Racing: For the notebook

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The Independent Online
A new column pinpointing horses who can go on to better things

FOULRICE FARM does not have the same ring to it as Fourways, or Sunnybrook, but the atmosphere there reflects the contented character of Peter Beaumont, its master. Yesterday morning, Beaumont led out Island Chief for a gentle 20-minute walk down the farm road to loosen him up after an impressive win at Ayr on Saturday. The road to Aintree now beckons for Island Chief.

He carried top weight of 12st to beat his nearest rival by an eased-down seven lengths at Ayr. But it could easily have been 37. The 10-year-old still has run just 10 times in total (five wins, two seconds, two thirds), which is one reason for a handicap rating that puts him on just 8st 2lb in the Grand National. Island Chief, though, must still carry the 10st minimum.

Horses carrying overweight have a poor recent Aintree record. But Beaumont, who farms at Brandsby, York, and who trained Gold Cup winner Jodami, believes Island Chief's official rating belittles his true ability. The bookmakers William Hill cut his National odds yesterday to 33-1 from 50-1.

``He's a lovely horse. No vices,'' the trainer said yesterday. ``He did it well at Ayr. It was just what was wanted, because we didn't want him having a hard race.'' A possible run in the Greenalls Grand National Trial at Haydock on 27 February - from out of the handicap - would give Island Chief a chance to prove the handicapper wrong.

The Irish or Scottish Nationals are also possible targets, so an Aintree ante-post bet now is too risky. If, however, doubts emerged over the participation of the Aintree topweights (Teeton Mill, Suny Bay and Escartefigue) then the Beaumont gelding's weight problem would diminish. That could be the time to go for Chief justice.