Bailey plans to use Charm at the Bank

The five-day entries for major jumps races like the First National Bank Handicap Chase at Ascot on Saturday increasingly seem to read like a list of the usual suspects.

The five-day entries for major jumps races like the First National Bank Handicap Chase at Ascot on Saturday increasingly seem to read like a list of the usual suspects.

Martin Pipe, Paul Nicholls and Venetia Williams all have candidates among the 15 published yesterday for the £50,000 race, which has had several names over the years - titles like the Black & White Whisky Gold Cup (when it was over two miles) and H & T Walker readily spring to mind - but a fairly consistent record as a contest for rising stars. Sound Man, Deep Sensation and Strong Promise feature among recent winners, and there is no shortage of potential among the latest set of contenders.

Potentate and Dark Stranger are Pipe's two entries, while Nicholls and Williams rely respectively on Dines and Fourth In Line. Nick Henderson's Makounji, still a five-year-old, is another interesting runner, while Norman Mason, who won the race last year with Red Marauder, has declared Nosam. A repeat win seems unlikely, though, since Nosam is 22lb out of the handicap.

No trainer, though, can match the record in the race of Kim Bailey, who won in 1989 with Man O'Magic, and again two years later with Kings Fountain. Bailey has two entries in the latest renewal, Clinton and Supreme Charm, and a third success would be splendidly timed, as the man who won the Grand National with Mr Frisk starts a new phase of his career at a purpose-built yard in Northamptonshire.

A few of Bailey's horses are still at his old base in Lambourn, but most are now at his new base, where the trainer himself arrived full-time less than three weeks ago. It was a bold move, after two decades and a long list of big-race victories at the Old Manor Stables, but Bailey, who is building the new complex to his personal design, has no regrets.

"If it's wrong, it's my fault," he said yesterday, "but it's great fun and I'm really enjoying it, it's a real challenge. It will be finished in another six weeks, and we'll have roughly 70 horses here in all when it's all complete."

Bailey may yet go to Ascot with just one runner, since Clinton, who was a close second in a valuable race at the Aintree festival last year, would not run on good-to-firm going. "It's a tricky one to separate them," the trainer said. "All I can say is Supreme Charm loves Ascot, he's won there five times now, four hurdles and a chase last year. He thrives at Ascot. I thought Clinton would win the big novice chase at Ayr last season, but Norman [Williamson] fell off him, and he also got brought down on the flat when he could have gone very close [in the Fulke Walwyn/Kim Muir] at Cheltenham."

The weekend's other main attraction is the Becher Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree, in which Hollybank Buck, the winner of the Eider Chase over four miles and a furlong at Newcastle last season, was yesterday confirmed a definite runner by his trainer, Tony Martin. Call It A Day, third to Bobbyjo in the Grand National in April, is also among the entries, along with the first three home in last year's renewal of the Becher Chase, Earth Summit, Samlee and Back Bar.

One horse was resoundingly scratched from a mooted engagement yesterday, however. Front-page claims were made in racing's trade press yesterday that Saffron Walden, the Irish 2,000 Guineas winner, had attracted money from the "right sources" for the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival next March. As a result, Sean Graham, a bookmaker based in Northern Ireland, had introduced Saffron Walden into their Triumph betting at 20-1, and then cut him to 14-1.

At the yard of Saffron Walden's trainer, Aidan O'Brien, however, this news was greeted with considerable amusement. "I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the headline," O'Brien said yesterday. "We all know that Sadler's Wells' offspring can make good hurdlers, but we have never, ever, considered sending Saffron Walden hurdling. He is much too good for that, and I am looking forward to campaigning him in Group Ones between a mile and 10 furlongs next year. His early-season target could be the Lockinge Stakes or the Prix Ganay."

Which only goes to show that even the "right sources" can occasionally be mug punters too.

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