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Norton trainer Malcolm Jefferson eyes double at Aintree
Updated 12:18pm Friday 4th April 2014 in Sport
LUCK deserted Malcolm Jefferson at last month's Cheltenham Festival, but the North Yorkshire trainer heads to Aintree today with a twin chance of gaining compensation.
Jefferson runs Attaglance in the Alderr Hey Children's Charity Handicap Hurdle, a race the gelding won in 2012 after a previous success at Cheltenham.
This year, however, he had to settle for runner-up honours at the Festival after a narrow defeat over fences which came in a controversial finish. His jockey Brian Hughes switched to the inside to challenge after the last fence but his path was blocked by the hanging winner Present Views and he was forced to switch late on, by which time the damage was done.
How Attaglance will perform back over hurdles after two seasons of chasing remains to be seen. But there is no doubt that he is in great heart and also that he seems a better horse at this time of the season each year. He is fancied to go well with Hughes again on board.
In the Concerto Group Mares' National Hunt Flat Race, Jefferson relies on Oleoneh, also partnered by Hughes, to step up to Listed-race level.
She has won two of her four races this season and, although this race represents far and away her toughest test, she is a talented performer.
Tony Coyle, a neighbour of Jefferson's in Norton, also has a fighting chance of figuring on the Aintree scoreboard.
Coyle saddles Lucky Landing in the Crabbe's Supporting Everton In The Community Topham Chase, over the Grand National fences,
Coyle has taken the trouble to school Lucky Landing over the National fences which have been installed on the Langton Wold gallops in advance of this meeting and the gelding took to the obstacles like the proverbial duck to water.
A respectable eighth in the Grand Annual Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, Lucky Landing is quietly fancied to give Dougie Costello a good spin in a race which has a wide-open look to it.
The Grade 1 Betfred Mobile Mildmay Novices' Chase is another tightly-knit affair and Paul Nicholls, who has two runners, may hold the key with nap selection Wonderful Charm.
The gelding has enjoyed a productive campaign and was staying on well when fifth in the JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham last month. This step up to an extended three miles should suit him even better and it would come as no surprise to see him return to winning form under Sam Twiston-Davies.
The Betfred Melling Chase, also a Grade 1 affair, may prove a good opportunity for Rajdhani Express to make it third-time-lucky this season.
On only his second start of the campaign, Nicky Henderson's seven-year-old ran a blinder to finish third to Dynaste in last month's Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham. If that form can be relied on, and if Rajdhani Express can reproduce that performance, he is entitled to go very close indeed.
In the saddle aboard Rajdhani Express will be Sam Waley-Cohen, who on Saturday will be riding Long Run in the Crabbie's Grand National.
Henderson has another solid chance on this afternoon's card with the smart and consistent Josses Hill in the opening Top Novices' Hurdle, while Jonjo O'Neill and Tony McCoy may prove the combination to follow in the Sefton Novices' Hurdle, courtesy of Capote, unbeaten in three outings this season and open to further improvement as he steps up in grade.
At Sedgefield, a note should be made of Tim Easterby's pair, Dark Dune (2.10), already a course and distance winner, and Lebanna (2.45), who just missed out here last month and who remains a model of consistency.
2.00 Josses Hill, 2.30 Wonderful Charm (NAP), 3.05 Rajdhani Express, 3.40 Lucky Landing, 4.15 Capote, 4.50 Attaglance, 5.25 Oleoneh.
2.10 Dark Dune, 2.45 Lebanna, 3.20 Work Boy, 3.55 Wintered Well, 4.30 Rosie Du Berlais, 5.05 Wacket Willie, 5.35 Chiron.
Today's other meetings: Leicester and Wolverhampton.
Tomorrow's meetings: Aintree, Chepstow, Lingfield, Newcastle and Wolverhampton.