Racing: Silk shortens for National after injury spoils Gaselee's Party: Fresh misfortune strikes 1992 Aintree hero after last year's fiasco

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The Independent Online
PARTY POLITICS, until yesterday a 16-1 chance to add this year's Grand National to his victory in 1992, has a bruised foot and will miss the race on 9 April, and the rest of the National Hunt season.

On the form of his only run this year, when beating Riverside Boy and an ailing Jodami in the Rehearsal Chase at Chepstow, Party Politics would have gone to Aintree with every chance, as he did last year when a major gamble saw his price contract to 7-1 favourite just before the first false start. 'He bruised a foot when we were preparing him for the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock, and he was intermittently lame afterwards,' Nick Gaselee, his trainer, said yesterday. 'We X-rayed him on Friday and it showed he's got a deep-seated bruise in his near fore. There's no reason why he shouldn't be perfectly all right next season, but he will need a few months' rest.'

The gelding's acquaintance with Aintree is far from over, however. 'Horses have won the National when they're 12 and he's only 11 next year,' Gaselee said. 'But his preparation for the National last year was uninterrupted and he went there in great heart, which makes it doubly annoying, the fiasco that happened then.'

The revised National betting sees Double Silk the 9-1 favourite with William Hill, followed by 12-1 Moorcroft Boy, 14-1 Romany King, 16-1 Garrison Savannah, 20-1 others. Sporting Index go 8-1 Double Silk, 14-1 Moorcroft Boy, 16- 1 Garrison Savannah, 20-1 others.

Double Silk, the champion hunter chaser, was due to run at Plumpton's abandoned meeting yesterday, but will now go to Sandown on Thursday, weather permitting. The Esher track might seem a more fitting destination for the Grand National favourite, but Reg Wilkins, his trainer, explained yesterday why he would have preferred to run at Plumpton. 'It was the distance we wanted, we want three miles plus and lots of hunter chases recently have been about two and a half. Sandown's only two and a half, but the ground's getting heavy so it'll be more like three.'

Wilkins believes that Double Silk will need 'several races before the National to bring him to peak fitness,' while the novelty of training the Aintree favourite is perhaps beginning to wane. 'It's all hype really, and I hope someone else will be favourite soon so it will ease off,' Wilkins said.

Moorcroft Boy appears to be the horse most likely to grant his wish. David Nicholson's chaser is a probable runner in the Eider Chase at Newcastle on Saturday, for which he was made 9-4 favourite by Ladbrokes yesterday. Master Oats is next at 3-1, with 5-1 Tartan Tyrant, 7-1 Ushers Island, 9-1 All Jeff, 12-1 others. An unexpected absentee from the race is Into The Red, who is suffering from a virus and will now go to Liverpool without another race.

The Jockey Club yesterday announced a series of changes to its disciplinary role as part of its struggle to improve the standard of local stewarding.

A review group has recommended the appointment of a new senior manager, to take charge of disciplinary operations, while an expanded disciplinary committee, with three new members, will hope to improve the quality of decisions in such difficult areas as non- triers and whip abuse. Britain's 300 local stewards will remain as unpaid volunteers, however.

Other reforms will include the establishment of a four- strong team of roving stewards, who will 'go racing across the country and see the quality of stewarding and report back so that we can take action through first-hand knowledge,' according to Anthony Mildmay-White, the group's chairman.