Richard Forristal: Sunday service
Outsider to note
The Grand Sefton Chase, run over two miles and five furlongs, is the first of tomorrow's two events over the big fences at Aintree. Fancied to make a bold show at around 12/1 is Victorias Groom, which bounces out and jumps from fence to fence when he is at the top of his game.
Such enthusiasm is a real advantage around Aintree, especially over the few races run over this distance. A three-time winner in his novice season last term, Victorias Groom's form petered out in his final couple of starts in the spring.
However, he displayed clear signs of returning to his best when second at Market Rasen on his reappearance, and the handicapper has left him on 130, the mark off which he last won in February. With Jason Maguire up, Victorias Groom looks weighted to be competitive if he takes to the fences.
Aintree 12.35 -- Victorias Groom
Aintree 1.45 -- Merigo
Aintree 2.20 -- Fine Parchment
Navan 1.05 -- Aughnacurraveel
Monday: Ffos Las, Kempton, Ludlow
Tuesday: Lingfield, Sedgefield, Southwell (AW)
Wednesday: Naas, Chepstow, Kempton* (AW), Lingfield (AW), Wetherby
Thursday: Thurles, Newbury, Taunton, Uttoxeter, Wolverhampton* (AW)
Friday: Dundalk* (AW), Lingfield (AW), Musselburgh, Newbury, Wolverhampton* (AW)
Saturday: Fairyhouse, Wexford, Kempton (AW), Newbury, Newcastle, Towcester, Wolverhampton* (AW)
Sunday: Fairyhouse, Carlisle, Kempton (AW), Leicester
11 -- Forpadydeplasterer's tally of second-place finishes after being beaten at Cheltenham on Sunday, his 2009 Irish Independent Arkle Trophy win the only relief in an exasperating sequence.
9 - The in-form Davy Russell's running total for November. The Youghal native has three rides at Gowran Park today, and five more at Navan tomorrow.
6 -- Solwhit's Grade One haul after his latest triumph at Punchestown last Sunday.
Quote of the week
"Noel is doing really well for us, but I am not going to say he's riding him. That would be unfair. I'm not going to do that to anybody. When the time is right we will let everyone know." -- Paul Nicholls does little to dispel the suspicion that Noel Fehily, who today partners Master Minded for the Kauto Star connections at Ascot, will steer the dual Gold Cup winner at Kempton over Christmas.
Three things we
learned this week
1 Johnny Murtagh's decision to leave Ballydoyle has really shaken things up. The swiftness with which the Aga Khan moved to secure his services for 2011 has brought that reality into stark focus. As a result of the move, Fran Berry, No 1 at John Oxx's during that trainer's worst season for over 20 years, yet who is nonetheless enjoying his best ever season in the saddle, is now out of a job.
2 Gordon Elliott is making a habit of saving Irish blushes at Cheltenham. Garde Champetre got overturned on Friday, and Dancing Tornado and Forpadydeplasterer's subsequent runner-up finishes ensured near misses were all our representatives came away with. Or at least nearly all. While the blank was our first at the fixture since 1995, the meeting concluded with a charity race, which went to Elliott's Wikaala. Having saddled a hat-trick there in October, Elliott has been responsible for all of our Prestbury Park wins since March.
3 Next Sunday's Hatton's Grace Hurdle will be an early season treat. The Fairyhouse Grade One rarely disappoints, but Solwhit's accomplished comeback at Punchestown last week sets up the prospect of a thrilling set-to with the formidable Hurricane Fly.