Racing: National fear for Fellow

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The Independent Online
FRANCOIS DOUMEN, the trainer of The Fellow, said yesterday that the 6-1 favourite for the Grand National will miss the race on Saturday if the going is too soft. The ground at Aintree is currently riding good to soft, with soft patches, and more rain is expected.

The Fellow has dominated the National market since winning the Gold Cup at Cheltenham last month. The Aintree handicap weights are allocated in February, at which time The Fellow, one of the current leading steeplechasers, appeared to be in decline. As a result, he would be expected to carry 11st 4lb in the National. Victory at Cheltenham made his Aintree burden appear very lenient.

However, the French- trained gelding is believed by connections to prefer a sound surface. Speaking at Auteuil racecourse in Paris yesterday, Doumen said: 'The Fellow did a long canter yesterday and is very well. He will be confirmed a runner tomorrow (at the obligatory five-day stage). But one big problem is the ground. If it became unduly heavy he would not run.'

The Fellow's owner, the Marquesa de Moratalla, might also have an opinion on her horse's participation. The Spanish noblewoman is believed not to view the National with unbridled enthusiasm and might need little persuasion to scratch her runner.

More racing, pages 26, 27