Racing: National plunge brings the House down

Amberleigh House, last year's Grand National winner, was last night close to being made favourite to win the race again and give Red Rum's trainer, Ginger McCain, a fifth success in the world's greatest steeplechase.

Amberleigh House, last year's Grand National winner, was last night close to being made favourite to win the race again and give Red Rum's trainer, Ginger McCain, a fifth success in the world's greatest steeplechase.

The 13-year-old was yesterday cut by Coral bookmakers from 20-1 to 14-1 for the Aintree marathon on 9 April. The move followed a substantial tipping line-inspired gamble. "Initially we went 16-1, but that didn't stop the money coming and we were forced to go 14-1," Coral's spokesman David Stevens said. "It wasn't a case of huge single bets coming in, just the sheer volume of £50s and £100s."

Amberleigh House was cut to 12-1 with Ladbrokes and Totesport (both from 16-1), and with William Hill (from 14-1). Totesport spokesman Damian Walker said: "Most people felt the handicapper had given the old boy a stiff task when the Grand National weights were announced a week ago, but clearly there are some thinking otherwise."

A horse that McCain tried to buy nine months ago emerged as a possible Aintree contender yesterday. McCain was outbid when Nick Shutts went to 100,000 guineas to buy Foly Pleasant, the 2002 Tripleprint Gold Cup runner-up, out of Henrietta Knight's yard at Doncaster's May Sales.

"Ginger was underbidder for him - that's why he's got an entry in the National. Because Ginger must know something mustn't he?" said Shutts, a wealthy owner. He plans to run the 10-year-old in the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham before transferring to trainer Karen Marks for a tilt at Aintree. Foly Pleasant is at present on 10st 11lb.

Shutts went on: "If you have a look at his form, he goes on anything from good to heavy, so the ground is not too much of a worry in terms of Aintree. He definitely stays and he's a tough sort. He takes a real good cut at his fences."

Tony Martin hopes to get Davids Lad to Aintree. The 11-year-old has already had two bites at the National - going well when falling four out in 2002 and coming last of the 11 finishers behind Amberleigh House last April. He was controversially ruled out of Cheltenham and Aintree in 2003 when he was banned for 42 days under rules against "non-triers" following a run at Naas. Allotted 10st for this year's National, he is not certain to get a run.

"Davids Lad needs good ground, but he takes his races well. It's three and a half weeks from Cheltenham to Liverpool, so hopefully he'll go for the Kim Muir first," said Martin, who is based in Co Meath.

At Newcastle yesterday, amateur jockey Richard Tate was suspended for 18 days and his mount disqualified after the pair took the wrong course on the way to "winning" the hunters' chase. The Butterwick Kid, the 7-2 second favourite, passed the post five lengths clear but had taken the hurdle course into the straight after the third fence. Runner-up Red Rampage (4-1) was awarded the first prize instead.

Tate was suspended for 14 days for taking the wrong course and a further four for continuing in the race. The jockey said: "I'd walked the course and the last fence was to be dolled off, but during the race an official was waving his arms and I thought there was something else wrong and I was guided on to the hurdle course."

* Today's two jumps meetings at Musselburgh and Leicester were under threat from frost last night and both are subject to morning inspections.

GRAND NATIONAL (Ladbrokes betting): 12-1 Amberleigh House, Clan Royal, Silver Birch; 20-1 First Gold, Grey Abbey, Hedgehunter, Lord Atterbury, Timbera; 25-1 Forest Gunner, Joly Bey, Monty's Pass, Royal Auclair, Strong Resolve; 33-1 Ad Hoc, Colnel Rayburn, Frenchman's Creek, Gunther McBride, Innox, Jurancon, Just In Debt, Le Coudray, Longshanks, Puntal, Lord Of Illusion, Marcus de Berlais; 40-1 others.

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