Sefton move should help Grand National ambitions

Last Updated 18 Aug 2021 | By Enda McElhinney | Commercial content | 18+ | Play Responsibly | T&C Apply | Wagering

Aintree’s clerk of the course Sulekha Varma believes the decision to move the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase from December to November will assist trainers in their plans for the biggest race in the jumps calendar.

One of just five races staged over the National fences during the season, the Grand Sefton has routinely been run at the December Aintree meeting, alongside the Becher Chase.

From this season onwards the Grand Sefton will instead be amongst the features at Aintree’s November meeting.

Help with National plans

Varma has suggested that Aintree’s November meeting lacked a standout race and she is more than happy that the Grand Sefton can fit that billing.

“We felt the November meeting lacked a highlight and this move should hopefully give it a boost. It always feels extra special at our fixtures when the famous Grand National fences are in use and it’s exciting the Grand Sefton will now have its own billing,” she said.

“By having the opportunity to run a horse over the Grand National fences at a different time of year, we hope moving the race will help trainers in their planning for the Randox Grand National Festival.”

The Grand Sefton will remain an early-closing race, with entries for this year’s race – now to take place on November 6th – set to be closed on October 12th.

Snowden calls for Aintree bonus scheme

Trainer Jamie Snowden won the 2019 Grand Sefton with Hogan’s Height and has welcomed the decision to move the race to November.

Indeed, the Welsh handler is calling on racing’s powerbrokers to put some incentive in play for any horse that could win three times over famous National fences in one season.

“This is a sensible move as it will now be possible to run a horse in the Grand Sefton and then go on to the Becher the following month,” Snowden said.

“I wonder if the possibility of a bonus for a horse who can win the Grand Sefton, Becher and Grand National could ever be an option.”

Whilst there are no immediate plans to have that kind of incentive in place, the Aintree clerk hasn’t dismissed it out of hand.

“It’s something we would talk about. If there’s somebody willing to support it then we’re always open to ideas and to discussing with the horsemen what works for them,” she said in an apparent call to sponsors for support.

Triple Crown heroics

Previously, the National Hunt season has been lit up by the £1m Betfair Bonus for any horse that could win the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November, the King George VI Chase at Kempton in December and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.

Kauto Star in the 2006/07 was the only horse to manage the feat, Paul Nicholls’ superstar imperious in a season where he also won the Tingle Creek over two-miles.

‘King Kauto’ won the first two legs of the Triple Crown on three more occasions, but could not complete the hat-trick, while Silviniaco Conti (2014/15) and Cue Card (2015/16) also completed the first two legs before faltering in the Cotswolds.

Enda McElhinney

Enda McElhinney is a racing writer with a growing portfolio of work on both British and Irish racing, with a particular fondness for National Hunt racing. While he acknowledges there have been many great runners; there has only ever been one Denman.

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