Racing: Glenbrook stays best: Sue Montgomery at Uttoxeter searches for Aintree clues in the Midlands National

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The Independent Online
WITH Cheltenham now history, the focus shifts to the Grand National. The Aintree contenders on trial in the Midlands National here yesterday were put in their place by a gelding not entered in the big race. Glenbrook d'Or, trained by Jim Wilson and ridden by Brian Clifford, outstayed his rivals in the mud for a decisive five-length victory.

Wilson, whose small yard is a stone's throw from Cheltenham racecourse, said: 'It's nice to have runners there - but even nicer to have a winner here. This was Plan A - end of story.'

Only the National itself is longer than the Uttoxeter marathon over four and a quarter miles and Clifford, whose biggest winner this was, kept Glenbrook d'Or in the middle of the pack as Cythere and Riverside Boy cut out the pace for more than two circuits of the Midlands track. By the time the leaders turned into the straight for the final time the distance and heavy ground had sorted out the tough from the not-so-tough; Riverside Boy and another in the van early on, Merry Master, had dropped back but Cythere was still there, now shadowed by Shraden Leader.

In the straight Into The Red flattered briefly. Shraden Leader led three out but faded as the Irish pair Its A Cracker and Callmecha began to stay on. But Glenbrook d'Or was going best and joined Callmecha at the last, driven clear on the run-in to take the Tetley Bitter Trophy and the pounds 25,000 first prize.

Its A Cracker got up to beat his compatriot by a neck for second, with Cythere a gallant fourth, followed by Shraden Leader, Gold Cap, Just So and Green Times, the only finishers. Glenbrook d'Or runs in the colours of Tim Leadbeater, commercial director of JCB, for whom Wilson trained Taberna Lord to win at Cheltenham seven years ago.

Its A Cracker and Into The Red remain on course for the National, but with 8st 3lb and 8st 12lb respectively, neither is certain to make the line-up, which will consist of the top 40 in the weights declared on the morning before the race. The bookmakers are divided in their view over the big race in the wake of Cheltenham; Ladbrokes make the Gold Cup winner, The Fellow, 7-1 favourite 'with a run' - and opinion seems to be hardening in favour of the French horse's presence at Aintree - and Coral have him a best-priced 12-1 behind their 8-1 favourite Double Silk.

But yesterday's events had little bearing on the market. Into The Red, on whom Adrian Maguire was considerate after he ran out of puff, remains 20-1 with Coral; Riverside Boy (with 9st 11lb at Aintree), who ran well for a long way under his top weight, is pushed out to 33-1, and the former National runner-up Romany King (9st 12lb), fourth and last in the St Modwen Chase, to 20-1.

Lumberjack, winner of that race, is also bound for Aintree, but the John Hughes Chase rather than the big one. A horse of decided moods, he sulked when he ran in the Mildmay of Flete at Cheltenham four days ago and was pulled up. But yesterday he got out of bed the right side and, ridden by Jamie Osborne, beat General Pershing in a canter by eight lengths.

Osborne notched up a double on Taramoss, who led throughout the Bet With The Tote Novices' Chase. And Adrian Maguire went one better with a hat-trick in the last three on Norstock for John White, Attadale for Len Lungo and Corner Boy for his guv'nor David Nicholson.