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Wednesday, April 6, 2005



Following a couple of sharp showers on Wednesday afternoon and early morning rain, the going for the Grand National course at Aintree has been changed to

GOOD TO SOFT - GOOD in places.

The Mildmay course remains


but the rain has also made an impression on the Hurdle course, which is now

GOOD - GOOD TO SOFT in places.

Having walked the courses this afternoon (Wednesday), clerk of the course Andrew Tulloch said: “It is lovely ground, but we had 4.6mm of rain overnight and another 0.5mm this afternoon so it has definitely eased.

“We are likely to have a couple more showers overnight, and some may carry over into Thursday morning.

“Friday will be a mixture of sunshine and showers, but temperatures are expected to rise to 11C or 12C on Saturday, which looks like being mainly dry.”


A field of eight will line up for tomorrow’s £150,000 Betfair Bowl Chase, the first steeplechase at the John Smith’s Grand National meeting, and run over three miles and a furlong of the Mildmay course at Aintree.

All but two of the great field took part at the Cheltenham Festival last month with Sir Rembrandt and Grey Abbey running extremely well to be third and fifth respectively in the Gold Cup, with Sir Rembrandt undoubtedly putting up his best performance of the season in being beaten five lengths and eight by Kicking King and Take The Stand.

There was at one time a chance that Grey Abbey would retire after the Gold Cup, but his connections have had second thoughts. They were contemplating the John Smith’s Grand National but have decided instead to run in the Betfair Bowl, the feature event of the Aintree’s first day. The ground was plenty fast enough for Grey Abbey at Cheltenham and an easier surface here would be to his liking.

Thisthatandtother got the better of a thrilling battle with Fondmort in the new Daily Telegraph Chase at Cheltenham. He has never run over a trip as long as this, but he was not stopping at the finish then and Aintree will put much less strain on any possible stamina problems.

None of the others who ran at The Festival acquitted themselves with much distinction. Last year’s Betfair Bowl winner Tiutchev, who ran very poorly in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day before being pulled up, turned in another disappointing performance.

His stablemate Our Vic raced in touch with the pace until making two mistakes in the Daily Telegraph Chase. He was pulled up, and the fact that he had fallen when in the lead at the last in the Bonusprint Gold Cup at Cheltenham in December, does not inspire confidence in his jumping but he is very highly rated by connections and Timmy Murphy rides, with Richard Johnson on Tiutchev.

Crystal d’Ainay is known for his hurdling exploits in Britain, but he has won twice over fences in France. He turned in a disappointing display in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham behind Inglis Drever, but did far better before that when beating Monet’s Garden at Kempton.

First Gold has twice scooped this valuable prize, in 2001 and 2003and was runner-up last year. The French raider found two and a half miles too short at Newbury last time, but had done much better on his previous run when unable to give 17lb to Lord Transcend at Haydock.

The Irish challenger Jim, who is not named after his trainer Jim Dreaper, has won his last two starts and stayed on strongly at Leopardstown last time.

Dreaper said: “Jim has had a very truncated career with lots of niggles and, although this is a big step up in class for him, we want to try and find out how good he is.”


Legendary owner and punter J P McManus has six runners in this year's John Smith's Grand National, the most owned by one person in living memory. The following is a list of which horse will carry his first to sixth colours, including the differential in caps with the famous green and gold colours.

Clan Royal - 1st colours - white cap

Le Coudray - 2nd colours - green with white star on cap

Risk Accessor - 3rd colours - plain blue cap

Spot Thedifference - 4th colours - plain red cap

Innox - 5th colours - plain yellow cap

Shamawan - 6th colours - plain black cap


Merseyside Police is working closely with Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool City and Sefton Councils, Merseytravel and British Transport Police, to reduce the impact of the proposed industrial action, which may result in no trains running locally on the Friday and Saturday of the Grand National Festival.

Police are working to avoid traffic congestion and to that end are advising racegoers to leave plenty of time to get to the racecourse and to get into the event for the start of the racing programme on both days.
A number of contingency plans have been put into place and these include extra park and ride facilities, additional off-site car parking and bus transportation from and to Liverpool Lime Street railway station both prior to and after racing.

Racegoers, who are travelling by car, are being urged to car share where possible as parking facilities are limited. However, Aintree Racecourse has sourced additional parking on Bridle Road, Aintree,. This free car park is 10 minutes walk and will be clearly signposted round the racecourse.

Racegoers will be able to get advice about the bus services being put in place, car parking and park and ride facilities from Merseytravel’s Traveline which is open 7am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 8pm Saturdays and Sundays. Extra staff are being brought in this week and the number to call is 0870 608 2608.

Chief Superintendent Colin Matthews, said: "I would like to stress to racegoers that during the normal running of the Aintree Festival the area does become congested and because of this we would strongly advise people not to use their own vehicles, but to rely on local bus services and taxis to ensure that the local area is not obstructed with unnecessary traffic. We would also recommend that those intending to attend the event give themselves plenty of time to get there.

"For those travelling by train to Lime Street Station, a bus service will be available to and from the station to the racecourse.

