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Thursday, February 9, 2012



Julian Thick, Managing Director of Aintree Racecourse, commented: “It was with great sadness that we heard the news of Josh Gifford’s passing this morning.


“He was, and forever will be, a key character in Grand National folklore as the trainer of 1981 Grand National winning horse, Aldaniti.


“Josh had brought Aldaniti back from injury and stayed loyal to Bob Champion through the jockey’s fight against cancer, and their victory together in the race remains as one of the most emotive and heroic Grand National wins ever witnessed here at Aintree.


“He will be missed greatly, and his contribution to the race will remain as one of the most iconic Grand National stories of our time.”


The Chairman of Aintree Racecourse, Lord Daresbury, remembers Josh Gifford: “Josh was a true gentleman; he was charming, witty, accomplished and very knowledgeable about horses and racing. 


“I was lucky to have known him through George Sloan, who came over from America to be Champion Amateur and had horses with him - they were some pair together. Josh will be sadly missed by so many friends in England and America.”








Trainer Malcolm Jefferson is hoping that According To Pete can continue his excellent recent form in this year’s £975,000 John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, April 14.


Weights for the world-famous handicap chase will be revealed on Tuesday, February 14, at the 2012 John Smith’s Grand National Official Launch in London.


According To Pete has posted a pair of Grade Three handicap chase victories on his most recent starts as he made all of the running to take the Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby on December 26 and followed up with another excellent round of jumping to win the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock Park on January 21. The 11-year-old is rated a 25/1 chance with Betfred for the John Smith’s Grand National.


Jefferson revealed: “According To Pete is in great form at the moment. We are just waiting to see what weight he receives on Tuesday before committing him but the John Smith’s Grand National is very high on his agenda because I think that the race will suit him.


“You would be hopeful that he will be allotted less than 11st but it’s very hard to tell what mark you will get.



“We might give him one more start beforehand in the Premier Chase at Kelso. It’s a long time between now and the John Smith’s Grand National but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if he went straight to Aintree. It would be nice to give him a pipe-opener beforehand.


“He won his two most recent starts this term but he didn’t really do a lot wrong last season. He was only just beaten at Catterick and made a mistake at the last and nearly fell when going down by a head to Skippers Brig in a decent race at Haydock.


“He’s won on all types of ground and he goes on anything and everything. The Peter Marsh Chase was a bit of a slog through heavy ground but he has won on good going as well. I would think that the ground will be on softer side of good this year for the John Smith’s Grand National.


“I can’t see my other entry King Fontaine getting into the John Smith’s Grand National, which is a pity because he ran quite well in the race last year. Things have just gone wrong for him this year and I don’t really know why. I thought that he was just coming back to himself at Wetherby but then he fell at the second in the Peter Marsh Chase.


“He’s come down a fair bit in the weights and, all being well, he will go back to Haydock for the Grand National Trial before probably heading to Ayr for the Scottish Grand National.”


A total of 82 entries were made for the 2012 John Smith’s Grand National on January 31 and they include two of the past three winners, Ballabriggs and Mon Mome. Grade One Lexus Chase victor Synchronised has been entered and represents the owner/trainer combination of J P McManus and Jonjo O’Neill, who were successful with Don’t Push It in 2010.




The task of handicapping the John Smith’s Grand National, run over four and a half miles and 30 fences, falls to Phil Smith, Head of Handicapping at the British Horseracing Authority.


The John Smith’s Grand National is the only race in the calendar where Smith can use his discretion to determine the weights, rather than purely rely on ratings.


Smith, who first framed the weights for the Aintree spectacular in 1999, believes the 2012 renewal will be a race full of quality.


He said: “Even though the number of entries for the John Smith’s Grand National is lower this year, there are more horses rated 145 plus than there were in 2011, which obviously shows that the race is going in the right direction.


“The other point to note is that the percentage of entries rated over 135 is the highest ever. The 2012 John Smith’s Grand National is a high-quality race and I am still working on the handicap. The high quality of the entries doesn’t make my job more difficult but certainly makes it more interesting as it is always more fun to deal with good horses.


“A whole host of horses were entered over the past five to 10 years that never had any hope of getting a run. All that is happening now is that owners and trainers are being more realistic and only entering horses which have a good chance of lining up in the race.”




Dominic Elsworth and Mister McGoldrick sprung one of the biggest shocks in the history of The Festival when running away with what is now the Byrne Group Plate in 2008 at odds of 66/1, giving the rider and trainer Sue Smith their first taste of Festival success.


Reflecting on that victory, Elsworth said: “It was a very special day, he absolutely sluiced up. The rain came at the right time for a horse who wanted soft ground and I was delighted with him.”


Despite his odds, Mister McGoldrick was a multiple Grade Two winner and, after tracking the leaders throughout the race, took up the running at the 10th fence and powered clear of his rivals to win by 13 lengths.


Elsworth added: “I never get confident throughout any race and especially at Cheltenham where you have to ride every race individually.


“Obviously, at Cheltenham there is a lot of hype beforehand but, once you’re on the horse’s back, you just have to get on and do your job. Once you get over the last, that’s when the emotions start. But once you’ve passed the winning line is when it really counts, because anything can happen between the start and the finish.


“I was delighted to ride a winner for Richard Longley (Mister McGoldrick’s owner) - he has been very good to me. It was special riding a horse I had grown up with and gained experience with because I had always had a good association with the horse - it was just very special.”


The 32-year-old suffered a horrific fall at Ffos Las in August, 2009, which sidelined him for 14 months, but he returned with a bang, winning on Edgbriar at Cheltenham on his first ride back in October, 2010.


He has also had two other high-profile successes at the track on Calgary Bay and, with a level stake profit of £49 at Cheltenham over the past five seasons, Elsworth admits he likes the course.


Elsworth continued: “I do enjoy riding at Cheltenham; I think everyone does, but it is a challenge and you need a horse that can travel and jump at speed.”


He is now looking forward to partnering Somersby for Henrietta Knight at The Festival, and the partnership between trainer and jockey has flourished this season with big-race victories at Ascot, Cheltenham and Doncaster.


Elsworth concluded: “I would think the Ryanair Chase will be the race for Somersby and it would be special to ride a winner at The Festival for Henrietta Knight as she gave me a lot of big chances early on in my career.


“She has a great affinity with Cheltenham obviously with Best Mate. Somersby was my first Grade One winner and her first since Best Mate, so it was quite a poignant day when I won at Ascot in the Victor Chandler Chase in January.”

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