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The women who hold the key to Haydock’s Grand National Trial

| 15.02.2016

Lizzie Kelly may have stole the show once again with her victory on Agrapart in the Betfair Hurdle on Saturday, but she is not the only lady making a big name for herself in the National Hunt ranks this term.

Since taking over from her father at their Herefordshire yard, Kerry Lee has been making a splash as a trainer in her own right this season.

Mountainous’ victory in the Welsh Grand National preceded Russe Blanc’s gutsy triumph in the Classic Chase last month, while Top Gamble added a third Graded prize in the Game Spirit Chase on Saturday.

She could be on course to continue that good start in the Grand National Trial at Haydock on Saturday, if a familiar pattern is to be followed.

Between them Venetia Williams, Lucinda Russell and the Lee yard have won four of the last 10 runnings of the race, while having six others place from just 22 runners – a not-too-shabby place-rate of 45 per cent.

Lee can continue the good work of her father, who saddled Le Beau Bai to three placed finishes in this race, with a trio of entrants of her own.

Mountainous heads the market after his fantastic performance at Chepstow, but must improve on last year’s showing which saw him finish a well-beaten sixth off a five pound lower mark.

He could be joined by stable-mate Russe Blanc who also seems to revel in heavy underfoot conditions, demonstrated by a gutsy showing under Charlie Poste at Warwick last month.

The nine-year-old has also gone up in the weights, this time to a career-high 137, but won well enough last time out to suggest he could still go well.

The form of Russe Blanc's Classic Chase win has been franked

The form of Russe Blanc’s Classic Chase win has been franked

The Lee trio is completed by Bishops Road who steps up to the furthest trip of his career at the weekend.

He was an excellent all-the-way winner on stable debut at Sandown on January 2, but previous runs over three miles don’t fill you with a huge amount of confidence.

Venetia Williams’ last five runners in the weekend’s race show figures of PPP221P, indicating that you tend to get an all-or-nothing return from the yard in this Grade 3.

That inconsistent theme continues with her shortest priced candidate in Rigadin De Beauchene, who has won, finished second and been pulled up in this contest.

The 11-year-old was an unlucky faller when hampered by a loose horse in the aforementioned Classic Chase and must be respected.

He has won two of his four visits to Haydock and is only two pounds higher than when running away with the race two years ago.

Saroque is another potential runner for the yard, though he does have 22 lengths to make up with favourite Mountainous on their Welsh National running.

All of his wins have come on soft or heavy ground so the testing conditions are sure to be in his favour, but he must step up on recent showings.

Conditions should be spot on for Saroque

Conditions should be spot on for Saroque

The accolade of most impressive strike-rate in the race must go to Lucinda Russell who has saddled six runners in the contest, with three of them tasting success.

Lie Forrit was the most recent of those 12 months ago, and the Scottish trainer is set to rely on one dart at the race this time with One For Arthur her sole representative.

While he hasn’t been quite as consistent over fences as he was over hurdles, he still warrants a second look at 20/1.

A return to a staying trip looks to be ideal with two of his three wins coming at three miles, and if he can iron out the mistakes could just outrun those odds.

The aforementioned three yards may hold less than one third of the potential runners, with their stables’ respective records in the race, it make no sense to bypass any of Lee, Williams or Russell horses without a second glance.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.



Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.