"If you have to travel by car make sure you leave early and take advantage of the park and ride facility at Brookfield School, Bracknell Avenue, Kirkby, which is near Junction 6 of the M57 and has parking for 8,000 cars. This facility is clearly signposted. Parking is only available for motorists for the validity of the event, therefore racegoers who park there Thursday and Friday will have to remove their cars on the same day they park there. If they do not remove their cars, their cars will be towed away and they may have to pay up to £250 to have the car returned.

"Parking near to the course is severely limited and will continue to be strictly controlled in line with the security operation, which is there to make the area safe for all racegoers. The security operation will be in action in and around the racecourse and any cars left unattended in prohibited areas will be removed at the owners' expense.

"Racegoers are also advised that police officers will be conducting a drink drive operation in the area and drivers who take their vehicles are asked to ensure that they act responsibly and do not drink and drive.”

Merseyside Police would like to advise people in respect of security at the event and ask that race goers do not bring unnecessary luggage or baggage to the event. All racegoers, their vehicles and bags will be searched and as such there may be some delays in gaining entrance to the event. We would urge everyone attending to be patient and to remember that these measures are put in place to enhance their safety. Anyone who does need to take items of luggage to the event must realise that it must not be left unattended as this could have serious security implications for all racegoers and officers policing the event.

It is must be remembered that those traveling to the racecourse on Thursday will not be affected by the dispute.

Information is available on all Partner websites.

Maps of park and ride schemes and car parking can be accessed on aintree.co.uk

Merseytravel has arranged for a fleet of 100 buses to operate a shuttle service from Lime Street (St George's Hall) to Aintree on both Friday and Saturday. Buses will leave every few minutes and the journey is free. The service will operate from 9am to 9pm. The ferry service is being strengthened in frequency on both days.

On the Preston to Ormskirk line a shuttle service will operate to Aintree from Ormskirk. From Wigan Walgate station there will be rail services to Kirkby which will also have a regular half hourly bus service to Aintree.


Alder Hey Children’s Hospital continues to forge strong links with the world of racing, and the John Smith’s Grand National Meeting 2005 is no exception.

This year a horse running in The John Smith’s HBLB Mares Only Standard Open NH Flat at 5.30pm on Thursday will be flying the Alder Hey flag, as jockey Warren Marston will be riding Giovanna in silks designed by one of the hospital’s patients and uniquely registered with Weatherbys - the first charity to have its own silks. Ten year-old Ted Griffiths, the winner of the competition to design the silks, will be at the meeting on Thursday along with his family to cheer the horse on.

For the fourth year running jockeys will visit Alder Hey’s cancer unit on the Friday morning before racing, in conjunction with Aintree Racecourse, to give out Grand National memorabilia to the children and their families. In addition this year, hospital Patron, Tony McCoy, has come up with a novel way of entertaining the young patients by organising a celebrity darts match at the hospital after racing on Friday.

Jockeys will come to the hospital straight after racing on Friday and take on professional darts players led by 12 times world champion Phil “The Power” Taylor.

Finally, new Grand National sponsors, John Smith’s, are showing their support for Europe’s largest children’s hospital by allowing two jockeys in The Scottish and Newcastle Aintree Hurdle at 3.20pm on Saturday to carry Alder Hey branding in place of their own.

Alder Hey provides family-focused care for over 200,000 young patients every year and is responsible for the health of more children than any other UK hospital.

The Grand National Jockeys have visited the children on the cancer unit before racing on Friday for the last four years

AP McCoy and Mick Fitzgerald hold an annual golf day at the Belfry in August to raise funds for Alder Hey children’s cancer unit. It is attended by many jockeys, owners and trainers, as well as sports personalities.

The Hospital’s Rocking Horse Appeal raised £10 million in 5 years to build the UK’s first-ever integrated cancer unit for children which was officially opened by HRH The Duke of York in May 2003.


Two of Britain's most successful athletes from the Athens 2004
Paralympic Games will take part in a display of horsemanship at this
year's John Smith's Grand National meeting at the famous Aintree

Lee Pearson and Debbie Criddle will perform a dressage display to music in front of the grandstands just before the first race of the meeting gets underway on Thursday, April 7.

Lee and Debbie were members of the outstandingly successful
ParalympicsGB equestrian team in Athens, where they both won two
individual gold medals and were part of the British team that struck
gold in the team event.

The pair will both ride the horses on which they were so successful in Athens, with Lee appearing on Blue Circle Boy and Debbie riding Figaro IX.

Their display will provide racegoers with a glimpse of the superb
horsemanship that helped the British equestrian team achieve such
incredible success in Athens. It will also demonstrate the high
standards that elite athletes competing in disability sport achieve.

Footage of the display is also likely to be screened on the BBC's
coverage of the Grand National meeting.

Lee, who is 31 and from Staffordshire and also won a hat-trick of golds at the Sydney 2000 Games, and Debbie, who is 38 and from Somerset, were members of the seven-strong ParalympicsGB equestrian team in Athens.

Last year some 26,000 racegoers attended Aintree's opening day of
racing. This year the meeting begins with the televised John Smith's and Batleys Liverpool Long Distance Hurdle, which gets under starter's orders at 2pm on Thursday.

Britain continued their domination of the team dressage competition -
their victory in Athens means Britain is still the only team to have won the event since it included on the Paralympic Games programme in Atlanta in 1996.

In addition to the team dressage title, Britain won four golds and three bronze medals in Athens, easily the best performance by any nation in the equestrian event.

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