Haydock Saturday: Trainer quotes | Racing News

One For Arthur ridden by Derek Fox crosses the line to win the Randox Health Grand National

One For Arthur ridden by Derek Fox crosses the line to win the Randox Health Grand National

One For Arthur takes his next step on the road back to Aintree in the Unibet Grand National Trial at Haydock.

It will be three years in April since Lucinda Russell’s stable star became only the second Scottish-trained winner of the world’s most famous steeplechase – since when he has made just five competitive starts, including a sixth-placed finish in last year’s National.

So far this term the 11-year-old has run with credit at Kelso before finishing fifth when tackling the famous fences for a fourth time in December’s Becher Chase.

Connections expressed their delight after One For Arthur was allotted 10st 2lb for this year’s Aintree spectacular – when the weights were officially unveiled earlier this week – and there is confidence from within the camp that the veteran remains at the peak of his powers.

Russell said: “We’re very much looking forward to running him on Saturday. He’ll probably need the run to sharpen him up a little bit, but we are very happy with him at home.

“I think he’s in better form than he was this time last year, certainly we’re a lot more relaxed. I think he might even be in better form than he was the year he won the National. Let’s hope he stays that way between now and April.

“I hope he’ll be competitive this weekend, but it is a means to an end. Hopefully everything goes well, and we can look forward to going back to Aintree with him.”

One For Arthur is set to face 10 rivals in what promises to be an attritional affair over an extended three and a half miles.

Another horse with Aintree ambitions is the Sue Smith-trained Vintage Clouds, who bids for a second successive win at Haydock following last month’s triumph in the Peter Marsh Chase.

Connections were initially cool on a second Grand National bid after the grey made it no further than the first fence in last year’s renewal, but have since had a change of heart.

“Vintage Clouds has been fine since the Peter Marsh Chase,” said Smith.

“It was a lovely performance, and we were delighted with the manner in which he jumped – it was great to see him put it all together.

“The Grand National is now back on the agenda. We just have to decide between now and then whether he also takes in the Ultima Handicap at the Cheltenham Festival, which he was second in last year.”

Lord Du Mesnil is in the form of his life following a hat-trick of wins, with his two most recent triumphs coming at Haydock.

The French import holds a Grand National entry, but trainer Richard Hobson is not looking beyond this weekend.

He said: “He enjoys the course at Haydock. I have been saying all along that he needs the right ground conditions and that therefore brings Haydock into the equation.

“He has options after this, including at the Cheltenham Festival, but I just want to take one run at a time.”

The weights are headed by the Colin Tizzard-trained Elegant Escape, who was last seen finishing sixth when bidding for back-to-back wins in the Welsh Grand National.

Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father, said: “Elegant Escape has been placed in two Ladbrokes Trophys and has won a Welsh National. He probably hasn’t got the class for a Gold Cup, so he will run at Haydock, probably skip Cheltenham, and then roll up at Aintree.

“I actually think his Welsh National run this year was not his true running, because he faded from four out.”

Paul Nicholls relies on Yala Enki, who claimed this prize two years ago when trained by Venetia Williams.

Other hopefuls include Nicky Martin’s The Two Amigos, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Charlie Hall Chase victor Ballyoptic and Geronimo from Sandy Thomson’s yard.

Rest of Haydock card

The Worlds End bids to claim his third win from four starts this season in the Unibet Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock.

Tom George’s charge made a flying start to the campaign when landing the Grade Two West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby, before having to make do with minor honours in third behind star stayer Paisley Park and Thistlecrack in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.

Following the late defection of Paisley Park, The Worlds End made the most of what looked an excellent opportunity to strike Grade One gold at Ascot in December – seeing off the strong-travelling L’Ami Serge in the Marsh Hurdle.

George is optimistic his charge will be able to add to his tally this weekend, before a likely rematch with Paisley Park in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.

“He’s in good form,” said the Cotswolds trainer.

“He’s had a good preparation since his last race, and it looks a good stepping-stone for him.

“He’s had a very good season already. He’s won a Grade One and a Grade Two – and anything he does from this point is a bonus, to be honest.

“He seems to be liking heavy ground as he’s getting older, so everything look to be in his favour.

“There’s no Paisley Park to worry about, which is good!”

The Worlds End must concede 6lb to each of his five rivals on Merseyside, including Warren Greatrex’s Emitom.

Unbeaten in his first five starts before chasing home Champ in a Grade One at Aintree, the six-year-old was a disappointing last of six on his return from a lengthy absence in the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

Greatrex is confident of much improved display on Saturday, though.

He said: “I was disappointed with his return to action at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, but I put it down to him being rusty after an injury lay-off.

“He’s in tip-top order now and has done plenty of schooling. His work has been very, very good – and we left him in the Stayers’ Hurdle this week.

“It’s a big day for him at Haydock, but I would expect a much better run.”

Clyne (Evan Williams), Donna’s Diamond (Chris Grant), One Night In Milan (Keith Dalgleish) and West Approach (Colin Tizzard) complete the line-up.

Grade Two honours are also up for grabs in the Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle, in which David Pipe’s Ramses De Teillee is the potential star attraction.

The grey also had the option of running in the Unibet Grand National Trial on the same card, but connections have elected to stick to the smaller obstacles en route to a possible appearance in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham.

Pipe said: “We didn’t really want to give him a slog over three and a half miles over fences, so we decided to stay down the hurdle route for now.

“He’s won well on his last couple of runs over hurdles, and seems in very good form. We all know he likes testing conditions, so hopefully he’ll run well.

“We’ll see how he performs this weekend before deciding whether to aim for the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham.”

Ramses De Teillee may not have things all his own way, however – with Anthony Honeyball’s Jepeck, the Philip Hobbs-trained Kalooki and Olly Murphy’s pair of Overthetop and Port Of Mars all declared off the back of victories.

Murphy said: “Both horses are progressing well. Port Of Mars will love the testing conditions, and I thought he was impressive at Chepstow the last day.

“Overthetop wasn’t right when he ran at Sandown in December, but he bounced back well to win at Newcastle, probably beating a decent enough horse into second (Prince Kayf).

“Both horses go there with each-way chances on Saturday.”

Gary Moore’s Goshen is a notable defector from the Unibet Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle. In his absence, French raider Rockadenn will be well fancied to continue his winning streak at the chief expense of the Paul Nicholls-trained Sir Psycho.

Former staying star Unowhatimeanharry is at the head of the weights for the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle. His rivals include last year’s winner Sykes, Kilbricken Storm, the in-form Young Bull and Greatrex’s Portrush Ted.