Racing: Silver on to Aintree

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Silver Birch jumped his way to Grand National favouritism after landing a nationwide gamble in the Welsh version at Chepstow yesterday.

The seven-year-old followed up a success over the daunting Liverpool fences in the Becher Chase in April and is now a top-priced 16-1 for next year's Aintree marathon.

Winning trainer Paul Nicholls considered that Silver Birch, backed down from a morning 11-2 to 100-30 at the off, needed another big win like this to ensure he got into the handicap for Aintree and he now has the luxury of being able to take the seven-year-old straight there. Nicholls, who won the Welsh National on Playschool in 1987, said: "That was just the job and now all roads lead to Aintree. I've not had much luck there so far, but I really do think this is the horse who could change things for us.

"There are one or two others I would consider for the National but this is definitely our number one. The job now is to keep him in one piece which means he may or may not run beforehand. If he does run before, I doubt that it would be at Cheltenham."