Imjoeking tipped to spearhead Lucinda Russell’s Wetherby bid

Scottish trainer Lucinda Russell can make her long journey to Wetherby well worthwhile today by completing a treble on the card as well as capturing the feature race.

Russell, whose horses have been in fine form, saddles Imjoeking in the £10,000 Download The totepool App Handicap Chase and Peter Buchanan’s mount is napped to take the spoils.

Winner of a point-to-point, a bumper and a hurdle, Imjoeking now bids to claim his first chasing success on only his second start over fences. He made his debut over the major obstacles on this course three weeks ago and, after travelling like the best horse in the race most of the way, was run out of victory after the last fence by Mwaleshi.

Imjoeking, who jumped well that day, faces more experienced rivals this afternoon, but he is a horse of infinite promise and he is taken to come out on top.

Russell can also score with novice hurdler Mysteree (12.10), who has twice run well at Kelso lately, and Settledoutofcourt (2.50), who is chasing a hat-trick after wins at Hexham and Newcastle.

Donald McCain switches Dreams Of Milan (12.40) to fences after the gelding’s two wins from four runs over hurdles last season, while John Quinn’s Zaplamation (2.15) bids to follow up his course and distance success of three weeks ago. Both horses should go well.

Richie McLernon, beaten a nose on Sunnyhillboy in last year’s Grand National won by Neptune Collonges, returns to Aintree today with good prospects of playing a starring role.

On a card where not one but two races will be run over the unique Grand National fences, McLernon teams up with Storm Survivor in the most valuable contest, the £150,000 Betfred Becher Handicap Chase.

Trained by Jonjo O’Neill, Storm Survivor won at Uttoxeter two starts back and has since run a fine race in defeat at Chepstow to finish a close-up third.

Already proven over this afternoon’s distance of three and a quarter miles, Storm Survivor has little weight to carry and plainly has a fighting chance in an admittedly wide open race which has attracted the maximum field of 24 runners, which is the recipe for plenty of thrills and spills over this most challenging of courses.

The Betfred Grand Sefton Chase, worth £70,000, will also be staged over the National fences and Midnight Appeal looks the type to come to the fore.

Trained by Alan King, who sent out his 1,000th winner over jumps at Southwell earlier this week, the eight-year-old has an exemplary record, having won six of his ten chases. His latest success came at Bangor last month when he scored in handsome style. A bold bid is expected from him in the hands of Wayne Hutchinson.

North Yorkshire trainer John Quinn could dominate the first two races on the Aintree programme.

Quinn has few peers when it comes to hand-picking horses from the Flat to go jumping and Villoresi commands respect on his debut in the Betfred ‘Fun And Friendly’ Maiden Hurdle.

Previously trained by James Fanshawe, the four-year-old was a mid-80s handicapper on the Flat and a horse who stayed a mile and a half. It would come as no surprise to see him make the grade over hurdles for Quinn, who purchased him at the Horses in Training Sales at Newmarket in October.

Poetic Verse, another sales purchase, came close to making a winning debut over timber at Leicester three weeks ago when going down narrowly. The former Rod Millman Flat-racer bids for compensation for Quinn in the Betfred ‘Double Delight’ Fillies’ Juvenile Hurdle. Gitane Du Berlais, trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins, looks the danger.

Also worth noting on an excellent card at Aintree are Squire Trelawney (1.30), who has run two solid races this season in defeat, and the classy Unioniste (2.40).

RACING selections

Wetherby today
12.10 Mysteree, 12.40 Dreams Of Milan, 1.10 Ballyben, 1.40 Imjoeking (NAP), 2.15 Zaplamation, 2.50 Settledoutofcourt, 3.25 Chebsey Beau.

Aintree today
12.00 Villoresi, 12.30 Poetic Verse, 1.00 Like Minded, 1.30 Squire Trelawney, 2.05 Storm Survivor, 2.40 Unioniste, 3.15 Midnight Appeal.

Today’s other meetings: Sandown, Chepstow and Wolverhampton.

Tomorrow’s meetings: Kelso and Warwick.

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