Grissell to record double
GARDIE GRISSELL can kick-start his season with a double on his favourite course today. The Heathfield trainer has had a quiet term to date, with three winners from only around two dozen runners. But he is always a man to be feared at nearby Plumpton.
His latest success came when Emerald Statement scored here last month the last time racing was possible at the mid-Sussex venue. And almost half his stable's eight wins came over this track in 1995/6.
Soleil Dancer and Bon Voyage can enhance their yard's fine course record today. Ignore Soleil Dancer's last visit here in November for pipe-opener, when he was very much in need of the race and trailed in well beaten.
He shaped much better when reverting to fences at Folkestone last time out, running on very strongly from the home turn to finish a length-and-a-half second to Pegmarine. The nine-year-old has every chance of going one place better in the Aldbourne Handicap Chase.
Bon Voyage returns to the scene of his last win for the Pyecombe Handicap Hurdle half an hour later. He has failed to find his very best form since that impressive six-length victory in a juvenile event last April.
But he has been taking on generally better company than this, has been dropped 7lb by the handicapper since the start of the season and is very well suited by this sharp, undulating circuit.
The focus is on young talent at Ayr, where all races are restricted to novices on an extra card allocated to counter the effects of the freeze. In-form trainer Micky Hammond can take full advantage by striking with the five-year-old Major Harris.
The gelding showed plenty of promise when around 11 lengths third behind King Pin on his racecourse debut in a novice hurdle at Catterick last month. He would have finished on the heels of the first two but for a mistake at the final flight and should go very close in the Alloway Village Novices' Hurdle.