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Roi Du Mee topsIrish Grand National weights

Harry The Viking . . . . Sir Alex Ferguson's horse could be bound for Scottish Grand National.

Harry The Viking . . . . Sir Alex Ferguson's horse could be bound for Scottish Grand National.

Roi du Me heads the weights for Monday’s Ladbrokes Irish Grand National after John Smith’s Grand National entries Seabass and Apt Approach were among the 18 withdrawn at the forfeit stage on Wednesday.

Four Commanders and Groody Hill, vying for favouritism, featured among the 51 that remain, with the last horse guaranteed a run in the Fairyhouse marathon set to be either Deal Done, Fisher Bridge, Gates Of Rome, Out Now or Saddlers Storm, who all carry 10st 4lb and will learn their fate when receiving their ballot numbers.

Gigginstown House Stud, owner of Four Commanders, removed only Crash, leaving them with eight entries, while JP McManus, owner of Groody Hill, took out Arbor Supreme, keeping nine in the running. Six of each are guaranteed a run.

The only remaining entries engaged in the following Saturday’s John Smith’s Grand National are the Willie Mullins-trained The Midnight Club and Quiscover Fontaine, Gigginstown’s Tharawaat, Saddlers Storm, Another Palm and Smoking Aces.

Dartnall opts for Aintree challenge

Victor Dartnall has decided to aim Giles Cross at the John Smith’s Grand National rather than taking him to Fairyhouse for the Irish equivalent tomorrow.

The trainer believes he is more likely to get soft ground at Aintree for his Haydock Grand National Trial winner, three of whose five career victories have come on heavy ground.

“It looks as though he’ll be going to Aintree now because the ground isn’t soft enough for him over in Ireland,” said the Devon trainer.

“It’s more likely to be softer at Aintree. It is softer there at the moment and hopefully they will get some more rain.

“He’s in great form and let’s hope we are able to run him. He should get in the race now as there are a few to come out.”

Giles Cross, who was second to Le Beau Bai in the Welsh National, will have a different jockey on board as his regular partner, Denis O’Regan, is unable to ride at 10st 1lb.

Dartnall went on: “Denis can’t do the weight and the ones at the top are staying in. It’s a shame as he gets on so well with him. We’ve got someone in mind, but we haven’t decided yet.

“The horse is in great order and if it was good to soft ground it would be brilliant for him.”

Flemenstar in great form - Casey

Exciting novice chaser Flemenstar is reported in great shape as he features among 12 entries for the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse this afternoon.

The Peter Casey-trained seven-year-old has enjoyed a superb season, winning four times on the bounce over fences without being seriously troubled, and reversed form with his only conqueror Bog Warrior when scoring at Naas last time out.

Connections resisted the temptation to send the gelding to last month’s Cheltenham Festival and he will instead bid for his second Grade One prize on Easter Sunday.

Casey said: “This has been the plan for him all year. He is in great form at the moment, he did his final piece of work at the Curragh on Tuesday morning and all went well.

“We will be keeping an eye on the ground as obviously we don’t want it too quick.”

Champion trainer Willie Mullins has two possible runners in Bishopsfurze and Call The Police.

Bishopsfurze has won twice from three starts over fences at some of Ireland’s lesser tracks, while Call The Police was third in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham.

The Mouse Morris-trained Rathlin took a while to find his feet over the larger obstacles but is an interesting contender, having won his last three starts.

Donnas Palm, False Economy, Foildubh, Gift Of Dgab, Perfect Smile, Shot From The Hip, White Star Line and Whodoyouthink completed the possibles.

Commenting on ground conditions, racecourse manager Peter Roe said: “The forecast is dry and the plan is to resume watering on Thursday with the aim of maintaining good ground. We are monitoring the situation in conjunction with our clerk of the course Brendan Sheridan.”

Culloty hoping to Lord it

Lord Windermere is one of the more interesting contenders among the 26 entries for the Coolmore National Hunt Sires Ask & Getaway Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse later today.

Jim Culloty’s six-year-old impressed twice over timber before finishing fourth in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse in mid-February, and returned to winning ways in fine style at Naas a month ago.

Champion trainer Willie Mullins has a predictably strong hand in the Grade Two contest, with Earls Quarter joined by stablemates Laganbank, Pickapocketortwo, Terminal and Turban.

County Hurdle winner Alderwood could come back to novice company for Tom Mullins, while other players include Lyreen Legend, Jenari and Dedigout.

Noel Meade could run Ipsos Du Berlais, a winner at Punchestown in January but pulled up at Cheltenham in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

Mead said: “He does need a bit of ease in the ground and we probably won’t run him unless its soft, we’ll just have to monitor the situation.

“He got bottled up coming past the stands (at Cheltenham), we don’t know why, but he has come back well and is in good form.”

Salsify on double trail

Christie’s Foxhunter Chase winner Salsify is set to bid for a famous double at Fairyhouse on Tuesday.

