Aintree and the British Horseracing Authority have announced a number of changes that will be implemented for the 2013 John Smith’s Grand National.
One of the key measures is moving the position of the start for the world’s most famous steeplechase forward 90 yards, away from the crowds and grandstands, among other changes to the starting procedure.
This means the distance of the race will now be around four miles and three and a half furlongs, reduced from the previous distance of four and a half miles.
Other changes to the start include the ‘no-go’ zone, which is defined by a line on the track, being extended from 15 yards to around 30 yards from the starting tape. The starter’s rostrum has been moved to a position between the starting tape and the ‘no-go’ zone to reduce the potential for horses to go through the starting tape prematurely.
The tapes themselves will also be more user-friendly, with increased visibility, while there will be a specific briefing between the starters’ team and the jockeys on Grand National day.
Sole set for Longchamp mission
Star sprinter Sole Power has taken his Doncaster exertions in his stride ahead of a likely tilt at the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp next month.
The 2010 Nunthorpe winner made the most of a drop to Listed class by registering a hugely impressive performance in Scarbrough Stakes under Johnny Murtagh, his first victory in well over a year.
A return to the highest level now beckons for the five-year-old, with trainer Eddie Lynam hoping for some dry weather ahead of an intended trip to Paris.
“He came back in really good form and when we weighed him when he arrived home, he was actually heavier than when he went over, so he’s taken the race well,” said Lynam.
“All being well he’ll be going for the Abbaye if the ground is right. We’ll nominate him for Hong Kong, but going over there is all about being invited.”
Fullback scores in Kerry National
The Eric McNamara-trained outsider Faltering Fullback ran out a shock winner of the Guinness Kerry National, with Questions Answered giving the trainer a one-two in the prestigious contest.
The complexion of the race changed when the front-running Whodoyouthink came to grief down the back straight and Faltering Fullback could be spotted making eye-catching headway in the hands of Danny Mullins.
With just 9st 12lb on his back, the 33-1 chance kicked clear off the home turn and safely negotiated the last couple of obstacles to beat his stable companion by five and a half lengths.
The well-supported Start Me Up finished third, with Jamsie Hall fourth.
McNamara said: “Before the race I thought Questions Answered had a really good chance and I really fancied him. He ran a fabulous race to finish second.
“That was a bit out of the blue in fairness and Faltering Fullback came back to what he once promised.
“He won a novice chase here before and was a very good horse but just lost his way. The three miles and bottom weight just helped him and he came back to form at the right time.
“It’s been a great race for me. We won it twice with Ponmeoath and he was back today.
“This is his sixth run in the Kerry National and his ninth year to run here which is a great achievement. He didn’t run a bad race (in eighth).”
Classy Chamonix completes hat-trick
Aidan O’Brien’s progressive stayer Chamonix completed his hat-trick with an all-the-way victory in the Edmund & Josie Whelan Memorial Listowel Stakes.
Turned out just nine days after a Listed win at Galway, the even-money favourite was sent straight to the head of affairs by Joseph O’Brien and it was clear rounding the home turn that his rivals would struggle to bridge the gap.
Chamonix galloped on relentlessly in the bottomless ground to beat stable companion Demurely into second, just as he had done at Galway, with three and three-quarter lengths the winning margin.
The winning rider said: “Chamonix is a tough horse, he tries hard. He handled the ground but I think he’ll be a bit better on nicer ground. He’s a horse that’s going places. I think he’ll be a much better horse next year - he’s quite big and raw still.
“He has the cheekpieces on him as he’s just still a bit immature. He’s a lovely horse and he’s improving.
“He has worked with Camelot at home and at Leopardstown and you have to put in a smart enough lead horse for him. He’s a very smart horse.”
Oxx mystified by Hartani flop
Trainer John Oxx has no immediate plans for Hartani after being slightly disappointed with his run in the Irish St Leger.
The three-year-old colt, owned by the Aga Khan, was only eighth of nine behind Royal Diamond in the staying Classic at the Curragh on Saturday.
“It was a little bit disappointing. I don’t think he quite ran his race,” said the Curragh handler.
“There wasn’t any great pace. It was a sprint at the end and it was a bunch finish. They were all on top of each other.
“He requires a test of stamina which he didn’t get, so it was a bit of a non-event for him.
“I’m not sure where he’ll go next. We haven’t made any plans yet.”
Panther plans undecided
Tom Dascombe has yet to make any firm plans regarding Black Panther’s next racecourse appearance following his frustrating defeat in Saturday’s Irish St Leger.
The four-year-old, part-owned by footballer Michael Owen, looked to have a good chance of grabbing his first Group One prize in the Curragh Classic, but in a steadily-run affair, Brown Panther could not pick up as the pace quickened before staying on better than anything to be beaten just a neck into third.
“He’s come out of the race fine. Unfortunately they went no gallop and that’s what got him beat,” said Dascombe.
“It’s frustrating as the race looked a good opportunity, but these things happen and we’ll sit down and have a think about where we go next. I would say he will run again this year, unless there is a reason not to.
“He’s entered in the Arc, but I would say that is unrealistic. He has options in America, Italy, France and England, so we have the options covered and we’ll have a chat about what we’re going to do.”
Lynch edging closer to return
Irish jump jockey Andrew Lynch could be back on racecourse duty in the next two to three weeks.
He is already riding out at Henry de Bromhead’s stables as he continues his recovery after breaking a leg in a fall at Cork in May.
“Andrew Lynch is in great form,” said County Waterford-based de Bromhead.
“He’s coming down to ride out for us now and he hopes to be race riding again over the next two to three weeks, all being well.
“We’re looking forward to having him back again.”