THE weights to be carried by the horses in the Grand National are announced next week.
What Cheshire lacks in quantity of horses entered for this year's race, it makes up for in quality. There are just two from the county out of the 152 put in at the opening stage.
But the pair - Forest Gunner and Amberleigh House - certainly know their way around Aintree.
Forest Gunner ran twice over the 'National' fences last year - and won twice.
Amberleigh House ran twice over them as well. Just the one win, but it was in the race that mattered - the main event last April.
In truth, Forest Gunner's trainer Richard Ford doesn't think that his horse would see out the four and a half miles of the National.
Both his wins in 2004 came over two and three quarter miles in the Martell Cognac Fox Hunters' Chase and the Grand Sefton Chase. His wife Carrie was on board for the latter race and, as always with this racing couple, she came up with a wonderful quote for the media: 'Jumping those fences is easier than childbirth!' The Topham Chase earlier in the Grand National meeting, which may become four days in 2007, is the likely alternative for the 11-year-old.
Which would leave last year's hero to fly the flag for Cheshire.
The horse has an incredible record at Aintree. It's worth considering as he embarks on the road to the Grand National aged 13.
He's completed the course seven times in his eight runs, the sole blemish being when he was brought down in the 2001 Grand National, the year in which the race was run in a mud bath and just four horses finished.
In the Becher Chase, it's a first, two seconds and a fifth; in the Topham Chase he came ninth when denied a chance to run in the National by the handicapper; and first, third and brought down in the National itself.
Currently offered by the book-makers at 20-1 for back-to-back victories, don't bet against another historic run. nThe next meeting at Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse is on Friday, February 11. The first race is scheduled for 2.10pm. A free bus service runs from Wrexham Station to the race-course 90 minutes before the first race and returns after racing - race-goers with railway tickets have priority.
Admission to the Course Enclosure is £7, while the Paddock Enclosure is £14. Accompanied children enter free. Information is available on the website www.BangorOnDeeRaces .co.uk or call the racecourse on 01978 780323. nThe next racing at The Roodee is the May Festival. Tickets are on now sale. More information is on the web-site www.chester-races.co.uk or by calling 01244 304600.
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