HOURIGAN HAPPY WITH BEEF AHEAD OF BETFAIR CHASE & HAWKE HOPING TO RELIVE AINTREE GLORY
Irish trainer Michael Hourigan is looking forward to running Beef Or Salmon in the three-mile £200,000 Betfair Chase (1.50pm) at Haydock Park on Saturday, November 18, after declaring himself pleased with the 10-year-old following a piece of work on Tuesday morning.
Hourigan revealed today: "Beef Or Salmon worked yesterday and he's fine - I'm very happy with him. He's a year older but he's in grand form and we're looking forward to Saturday, all being well.
"He's better when the ground is soft so we just would like a bit of rain. The softer the better for him."
Beef Or Salmon has landed nine Grade One victories in a glittering career, and was a length and a quarter runner-up to the Robert Alner-trained Kingscliff in the inaugural Betfair Chase in 2005, with that year's totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup victor Kicking King in third.
The Joe Craig-owned star's latest triumph came in the Grade One James Nicholson Wine Merchant Champion Chase at Down Royal on November 4, when he defeated the 2006 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup winner War Of Attrition by a neck.
Beef Or Salmon's Down Royal success came in the hands of Andrew McNamara who was partnering the gelding for the first time over fences, having ridden him twice previously over hurdles.
Hourigan, who also has Church Island entered in the race, commented: "Andrew (McNamara) gave him a good ride at Down Royal and hopefully we can have the same result at Haydock."
The going at Haydock is currently good to soft and blustery showers are forecast for the next two days.
The Betfair Chase is the first leg of the ground-breaking Betfair Million, which offers a generous £1 million bonus to any horse that wins three of the season's most prestigious Grade One three-mile chases - the Betfair Chase followed by either the Stan James King George VI Chase at Kempton or the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over the Christmas period and then adds the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
The inaugural running of the Betfair Chase lived up to its star billing and this year's renewal is guaranteed to produce another superb spectacle with a top-class 14-strong entry, including two from Ireland and a trio from France.
The Arnaud Chaille-Chaille-trained Grade One winner Mid Dancer heads the French challenge. He pleased connections when runner-up to Monet's Garden at Carlisle on October 29, and could be joined by stablemate Super Bowl, as well as the Francois Doumen-trained totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup fourth L'Ami.
Others that could feature in the fantastic contest include last year's victor Kingscliff, alongside the Paul Nicholls-trained Grade One Tingle Creek Chase winner Kauto Star who showed his well-being with an easy success in the Grade Two Bonusprint.com Old Roan Chase at Aintree on October 22.
The Jonjo O'Neill-trained Iris's Gift, winner of the Grade One Ladbrokes World Hurdle in 2004, could take his chance, as may last season's Stan James King George VI Chase runner-up Monkerhostin, Henrietta Knight's exciting young chaser Racing Demon, Take The Stand and Bewleys Berry.
13-8 FAVOURITE FOR THE BETFAIR CHASE
Kauto Star opened up as the 11-4 favourite for the Betfair Chase when the market first opened on Betfair, but the impressive Aintree winner is now into 13-8 on the exchange for Saturday's showpiece at Haydock.
Beef Or Salmon is the 9-2 second favourite but the other horse for money has been L'Ami, supported from over 11-1 into 6-1.
Last year's Betfair Chase winner Kingscliff is 8-1, with French Champion Hurdle winner Mid Dancer a 9-1 chance and 18-1+ the remainder.
The Betfair Chase is the highlight of a fantastic six-race card at Haydock Park on Saturday, November 18, that comprises day one of the two-day North West Masters. The day also features the £100,000 Betfair Handicap Hurdle (2.20pm) in which the Jonjo O'Neill-trained Black Jack Ketchum could put his unbeaten reputation on the line.
NORTH WEST MASTERS
The North West Masters, now in its second year, continues at Aintree on Sunday, November 19, when the thrilling six-race card features two races over the world famous Grand National fences - the £100,000 totesport.com Becher Chase (2.35pm) and the £60,000 totepool Grand Sefton Handicap Chase (1.30pm).
Nigel Hawke tasted the ultimate Aintree glory as a jockey when partnering Seagram to victory in the 1991 John Smith's Grand National, and he could bid for a training success over the big fences with Soeur Fontenail in the totepool Grand Sefton Handicap Chase.
The Somerset handler revealed today: "It's 50/50 at the present moment and obviously I'd love to take her to Aintree. I have a little bit of a problem in that the two or three jockeys I use are all jocked up at the moment. If I can get a top jockey then I would most likely run her.
"She's in at Ascot as well as Aintree, and also at Kempton next week, so where she goes will also depend on the ground. I wouldn't want it too soft."
Soeur Fontenail experienced the Grand National fences in last season's renewal of the two mile, five and a half-furlong totepool Grand Sefton Handicap Chase, but fell at the fifth fence in the race won by the John Spearing-trained Hakim.
Hawke reported: "If anything, she's too good a jumper. Last year she pinged the chair then jumped the water, which is the smallest jump on the course, and she basically over-jumped and landed on her head.
"She's the best jumper ever seen and this is why I want to take her there, but I do have some reservations as to whether the fences will suit her because she is such a clean jumper.
"She's in good form and had a nice run first time out. The mare has won over the trip and she gives everyone a lot of fun, so it would be nice to have another try at the big Aintree fences."
The totepool Grand Sefton Handicap Chase has attracted a 33-strong entry headed by Hakim, and includes last season's third, fourth, fifth and sixth - Shannon's Pride, Tanterari, Cassia Heights and Wain Mountain.
Tickets are available from both Haydock and Aintree -
Tickets are still available for both racedays.
01942 402 624 (Haydock)
0151 522 2929 (Aintree)
Online booking is also available at www.aintree.co.uk and www.haydock-park.co.uk
Accommodation booking is available on 0845 601 1125
REGION HOPING FOR FURTHER SUCCESS
The 2005 North West Masters attracted nearly 20,000 visitors into the region with research showing that over £1.7million was spent by racegoers attending the meeting. Saturday's racing at Haydock Park saw over 12,000 people packed into its stands - the biggest jumping attendance for over 20 years - with Aintree attracting over 7,000 visitors, despite only passing a midday inspection.
Martin King, Director of Tourism at The Mersey Partnership, said: "The North West Masters event last year proved a resounding success and I'm confident that this year's will prove to be even bigger and better. I see the Masters as becoming another major fixture in Merseyside's incredible calendar of festivals and events."
After the racing at Haydock on the Saturday, the first day will be celebrated with a FREE star studded music event in conjunction with Wish FM, featuring a performance by X-Factor star Andy Abraham, in Victoria Square, St. Helens town centre which will coincide with the town's spectacular Christmas lights switch-on.
Bus services link the racecourse directly to St. Helens town centre courtesy of Mersey Travel. Further information is also available by going to www.visitliverpool.com/northwestmasters