Cusack hoping for John Smith’s Topham Chase success with Last Time D’Albain

Entries are revealed today for day two of the 2013 John Smith’s Grand National meeting, Ladies’ Day, Friday, April 5. The seven-race programme features two Grade One contests, two Grade Two affairs plus the John Smith’s Topham Chase over the famous Grand National fences


Irish handler Liam Cusack, who was fourth on Ebony Jane in the 1994 John Smith’s Grand National, is hoping to taste success over the famous fences as a trainer with Last Time D’Albain in the £120,000 John Smith’s Topham Chase (3.40pm, extended two miles and five furlongs).


The nine-year-old posted a career best effort on his latest start when coming home third behind leading John Smith’s Grand National contender Colbert Station in the valuable Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Leopardstown in December.


Cusack revealed: “The plan is for Last Time D’Albain to run in the John Smith’s Topham Chase. He ran very well at Leopardstown and the form looks strong – the Paddy Power is always a competitive handicap and we were very pleased with his effort.


“He also ran very well at Fairyhouse last Easter, when he was second to Lucky William, who went on to win a Grade One at Punchestown, with 17 lengths back to the third home.


“We were hoping to run him over hurdles a couple of weeks ago at Naas but he had a bad scope. He schooled well over some National-style fences at the Curragh, although you always need luck around Aintree.


“He has run on heavy going but he would appreciate better ground. It wasn’t bad ground at Leopardstown at Christmas and he handled that well. Similar ground would be ideal for him.”


The 37 confirmations for the John Smith’s Topham Chase also include the Peter Bowen-trained Always Waining, who has won the race for the past three years but is more likely to contest the John Smith’s Grand National this time around. Little Josh, a winner over the Grand National fences in the Betfred Grand Sefton Chase in November, is a possible starter.


Ladies’ Day gets underway at 2.00pm with the £60,000 Grade Two Rose Appeal Supports Alder Hey Top Novices’ Hurdle (2.00pm, extended two miles) which has attracted 12 entries including Flaxen Flare, successful at the Cheltenham Festival in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.  William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up My Tent Or Yours is one of two possible starters for Nicky Henderson along with Grade Two Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle scorer Forgotten Voice.


There are 15 entries in the £75,000 Grade Two John Smith’s Mildmay Novices Chase (2.30pm, three miles and a furlong) including the Paul Nicholls-trained Rocky Creek, an impressive winner of the Grade Two Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot in February. Dynaste, runner-up in the Grade Two Jewson Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival could represent David Pipe while Donald McCain has entered Super Duty, a close second in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase at Cheltenham.


The £100,000 Grade One John Smith’s Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (4.15pm, extended three miles) has 30 entries, headed by the Rebecca Curtis-trained At Fishers Cross, who was the impressive winner of the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on March 15, when he was four and a half lengths too strong for African Gold, who could re-oppose. There are several unexposed types entered, including the unbeaten Broadway Buffalo (David Pipe), Cloudy Copper (Jonjo O’Neill), Road To Riches (Noel Meade) and Up And Go (Donald McCain).


Entries for the second Grade One contest of the day, the £200,000 Melling Chase (3.05pm, two and a half miles), have been reopened until 11.00am on Monday. A thrilling spectacle is in store with Sprinter Sacre, Cue Card and Flemenstar all reportedly on course for the race.


The remaining races on Ladies’ Day are the ultra-competitive £50,000 Listed John Smith’s Daily Mirror Punters Club Handicap Hurdle (4.50pm, two and a half miles) which has a mammoth 88 entries and the concluding £30,000 Listed John Smith’s Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (5.25pm, two miles and one furlong) which has 41 hopefuls.




The £200,000 Grade One John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle (3.05pm) on Grand Opening Day, Thursday, April 4, has attracted an outstanding entry of 12, including three contenders from the stable of Nicky Henderson.


Oscar Whisky is set to bid for a third consecutive victory in the two and a half mile contest, while Grandouet may aim to bounce back after falling when running a big race in the Stan James Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival earlier this month. Binocular, who captured the hurdling crown at Cheltenham in 2010, could also line up for the Lambourn handler.


Countrywide Flame and Zarkandar, third and fourth respectively in the Stan James Champion Hurdle, could also reoppose at Aintree alongside the 2012 William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Cinders And Ashes, who was pulled up at Cheltenham. The New One, who stormed to victory for in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, is a potentially fascinating runner for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.




The going at Aintree is currently:


Grand National Course – Good to Soft

Mildmay Course – Good, Good to Soft in places

Hurdle Course – Good to Soft, Good in places


Andrew Tulloch, Regional Head of Racing NW and Clerk of the Course at Aintree, said:  “We will re-assess the going descriptions tomorrow and, with the drying weather continuing, it is likely that we will have to carry out selective watering on all three courses from tomorrow onwards.”


The forecast for the next few days is for mainly dry conditions but remaining cold with an easterly wind and some sunny spells. Temperatures should be in the region +8/9C in the daytime and 2C overnight.

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