Venturi stakes National claim
Vic Venturi advertised his Aintree Grand National prospects with a classy victory in the At The Races Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse yesterday.
Dessie Hughes' Becher Chase winner, a 3/1 shot yesterday, effortlessly moved through the race and despite the presence of Grade One winner Notre Pere in the field, it was left to stable companion Black Apalachi to chase him home.
Both are now likely to head to Aintree, but William Hill were more impressed with the runner-up, which won the corresponding race 12 months ago.
He was well fancied for last year's National but unseated his rider at Becher's Brook on the second circuit when still in with every chance. Totesport make the two Hughes inmates 16/1 chances.
But William Hill's 20/1 price for Vic Venturi did not last for long, however, after the firm laid a £5,000 about him securing Aintree glory. Hughes' charge is now also a 16/1 shot with the firm.
Hughes said : "I was delighted with both horses' Grand National weights when they were published and this was a fantastic result -- we now have two Aintree contenders.
"Vic Venturi was 110 per cent fit today and while he obviously ran a cracker to win, Black Apalachi comes out of the race with equal credit, having just his second run back. Both go to Aintree with every chance, but no riding arrangements have been made yet."
Also at Fairyhouse, Alaivan boosted his Triumph Hurdle claims with an effortless success in the Winning Fair Juvenile Hurdle.
No match for Gordon Elliott's Carlito Brigante when he was last seen at Leopardstown over Christmas, Edward O'Grady's four-year-old this time had no trouble in adding to his tally.
Sent off the 4/6 favourite, Andrew McNamara was content to sit way off the pace, but he moved through the field on the bridle to win by 17 lengths from Loch Long. William Hill cut him to 6/1 from 10s for the Triumph at Cheltenham.
O'Grady said: "Alaivan disappointed us at Christmas but was obviously beaten by a very good horse. However, I think today's win, and his debut win, were better performances than his Christmas run and his jumping has improved too.
"Last Wednesday was actually the first day Alaivan really pleased me in a gallop since I got him and hopefully he can build on this."
Gordon Elliott claimed the John McCarthy Memorial Hunters Chase with Nedzer's Return. The son of Bob's Return (4/1-7/2) was ridden by Colin Motherway and eventually recorded a comfortable nine lengths win, with 7/4 favourite Having A Cut pulling up for the second consecutive year.