Paul Nicholls’ eye-catching Aintree entries
Paul Nicholls on his eye-catching entries in Aintree’s Topham Trophy and Foxhunters’ Chase
Paul Nicholls hopes to continue his fine record at Aintree’s Randox Grand National Festival and has three contenders for this year’s Grade Three Randox Topham Handicap Chase.
The Ditcheat trainer won the 2m5f race over the Grand National fences with Gwanako back in 2008 and looks likely to have a strong squad for the meeting again this year.
Speaking about his chances in the contest, which takes place on day two of the Randox Grand National Festival (Friday 9 April), he said: “I have entered three – Magic Saint, Modus and My Way, and the classiest would be the first two.
“Modus ran a really nice race over the National fences in December and we’ve left him to have him nice and fresh for this race. Magic Saint is a good jumper and I feel a step up in trip would do him a world of good. A flat track suits him and he’s a nice horse.”
Meanwhile, My Way was an impressive winner of the Close Brothers Motor Finance Handicap Chase at Kempton Park last month, and Nicholls feels that his charge may be high enough in the weights at the moment after finishing fifth at the same track at the weekend.
He said: “My Way ran ok at the weekend. Basically he won nicely there last month and went up 9lb, which didn’t help too much and he had plenty of weight. But he’s fine after Saturday.”
Amateur jockey David Maxwell believes Cat Tiger is ‘tailor-made’ for the famous Grand National fences at Aintree when he tackles them for the first time in the Rose Paterson Randox Foxhunters’ Chase.
The Paul Nicholls-trained seven year old is one of 34 entries received for the 2m5f contest, which is being run in memory of the former Aintree Racecourse Chairman on the opening day of this year’s Randox Grand National Festival on 8 April.
Cat Tiger made a triumphant return to action at Leicester under Harry Cobden earlier this month and Maxwell is confident that the dual Grade Three scorer can claim a third victory at that level by making his debut over the Grand National fences a winning one.
Maxwell was forced to miss out on rides at the Cheltenham last week due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions preventing amateur jockeys from taking part.
However, those restrictions will be lifted in time for Aintree and Maxwell said: “It is exciting to think about being back at Aintree but you just have to keep everything in perspective.
“I always come back to the same point in this pandemic – we’ve all had to stop doing something that we like doing and have had to go without things. However, people have lost jobs during the pandemic and thousands of people have died, so there have been far worse things over the past 12 months than having to wait a while longer to ride.
“Cat Tiger is a very nice horse that jumps well. He will love the track and 2m 5f is perfect for him. It’s tailor-made for him. This race has always been the plan.
“I won the Grade Three on him at Auteuil, when I fell off on him on the way down to the start, and he was a pretty good novice hurdler over here where he did nothing wrong.
“I think we will probably give him a school over the National-style fences at David Pipe’s before the race. As ever in these races you need a bit of luck, but he is pretty useful.”
Unlike their professional counterparts, amateur jockeys have not been allowed to ride in races since 14 January 14. However, they will be eligible to return to the saddle on Monday 29 March, where Maxwell hopes to be in action at Fontwell.
He added: “I’ve been down to see Philip Hobbs and Paul Nicholls a few times to ride out and I plan on going down to Philip’s this week to school a few as well, but it is hard to fit it all in with two children to look after as well.
“I should be riding at Fontwell on Monday aboard one I’ve got at Philip Hobbs’ called Tres Francais. He came over to Britain at the start of the season but he has not raced yet as there was not much point getting him out until I could ride him.”
Having broken his neck on his last ride, aboard the Hobbs-trained Zizaneur at Wetherby in October, the 42 year old, reports himself to be in good shape ahead of his comeback.
Maxwell, who partnered a personal best total of 18 winners under rules last season, added: “The last time I rode was on October 14 when I broke my neck on my second ride back. I’ve had two rides in a full 12 months. It was a bit frustrating as I had just been signed off with the all clear the day after the amateur riders got banned.
“The neck is totally fine now and to be honest the extra time off has probably done me no harm as I’ve not been rattling it around so much by racing.
“I’ve been in the park every day doing my one-on-one with a personal trainer squatting it out in front of the Houses Of Parliament, but the only thing that can really get you ready for race riding is doing it. I’m just looking forward to getting back in the saddle now.”