if he hadn't fallen. I like this horse, but he is very nervous and he wants an easy season - he will make a nice chaser one day."

And he will certainly be back here next April with his stable star as he added: "We have a good record around here and Direct Route will be trained with winning the Mumm Melling Chase for the third time in mind. We just want some fast ground for him."

In what proved a benefit day for the bookies, every favourite was beaten and champion jockey Tony McCoy could fare no better than third in any race, including aboard two odds-on shots.

The pattern of the day - which was organised around a Wild West theme and attracted a huge family-dominated crowd - was set from the first race, a 2 1 2-mile novices' hurdle, when the Tim Easterby-trained 11-1 chance Roman Rampage made steady progress from way back to outpoint Stromness and the well backed Joss Naylor on the run-in.

Ballynatin Blue, who had stormed off into a 25-length lead, looked sure to be pegged back as the pursuing pack closed in the Bonusprint Handicap Hurdle over an extended three miles.

But with leading challengers Knighted and then Ballycassidy falling at the third last and second last flights, the 25-1 chance's stamina held out and he stayed on to deny Young Dalesman by two lengths.

Another big priced winner was the Scottish-trained 20-1 shot Single Sourcing, who looked beaten as runner-up Ballybentragh took his measure after the last fence of the Bonusphoto Handicap Chase.

Jockey Brian Storey had other ideas, though, and regaining the lead in the last 50 yards, held on to win by a neck.

The bookmakers clearly had the better of the day's exchanges.

Among those celebrating, though, was Aintree chairman Lord Daresbury, whose novice Gudlage landed Division One of the Fotocolor Maiden Hurdle under a positive ride from Richard McGrath.

CAPTION(S):

HAT'S OFF TO AINTREE: A cowboy's silhouette sets the Wild West mood yesterday as the runners get ready to race THE WILD BUNCH: Red Rum's trainer Ginger McCain confronts a giant Red Indian as he gets into the Wild West theme at Aintree yesterday. Laura Berwick, 10, joins in with the cowboys and Indians, above left, and John Morris prepares for battle as Big Chief Grey Cloud, left Pictures: COLIN LANE
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 29, 2001
Words:605
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