Bailey pays tribute to Harry Topper as Pontefract called off

KIM Bailey has paid tribute to steeplechase veteran Harry Topper who has been retired.

Harry Topper and Jason Maguire clear the last in the 2013 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

The soft ground specialist’s wins included Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Chase in November 2013 and Newbury’s Denman Chase the following February.

Totally ground dependent, the horse suffered from niggling injuries and was retired after being pulled up in the West Wales National at Ffos Las on Sunday.

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Yet this horse’s successes helped rekindle Bailey’s career after years in the doldrums following his Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle double of 1995 courtesy of Master Oats and Alderbrook respectively.

Welsh National-winning jockey James Bowen, 17, will have a chance to become the youngest ever winner of the Grand National.

On Harry Topper, the trainer said: “He was never a brilliant jumper, probably because he had long legs and they took a huge amount of organising.

“Leg trouble and top weight in handicaps did not help and life became difficult as he was not a Cheltenham horse.

“Veteran races gave him a chance to continue his career and although he ran well in them, he did not win.

“Yes, he pulled up yesterday, but he had a very hard race when second at Exeter in February. Only two horses finished and the effort probably finished him too.

Welsh National-winning jockey James Bowen, 17, will have a chance to become the youngest ever winner of the Grand National.

“Harry Topper finishes his racing life after winning eight of his 24 races sound and well...all I can say is thank you Harry for all you have done for us.

“Jockeys who rode him won’t forget him either. Sean Quinlan, David Bass, but a big thanks to Jason Maguire who really sorted Harry out. They gelled.”

CHAMPION conditional-elect James Bowen has been handed a chance to become the youngest ever winner of the Grand National.

The talented 17-year-old rides the Richard Hobson-trained Shantou Flyer who was fifth in this season’s Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby before finshing second in Cheltenham’s three- mile handicap chase.

It completes a remarkable rise to prominence for Bowen who won the Welsh National in January aboard Raz De Maree who is also entered in the National.

Just 17 on the eve of last month’s Cheltenham Festival, victory for Bowen would see him eclipse the record set by Bruce Hobbs who was seven years and four months wen Battleship won in 1938.

“I can’t wait. Shantou Flyer has been there before. I know he pulled up but he jumped the fences well and hopefully he can give me a good spin round. He has a chance as well,” the rider told the Racing Post.

GORDON Elliott is eyeing an appearance at Royal Ascot for Pallasator following his impressive win over hurdles at Fairyhouse on Sunday.

Formerly a top-class stayer on the Flat when trained by Sir Mark Prescott for Qatar Racing, the nine-year-old moved to Ireland last autumn to pursue a jumping career.

He claimed his second win from four starts over hurdles when striking at Grade Two level over the weekend, but could revert to the level later in the year.

Elliott, who recorded his 200th winner of the season yesterday, said: “He was very good. Davy (Russell) said he hated the ground, but he’s enjoying jumping and he’s got a new lease of life.”

SOME of the worst conditions in living memory have forced today’s season-opening Flat meeting at Pontefract to be abandoned.

Up to 44 millimetres of rain in the past week left standing water in many places.

Pontefract’s chief operating officer and clerk of the course Richard Hammill said: “We’ve had water stood in places that we’ve never had water standing before.

“Mr (Norman) Gundill has never seen anything like it in his 50 years here and it’s as bad as I’ve ever seen it in my 18 years.

“There’s water stood on probably a quarter of the track. It’s all over the place. It’s taken as much as it can take and now it’s got nowhere to go.

“We just need some respite. Our next meeting is on the 23rd three weeks today, by which time we should have some spring like weather.”