Rough Quest spot on for Kempton


GRAND National winner Rough Quest showed himself to be well on course for a crack at the Pertemps King George VI Chase with an impressive victory over hurdles at Folkestone yesterday.

Held up going well by regular partner Mick Fitzgerald, Rough Quest made headway to challenge approaching the last, and despite making a mistake the Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up quickened nicely on the flat to get up and beat Destin d'Estruval by half a length.

Fitzgerald said: "If he hadn't made a mistake at the last he'd have won without coming off the bridle. He got a bit of a shock seeing the hurdles but he has got so much class he soon knew exactly what he was doing."

And winning trainer Terry Casey added: "We are very pleased, that was a nice run round for him. That should have put him right for the King George. He is a big horse and it was nice to get a race into him. We'll school him over fences on Sunday morning."

William Hill and Ladbrokes have cut Rough Quest a point to 5 to 1 joint second favourite for the King George following his successful reappearance. "Rough Quest is nothing if not versatile and showed an impressive turn of foot," said Ladbrokes spokesman Ian Wassell.

"He'll definitely come on for the run and could well prove to be One Man's most dangerous opponent at Kempton."

Warren Marston will be replaced by Norman Williamson aboard Nahthen Lad when the Jenny Pitman-trained Sun Alliance Chase winner makes his reappearance at Bangor today and Williamson will remain in the saddle when the gelding lines up for the King George on St Stephen's Day.

Nahthen Lad, eight-length conqueror of Mr Mulligan at the Cheltenham Festival, makes his comeback in the Astbury Wren Handicap Hurdle at Bangor, using today's low-key affair as a stepping stone to Kempton.

"Nahthen Lad will go for the King George after Bangor, at least that is the plan today," said trainer Jenny Pitman said. "The horse is well and is far enough forward."

Marston, stable jockey at Weathercock House, rode Nahthen Lad in all six starts last term which included three other wins and two seconds but will not be renewing his association with the seven-year-old today.

"Normal Williamson has the ride tomorrow and I should think he will ride him at Kempton," Mrs Pitman added.

Trying Again has been well supported, from 16 to 1 to 12 to with Ladbrokes, for the feature at the Sunbury track. "Trying Again has been well backed today and people obviously think he is capable of significant improvement. Kempton is certainly a track that seems to suit him very well," added Wassell.

But trainer David Gandolfo is keeping his options open for Trying Again, yet to race on top of the ground. "It all depends on the ground. He doesn't want it firm and what the race looks like," dedared Gandolfo. "The Mid Season Chase at Wincanton is a possibility and I'll put him in a three-mile chase in Ireland as well."

The chairman of the Association of Irish Racecourses, Pierce Molony, believes the marketing of the new 1997 course access cards could increase attendances at race meetings. The cards, which are currently being mailed to the association's 14,000 members, are described by Molony as "an attractive chic design which presents a sophisticated image of Irish racing" and were produced with the sponsorship of leading Irish mobile phone and telecoms supplier Superphone under an arrangement supported by Eircell, and Philips.