Lee already has sights set on next milestone

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Posh Bird benefited from a super waiting ride from Graham Lee to claim the North Yorkshire Grand National at Catterick yesterday.

It was generally believed that Lee was on the 999 mark going into yesterday’s meeting, but he claimed he recorded his 1,000th career winner when completing a double at Newcastle on Saturday, adding that he still needs six more to reach the landmark for wins over jumps in Britain.

Making just her second start for Peter Niven, 8-1 chance Posh Bird was towards the rear of the field for much of this three-mile-six-furlong journey, but Lee gradually coaxed his mount into contention.

Cool Mission was ridden far more prominently, but was unable to repel the mare, who jumped to the front at the second-last and kicked clear for a five-length win.

Lee said: “If you told me when I started out riding in Ireland that I’d ride 1,000 winners, I’d have told you to get back on your spaceship and go back to whatever planet you came from.

“Peter told me that I’d have to tell her a story on the way round to keep her interested, and thankfully I had a good one to tell her and a few jokes as well.

“She has her own way of doing things, but she’s done it well.”

Niven added: “I got her from Ian Ferguson, who did a good job with her, but he just felt there were more opportunities for her over here.

“I was taking her to Ayr the other week but it was abandoned. I’d been in the box eight -and-a-half hours and had to turn round.

“She’s done it well today and stayed the trip well, so it’s great.”

Creekside became the latest John Ferguson recruit to make a winning start to his National Hunt career in the yorkshire-outdoors.co.uk Juvenile Maiden Hurdle.

The strongly supported 8-13 favourite was formerly trained in Ireland by John Oxx and ultimately had no trouble making a winning start to his new career.

Having travelled powerfully for Jack Quinlan, he overcame a final flight error to score by two lengths from Uncle Bryn.

Ferguson said: “I’m very happy with that. He’s showed some good form on the Flat in Ireland and this is the start of a learning curve.

“We’ll get him home and we’re lucky enough to have one or two quite nice ones, so we’ll see where he fits in.”

Chris Bealby’s Countess Comet (28-1) ran out a fortuitous winner of the catterickbridge.co.uk Novices’ Hurdle.

With the strongly-fancied Ferguson runner Cry Of Freedom brought down at the first flight, the way looked clear for hot favourite Star Of Flight to follow up last month’s course and distance triumph.

He almost certainly would have done but for parting company with Jason Maguire at the second-last when clear, but that left Countess Comet and Magic Cat to fight it out, with the former winning the argument by two lengths.

“We thought she was nice and she had been a natural schooling,” said Bealby. “She might have got a bit lucky today but we like her and she should stay further and will be better on better ground.

The Edwin Tuer-trained Patavium (9-2) recorded his third course win in the Leeds Handicap Hurdle.

Tuer said: “He’s won me two races every year for the last few years, so this is a good start to 2012.”

Country Antrim-based Stuart Crawford made a successful raid as 11-1 chance Best Legend gained a narrow victory in the Wakefield Beginners’ Chase.

n The total prize fund for the Aintree Grand National has risen to £975,000 for 2012.

That represents an increase of £25,000 from last season and prize money will now extend down to those who finish in eighth and ninth.

Julian Thick, Aintree’s managing director, said: “We are delighted that we have again managed to increase the prize fund for Britain’s biggest jump race, the John Smith’s Grand National, by £25,000.

“With the valuable support of our title sponsor John Smith’s, we’ve been able to yet again move one step closer to our goal of achieving a £1million race in the future.”

Junior features towards the head of the National market and is nearing a return to action, with the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster a potential first port of call.

Tim Palin, racing manager for owners Middleham Park Racing, said: “Junior is in good form. We gave him a super-long break after Royal Ascot, where he was a bit disappointing, but we felt he was maybe a bit over the top having had a hard race in the Kim Muir.

“We have a few options for a comeback run.”