THE Grand National fences at Aintree provided the perfect situation for the 7-1 favourite Forest Gunner to set the pace and jump superbly to provide Tarporley trainer Richard Ford with an impressive eight-length win in the betfair.com Grand Sefton Handicap Steeplechase last Saturday.
'He'll be entered in the National, but I don't honestly think he'll get the trip,' said Ford. 'The Topham is the obvious alternative. He seems to enjoy it round here and he's come back without a scratch. We'll see how he is in the morning because he's a fragile horse.'
Partnered by 5lbs conditional jockey Peter Buchanan the 10-year-old has earned a quote of 25-1 for the National in April 2005.
Amberleigh House returned to the scene of his Grand National victory when taking part in the totesport Becher Handicap Steeplechase last Sunday. Jockey Graham Lee tracked the field in the early stages before making progress. Our local hero was just touched off by a short head to finish fifth when giving over a stone away in weight to the first three horses.
Trainer Ginger McCain said: 'There were about 10 horses in a line and I thought we'd get done but the horse has run a stormer. He was trained to come here and now he'll have a break before running once or twice in the spring. That was very satisfying.'
The winner, Silver Birch, completed a superb front-running performance for jockey Ruby Walsh and was promoted to 20-1 joint favourite for the Grand National alongside Amberleigh House and Clan Royal.
Racing at Bangor-on-Dee takes place this afternoon, starting at 1.10pm with the Lord's Taverners Juvenile Novices' Hurdle.
It is difficult to look beyond Yankee doodle dandy who was a 10-length winner at Sandown earlier this month and steps down in class here. Bollin Annabel may represent better value for a place.
Carapuce made a useful chasing debut when finishing second at Carlisle. The gelding will receive weight from most of the field in the Malise Nicholson Beginners' Chase and should go close today.
The bangorondeeraces.co.uk Handicap Hurdle looks a good opportunity for Investment Affair to follow-up on his eight-length win at Haydock Park despite carrying top weight. Lightly weighted Senna Da Silva looks the danger.
Another top weight is selected in the £15,000 feature race, the Lord's Taverners Handicap Chase. Tresor de Mai just beat Fox In The Box at Exeter on November 2 when conceding 3lbs and will stay the trip of an extended three miles.
A much-improved Barton Baron recorded his first win at Towcester last month and chasing may have unleashed his potential. The Lady Taverners Novices' Handicap Chase should provide a suitable follow-up race for the five-year-old.
Pink Harbour from the McCain yard is a consistent type and will be supported by locals.
The meeting closes with the Ellesmere 'National Hunt' Novices Hurdle at 3.40pm.