Notre Pere to test Aintree credentials in Becher
FORMER Welsh Grand National winner Notre Pere will attempt to defy the steadier of 11st 12lb in Sunday's totesport.com Becher Chase at Aintree.
Jim Dreaper is keen to give his giant stayer a crack over the big fences to see if he can be prepared for the Aintree Grand National itself.
Notre Pere has not won since taking the Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup in April 2009, but he made a pleasing reappearance at Thurles earlier this month when runner-up to Glencove Marina.
"We hope to be there. He's been fine since Thurles and it was fine for a first run," said the trainer. "He had a blow, he just got left behind but he stayed on fine. We just need to have a run over the Aintree fences and see if we ought to maybe plan the season around having a go at the National."
Eoin Griffin is keeping a close eye on the weather before deciding whether to send The Last Derby over to Aintree. The Kilkenny trainer has already ruled out a crack at Sunday's Troytown Handicap Chase at Navan because conditions will be testing for the six-year-old.
"I'll be keeping an eye on the ground (at Aintree). It looks pretty doubtful as he wants nice ground," he said. "At this stage of the season it wouldn't be fair to give him a hard race on unsuitable ground.
"If he doesn't take up an engagement this weekend, we will give him a break and bring him back in the spring. He'll be targeted then at one of the Nationals -- either the Irish or the English."
Connections of Merigo will also have their fingers crossed the chestnut takes to Aintree's unique obstacles. Already a winner of the 2009 Eider Chase and the 2010 Scottish National, Merigo's main aim is the Aintree spectacular.
However, trainer Andrew Parker believes there is no point pursuing that dream if the nine-year-old gelding does not take to the fences.
"This is just a stepping stone. Hopefully he'll take to the fences and if he does, and we can get him into the weights for the Grand National, then that's what we want to do," said the Lockerbie handler.
"If for some reason he doesn't take to the fences, it's early enough in the season and we can go back to Plan B, which would be the Scottish National."
Tom George has ruled Tartak out of Saturday's Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot due to a dirty scope. The seven-year-old was due to continue his preparations for a crack at the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon in December.
However, he will now head straight for that Grade Two event, in which he was an unlucky loser last year.