Trained by Rodger Sweeney, the seven-year-old got home by a length from Chapoturgeon in a thrilling finish at Cheltenham last month.

He is one of 27 entries for the Joseph O’Reilly Memorial Hunters Chase, which also includes Zemsky, winner of the Cheltenham event 12 months ago.

Salsify won this race last year, and Sweeney said: “He has come out of Cheltenham well and as long as the ground is safe, we’re on for Fairyhouse. If all goes well then we will look to go to Punchestown afterwards.”

Zemsky has not run since his Cheltenham victory last year and his trainer Ian Ferguson said: “We had some problems before Christmas with splints, but they’ve settled down now and he has done plenty of work.

“As long as the ground is safe he will run. He has won first time out in the past.”

Aintree gearing up for big meeting

Preparations for the John Smith’s Grand National meeting at Aintree next week are in full swing.

Both the Mildmay and Grand National courses are being watered and every precaution is being taken to make the action as safe as possible for horse and rider.

“We’ve done a bit of watering. It’s been raining but we’ve not had a lot, probably about a millimetre and a bit,” said clerk of the course Andrew Tulloch.

“After this it looks mainly dry with showers on Friday. We’ll probably do more watering on Wednesday. Temperatures have cooled off quite a bit. There’s some uncertainty as to what the weather is going to do next week. We’ll just keep monitoring it.

“At the moment all courses are good, with good to soft places on the National course. If we can keep it round about that it would be great. If it eases a bit more I wouldn’t be too worried. We’ll just keep an eye on things.

“We’ve done about a week’s watering. When we had the warm weather we were watering every other day. We’ve had a similar amount of rainfall as we had last year. Next week looks a bit more unsettled, but it’s quite far out to say for sure.”

The marathon contest was the subject of negative headlines last year after two horses died and others, including the winner Ballabriggs, were dismounted after the line. The dismounting was a pre-planned contingency, but the BHA conceded it was not communicated as well as it might have been to the public.

Tulloch went on: “We’ve put an additional pop-up irrigation system on either side of Becher’s and made a wash-down unsaddling area on sand with up to 16 wash-down points, and we’ve got shaded areas in case it is hot. We’ve taken lots of precautions.

“We’re having a misting machine. Eventing use them at the end of the cross-country and we’ve borrowed one from Greenwich (venue for London Olympics equestrian events). It’s basically a misting fan. You put in droplets of water and it sends it out as a mist.”

Pipe could wait with Flo

Salut Flo may skip next week’s Grand National meeting and wait for either Cheltenham or Punchestown later in the month.

Trainer David Pipe wants to keep the seven-year-old to races at around two and a half miles after he made virtually all the running to win the Byrne Group Plate in tremendous style at the Cheltenham Festival.

But Pipe warns he will put Salut Flo away for the season if the ground is too quick.

“Salut Flo could next be seen in action at Aintree, although it is more likely that he will go to Cheltenham or Punchestown as there are two-and-a-half mile handicap chases there for him,” the Nicholashayne handler told www.davidpipe.com.

“If the ground were to stay on the dry side then he will be put away until next season.”

Summer could star at Punchestown

Ted Walsh is weighing up the options for his dual bumper-winning filly Summer Star.

After running an encouraging race in defeat on her debut at Punchestown in late February, the four-year-old won by 14 lengths under the trainer’s daughter Katie Walsh at Limerick.

She followed up in Listed company at the same track on Sunday and Walsh is now weighing up whether to go for the Grade One bumper at the Punchestown Festival or give his charge a run on the level.

“She’s a nice filly with a good pedigree and we’ll see which way we go with her,” said the trainer.

“With her pedigree she could easily go and have run on the Flat, or if we decide to stick with bumpers for the time being she could go to Punchestown.

“We’ll see how she is over the next week or so and go from there.”

Sir Alex To Plunder Scottish National?

Sir Alex Ferguson will bid to land another piece of sporting silverware with the horse he part owns Harry The Viking a likely runner in the Coral Scottish Grand National.

The Paul Nicholls trained seven year old was named among the entries for the £180,000 race at Ayr Racecourse on Saturday April 21.

And with Manchester United not in action until the following day against Everton, Fergie may well be at Ayr to cheer on his horse.

But there will be stiff competition with some of the country’s top chasers featuring in the 62 entries.

Nicky Henderson has five possible runners including Cheltenham Gold Cup fourth Burton Port, David Pipe has entered one of the Grand National favourites Junior and also The Package, owned by David Johnson.

Cheltenham’s JLT Speciality Chase winner Alfie Sherrin from Jonjo O’Neill’s yard and Hennessey Gold Cup winner Carruthers are entered as is the 2010 winner of the race and last year’s runner up Merigo.

Notable Scottish trained entries other than Merigo include Lucinda Russell pair Red Harbour and Etxalar, Willie Amos’s Lie Forrit, Abbeybraney from George Bewley’s yard and the James Ewart trained Captain Americo

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