jonathan eNGLAND hopes his first ride over the National fences will be a winning one when he partners Distime in today’s Betfred Grand Sefton Handicap Chase.
Owned and trained by the parents of his fiancee Samantha Drake, Distime heads to Merseyside on the back of a winning run at Sedgefield last month – England’s first since fracturing his back in a gallops fall.
“I’m looking forward to it,” says the Guiseley-based rider who is due to ride Leanna Ban in today’s opener at Wetherby before making a quick dash over the M62.
“We took him to Malton to school the replica Aintree fences, and he jumped them well. I won’t be doing anythning different, I’ll just treat it like any other race and hope for a clear round. He’s a very canny jumper and knows how to look after himself.”
Over one circuit of the National course, the line-up includes the Pal Nicholls-trained Rocky Creek who is dropping back in trip, Sue Smith’s Mwaleshi and Rathlin who is an interesting new recruit to the Middleham yard of Micky Hammond.
Previously trained in Ireland by Ampleforth-educated Mouse Morris, he finished third in the Topham Chase over the National course in April, but subsequently lost his way and changed hands for just £11,000 at Doncaster in September.
Hammond said: “He was third of 30 in the Topham so the Sefton is the obvious race and we’ve been aiming for it.
“I would imagine he’ll almost certainly have an National entry, following the old-fashioned rule of a two-and-a-half-mile horse.
“We’ve been pleased with him. It was Charlie Swan who told me to buy him. We gave him a little break, but have been pushing his buttons lately.”
Hammond’s Caraline, victorious at Newcastle last Saturday, confirmed her class when prevailing at Sedgefield yesterday under in-form Sheffield jockey Joe Colliver.
The meeting saw Sue and Harvey Smith’s Not A Bother Boy, ridden by conditional jockey Trevor Ryan, record a second win in as many weeks at the County Durham track.
Simonsig has been ruled out of today’s Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown with lameness.
The grey, twice a winner at the Cheltenham Festival, was all set for his first run over fences since the 2013 Arkle Trophy having returned from over two years off with a fine run over hurdles at Aintree last month.
Trainer Nicky Henderson said: “Simonsig is not running tomorrow, he’s lame.
“He was OK, Barry (Geraghty) came in and rode him and he schooled, but unfortunately he is lame tonight. I honestly don’t know why – it is so, so cruel. I’m desperately sorry for Ronnie (Bartlett, owner), he has waited over two years to get him here.
“He schooled this morning and he was fine. It’s horrible, especially given we had got a prep run into him that had gone so well.”
It is a further blow for the race, with Irish star Un De Sceaux ruled out by Willie Mullins on Wednesday, when he was described as a “little flat”.