Racing: Paris Pike on course to compensate for Aintree

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The Independent Online

Paris Pike, one of the best-backed horses for last Saturday's Grand National, will be reunited with J P McNamara in an attempt to become the first horse since Androma in 1994 and 1995 to win two Scottish Grand Nationals at Ayr on Saturday week.

Ferdy Murphy, his trainer, said last night: "Richard Guest rode Paris Pike [who started at 10-1 but fell at the first] in the Grand National as I had three other runners, but I always like to use my own jockeys and I'm sure Richard will have plenty of other offers."

The course executive is making every effort to provide good ground and the clerk of the course, Johnnie Fenwicke-Clennell, explained yesterday: "The going is on the fast side at the moment, but we will begin watering tomorrow."

Paris Pike won the Scottish National two years ago on good ground off a handicap mark of 143, when he had the current top weight ,Marlborough (now 8lb worse off), in sixth so is well handicapped on only a 2lb higher mark despite his lack of recent form. Murphy added: "I''ll go up to take a look at the course next Thursday. There is rain forecast for next week."

Samuel Wilderspin, a faller at the fourth at Aintree, is doubtful for Ayr as Richard Lee, his trainer, explained yesterday: "If the ground is fast he is odds-on not to run as he owes us nothing. That will probably be it for the season."

No decision has yet been about Carbury Cross who would probably start favourite. Jonjo O'Neill's eight-year-old, transformed by blinkers in his last two starts, has a 5lb penalty for last week's Aintree win, but has been put up 17lb in future handicaps.

One horse who will be ideally suited by fast going is the Ayr specialist Grey Abbey. The front-runner, who has won six times at the west of Scotland course, has pleased trainer Barry Murtagh in his preparation.

Murtagh said: "He did his first bit of real work since winning at Wetherby on Tuesday. He's definitely still on course for the Scottish National and I don't have a problem with the trip. It is drying up a lot and it was very quick at Wetherby. I wouldn't want it to be any firmer but he's won on all sorts of ground. I wouldn't want it to go the other way, though, and be very, very soft."

It seems unlikely that on-course bookmakers will take any action at the two-day Scottish National meeting, which starts on Friday week, over the increase from £11 to £21 in the daily fee that they now have to make to the National Joint Pitch Council (NJPC), who administer bookmakers' pitches.

At Kelso on Monday, the increase was reluctantly paid into a bookmakers' fund until the outcome of an appeal to the Office of Fair Trading against the legality of such a charge and the NJPC's monopoly powers.

A regular on the Northern and Scottish racing circuit said: "I was disappointed with the bookmakers at Kelso. They could have made a stand, but it was a fair crowd on a public holiday and you know what bookmakers are like. Business is also usually good at Ayr, and at Perth the following week, but I would expect them to make their point, possibly even refusing to bet on some races, at a less profitable meeting."

Princeful, the 1998 Stayers' Hurdle winner, has had his comeback put on hold because of the firm going. The 11-year-old was due to have his first outing for nearly two years in the Long-Distance Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday, but Ron Hodges, his trainer, said last night: "He's a soft-ground horse and if there is some rain he could run at Sandown at the end of the month. He came here two years ago to be retired, but got a bit bored so we gave him some work and he got better and better. I'm convinced there is another race or two in him."

Queen's Logic, the 1,000 Guineas favourite, is likely to reappear in the Group Three Fred Darling Stakes, over seven furlongs, at Newbury on Saturday week.

The Mick Channon-trained filly, unbeaten in four outings last season, is reported to have worked exceptionally well in a seven-furlong gallop earlier in the week and is now quoted at 5-2 for the Classic by Coral.