National service for Saint Are at Catterick

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TOM George is set to run Saint Are in a staying handicap chase at Catterick on Monday ahead of a possible crack at the Crabbie’s Grand National.

The Slad trainer feels a big performance at the North Yorkshire track will see the handicapper raise Saint Are in the official ratings and give him a better chance of making the cut for the Aintree spectacular on April 11.

Saint Are has excellent form at the Merseyside venue. Third in the Becher Chase over the famous fences in December, he has won a Listed chase over the Mildmay course and gained a Grade One victory in a novice hurdle.

He also completed the course in the National itself in 2013 when ninth to Sue Smith’s Auroras Encore off a mark of 142, but he is currently only rated 129.

“We are desperate to try to get him in the National, but he has to go up a few pounds,” said George.

“He seems to have come back to life this season. He’s had two good runs round Cheltenham and he’s an ideal National horse. He stays all day and he jumps well.

“We’re probably going to run him up at Catterick next week for a race he has a chance of winning and going up the handicap. We’ve no other option really.

“He’s got the ideal credentials for a National horse. He’s a Grade One winner, he’s got the class and he stays.

“With his Becher Chase run, all he was doing was staying on at the end. He wasn’t beaten far and in another furlong he’d have gone past them, but he needs to go up in the handicap a bit.”

This year’s National entries are doe to be published tomorrow, with the weights announced on February 17.

DAVID Pipe’s Kings Palace, ante-post favourite for Cheltenham’s RSA Chase, could reappear at Newbury, Warwick or Exeter this weekend – weather permitting.

It comes after Pipe’s rising star swerved Saturday’s Towton Novices Chase at Wetherby because of the heavy ground.

“While it was a winnable race, we did not want to give him a harder time than necessary on heavy ground at this stage,” explained the trainer. “The preferred option is the Newbury race.”

AN additional Flat all weather meeting will be held at Wolverhampton on Thursday as the cold snap continues to hit turf action – today’s turf fixtures at Sedgefield and Market Rasen are the latest to fall by the wayside, with prospects not encouraging for Ludlow tomorrow or Doncaster on Thursday.

PAUL Nicholls will consider sidestepping the Cheltenham Festival with Saturday’s Welsh Champion Hurdle winner Silsol in favour of waiting for Aintree.

The six-year-old knuckled down in extremely testing conditions at Ffos Las to emerge triumphant in the hands of 7lb claimer Jack Sherwood, and the champion trainer has identified the Aintree Hurdle at April’s Grand National meeting as a target.

Nicholls says the horse will make “a smashing chaser” in time.

SIGN Of A Victory heads the weights for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday after 32 horses stood their ground in the prestigious handicap hurdle at the five-day confirmation stage.

Nicky Henderson’s charge was last seen finishing a distant fourth to Faugheen in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton but had previously won a handicap hurdle at Ascot in good style from stablemate Dawalan.

Henderson, seeking a sixth win in this race, has three other possibles that include Dawalan, who was a winner at Musselburgh on Sunday.

Vasco du Ronceray, successful at Haydock in November and Snake Eyes, who was a beaten favourite for the BoyleSports Hurdle, complete the Henderson party.

However three of Saturday’s high-profile races have been reoffered for 24 hours after failing to attract enough entries.

Potential Cheltenham Gold Cup aspirants will get a chance to stake a claim for the blue riband in the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury, while Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Sire De Grugy is set to make his comeback in the Betfair Price Rush Chase in Berkshire, better known as the Game Spirit.

Sire De Grugy does at least have one confirmed rival in the shape of Paul Nicholls’ improving Mr Mole.

The champion trainer told his website: “Mr Mole is another I am looking forward to running on Saturday in the Betfair Price Rush Game Spirit Chase which has been chosen for the comeback of Sire De Grugy.

“I’ve been tickled pink by the improved form of Mr Mole now that we have adopted more aggressive tactics with him over fences.”

The third race reoffered is the Grade Two Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick, a possible trial for the Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival.