Ulster handlers continue to strike as Larne trainer targets National

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Larne trainer Stuart Crawford had to settle for a trio of placed efforts at Sedgefield on Tuesday last week.

However the Ulster handler’s luck changed when travelling onto Catterick on Thursday with Verona Opera claiming the finale endorsing the promise of his other sole start when runner-up on his debut at Ayr in November last year.

The latest Crawford brothers winner was partnered by brother, Stephen.

Meanwhile, the Larne trainer advised that Glenquest, which went so close to winning the Welsh Grand National finishing third after being just caught close to the winning post, will be aimed at the Sky Bet Chase on January 24th at Doncaster.

Crawford said: “We don’t have any firm plans for Glenquest. We will probably look at one of the better staying chasers in the spring and that could be something like a Scottish or Irish National.

“He probably won’t be rated high enough to get into the Aintree Grand National. We will definitely take a look at the Sky Bet Chase on the way because that is a really good prize in its own right and that is why we have entered him in the race.

“Glenquest has come out of the Welsh National at Chepstow very well. He deserves a big one as he has been second in a Troytown Chase, fourth in a Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown and obviously the very good run in the Welsh National.”

The County Antrim handler has also entered Yes Tom, which ran a great race in last year’s Scottish Grand National, for the prestigious Sky Bet Chase.

“We will also look at the Sky Bet with Yes Tom but whereas Glenquest will cope with most ground – Yes Tom wants nice ground,” he advised.

“The ground was quite tacky when Yes Tom ran in the Scottish National and I would say it was the going rather than the trip that did not suit him on the day. He has been knocking on the door and although he is getting on - with a bit of luck we would be hopeful that he could pick up a nice one this season.”

Team Crawford are overdue a “National” having gone so close a few times including the 20 11 Aintree Grand National when Killyglen when in third place and improving only to fall four from home with the race won by the Ballabriggs.

Togoville supplied a second Irish winner for Georgios Pakidis – the former Polish rider having been based in America but now in command of operations at Patrick McCann’s training complex in County Tyrone.

Togoville, which is owned by Paul Kelly and McCann, also provided the trainer with his initial success.

He said: “He won well and keeps improving. I knew he was in the form of his life and knew he would have no problem winning this race. We’ll look forward with him and step him up in class and see what happens. We’ll see how he is in the next couple of days and he’ll tell us when he’s ready to run. He loves Dundalk’s all-weather.”

Lean Araig won the handicap hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday to provide leading Newry breeder Fiona Mc Stay with another winner – the local thoroughbred breeder having been the recipient of the Leading National Hunt Breeder Award for the past two years at the Northern Region ITBA Awards evening.

Fairyhouse on Sunday saw the Noel Meade trained, Officieux make all the running for an impressive victory in the opening maiden hurdle with the winner owned by Belfast based, Mrs Patricia Hunt and the twelve length winner appearing an above average recruit to the Hunt family’s team of horses.

The winning Navan based trainer said post-race: “I fancied him coming here today but Paul said he’d no chance on the ground. He pulled very hard the last day and I said today to try him in front - he settled in front. He has a very strong staying pedigree and we think he’ll be better on better ground.”

The large number of locally trained intended runners at Ayr on Monday were denied the opportunity to race when the Scottish course sustained damage to buildings forcing the management to cancel the fixture at the weekend.

Point to point


The Spring sector of the Ulster point to point season is due to get underway at the East Down Hunt fixture at Tyrella on Saturday 31st January.

A full list of local fixtures is as follows:

31st January - East Down at Tyrella

14th February - North Down at Kirkistown

28th February - Tynan & Armagh at Armagh

7th March - East Down at Tyrella

14th March - North Down at Kirkistown

21st March - Iveagh at Maralin

28th March - Down Staghounds at Loughbrickland

6th April - East Antrim at Loughanmore

7th April - East Antrim at Loughanmore

18th April - Mid Antrim at Toomebridge

24th April - Killultagh at Crumlin

25th April - Killultagh at Crumlin

2nd May - Newry at Taylorstown

15th May - Fermanagh at Necarne

16th May - Fermanagh at Necarne