Racing: Amberleigh ambles on Aintree path

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The Independent Online

It is time for the crossover of the seasons: the latest Grand National winner ran yesterday, the next Derby winner might be in action tomorrow. The reappearance of an Aintree hero is always eagerly anticipated but it has to be said that Amberleigh House, though he just about got over the obstacles placed in front of him at Haydock, failed to rise to the occasion. The 12-year-old shuffled home in ninth in the three-mile hurdle selected for his first steps on the road back to Liverpool, but his trainer, Ginger McCain, was not despondent.

It is time for the crossover of the seasons: the latest Grand National winner ran yesterday, the next Derby winner might be in action tomorrow. The reappearance of an Aintree hero is always eagerly anticipated but it has to be said that Amberleigh House, though he just about got over the obstacles placed in front of him at Haydock, failed to rise to the occasion. The 12-year-old shuffled home in ninth in the three-mile hurdle selected for his first steps on the road back to Liverpool, but his trainer, Ginger McCain, was not despondent.

"Perhaps I'd have liked to have seen him finish closer," he said, "but then he has never really been a hurdler. Even though he was fit enough and has not blown unduly, we needed to get a run into him and he may have to have another, over fences, perhaps at Wetherby, before he goes back to Aintree for the Becher Chase next month. We want him 100 per cent for that; it and the National are the two main targets."

Amberleigh House was partnered yesterday by Graham Lee, the first time the rider had been on the gelding's back since their day of days in April. "He gave me a good feel," he said, "but got tired. And those hurdles are too small for him."

McCain expanded the theme. "Graham wondered how the horse had ever managed to win a National, as he was just stepping at the hurdles. But at his age he generally makes his own arrangements in races."

It was 43 years ago that the founder of Timeform, the late Phil Bull, contrived to have introduced to the domestic programme a mile juvenile contest at Doncaster designed to identify the middle-distance and staying stars of the future. The first running could be counted a success in that endeavour; Miralgo, the winner, took the Hardwicke Stakes at four and finished second in the King George, and two behind him on Town Moor, Larkspur and Hethersett, won the Derby and St Leger respectively.

Noblesse, the best filly ever to emerge from Ireland, was next on the roll of honour and since then the race has been a fair enough guide to future happenings in élite company, with subsequent top-level winners Ribocco, Vaguely Noble, High Top, Green Dancer, Reference Point, King's Theatre, Celtic Swing, Aristotle, High Chaparral, Brian Boru and American Post among the winners; Intermezzo, Steel Pulse, Julio Mariner, Shergar, Sheriff's Star, Assessor, Benny The Dip, Mutamam, Ekraar and Powerscourt among the placees; and Sodium, Lorenzaccio, Athens Wood, Mon Fils, Kalamoun, Snow Knight, Ile De Bourbon, Hawaiian Sound, Holding Court and Grandera among the also-rans.

So take note of the names of the eight declared for tomorrow's 44th running of the race now known as the Racing Post Trophy - Albert Hall, Beaver Patrol, Berkhamsted, Elliots World, Frith, Henrick, Hills Of Aran and Motivator - for among them may be one to conjure with next year. Albert Hall, recent winner of the Beresford Stakes, is likely to start favourite to give Aidan O'Brien his fifth success (after Saratoga Springs, Aristotle, High Chaparral and Brian Boru), with the pick of the home side Michael Bell-trained Motivator, winner of his only start, a Newmarket maiden, by six lengths. Both have shown their ability to act on the soft ground prevailing at Doncaster.

Frankie Dettori's decision to give racing at Brighton a miss yesterday to shake off a bout of flu proved prescient; the meeting was abandoned after one race because of high winds. The champion-elect, 18 winners in front of Kieren Fallon, resumes today at Doncaster.

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