Racing: O'Shea cautious about aiming Ballistic at Aintree

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It is a sign of the delicate balance within a racing programme built up over two centuries that change in one small area will quickly be felt elsewhere. Just six years ago, significant alterations were made to the Grand National course at Aintree in order to benefit the safety of the participants, but already one race which previously offered only rare clues to the National has overtaken any number of others to become the most important Liverpool trial of all. It is also quite a significant event in its own right: the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

No longer are horses good enough to find the frame in the Gold Cup considered too good to risk at Aintree. As Mr Mulligan passed the post at Cheltenham two days ago, far-sighted punters were focused on horses running on from off the pace, and one in particular caught everyone's eye. Go Ballistic, fourth on Thursday, would not have made up more ground from the home turn if he had been driving a sports car. With just 9st 8lb in the long handicap for Liverpool, and every chance that the weights will rise sufficiently to get him into the handicap proper, his National chance was suddenly obvious to backers and bookies alike, with William Hill so impressed that he was cut to 10-1 second-favourite behind Lord Gyllene, a runner in today's Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter.

As yet, though, Go Ballistic is just a probable, rather than definite runner at Aintree. "The horse has come out of his race in super shape," John O'Shea, his trainer, said yesterday, "and there would be no problem with him being ready to run at National time, but I would just like to take a week to think it over. His only other option is the Whitbread, and as the weights are already out for the National, we'll have to have a good look at it."

O'Shea's principal concern is that, at just eight years of age, Go Ballistic might lack the necessary maturity for chasing's most gruelling event. "The trip won't be a problem," O'Shea said. "The idea behind running him in the Gold Cup was that on any other track he wouldn't get a blow in against One Man, but I knew that if he could keep tabs on him then his stamina would come into play. Maybe he ought to wait another year, but then we thought that before the Gold Cup, and he was in such good form that I let him run,because you never know what next year will bring."

The expectation must be that Go Ballistic will be behind the Aintree tapes in three weeks' time, but a former ante-post favourite for the race, Coome Hill, was definitely ruled out yesterday. "He's got sore shins and it will keep him off for a while," Walter Dennis, whose runner was a forlorn seventh of the eight Gold Cup finishers, said yesterday."That wasn't his true form. Jamie Osborne said he gurgled at the top of the hill and with the ground as firm as it was he let him come home in his own time."

Danoli is reported by Tom Foley to be fine after his Gold Cup fall and, like Mr Mulligan, started his well-earned summer holiday yesterday. "He's good and sound," Noel Chance, Mr Mulligan's trainer, said yesterday. "He's got a few cuts and abrasions but it's a long way from his heart. He's a serious horse."

Just how serious a horse Lord Gyllene is should become apparent shortly before two o'clock today. The 8-1 Grand National favourite with Ladbrokes will carry top weight in the Midlands Grand National, the feature event on a Uttoxeter card which, for all the efforts of the track's ambitious managers, will always struggle against punters' Festival hangovers.

Lord Gyllene won the Singer & Friedlander National Trial over course and distance last month, to the delight of Stan Clarke, his owner, who is also Uttoxeter's chairman. He is now creeping up the ratings, however, and may struggle to give weight to SEVEN TOWERS (nap 1.50), another improver. Thursday Night (next best 1.15) may help to ease the pain after Thursday afternoon.