Connections of White Birch are keeping their fingers crossed Saturday’s Curragh meeting goes ahead to allow last season’s Derby third to make his reappearance in the Alleged Stakes.

Winner of the Ballysax Stakes on heavy ground at Leopardstown 12 months ago, John Joseph Murphy’s colt went on to finish a close second to The Foxes in the Dante at York before picking up the bronze medal behind Auguste Rodin in the premier Classic at Epsom in early June.

The grey failed to fire in the Irish Derby on his next start but rounded off his season with a close-up fourth in a Group Three on Irish Champions Weekend and George Murphy, assistant to his father, views this 10-furlong contest as a suitable starting point for his four-year-old campaign.

“We’re getting an awful lot of rain here, I don’t know what they’re getting in the Curragh, but I would imagine it will be the same,” he said.

“It’ll be tough going, but it will be loose ground and he’ll more than likely run if it goes ahead.

“He’ll definitely come on for it. Everything has been going well, we probably would have liked to have got him on the grass a couple more times, but other than that, we’re very happy with him.

“We’ll make a plan for what’s next after the weekend.”

White Birch is the highest-rated horse in a nine-strong entry list, with Noel Meade fielding a pair of multiple course winners in Lafayette and Helvic Dream.

Lafayette has struck gold at the home of Irish Flat racing on four occasions, with Helvic Dream a three-time course winner, most notably claiming Group One honours in the 2021 Tattersalls Gold Cup.

Maxux, who carries the colours of Spanish footballer Alvaro Odriozola, has won twice from four previous starts for Joseph O’Brien and was last seen plundering a Group Three prize at Fairyhouse in September.

“She looks like she handles soft ground and that is what it is going to be at the weekend,” said O’Brien.

“Although it looks a really competitive race and she is taking on colts, it looks a nice starting point for her.

“We’re just hoping for a nice run and hope it’s a nice starting point. At this time of the season, it’s all about a platform that she can build on. I’m sure there will be easier opportunities at this level as the year goes on, but this is a good starting point.”

Aidan O’Brien has won four of the last six runnings of the Alleged Stakes and this year relies upon Greenland, while Crypto Force makes his stable debut for Adrian Murray, having been off the track since claiming the 2022 Beresford Stakes.

Mashhoor (Johnny Murtagh), The Shadow Lingers (Luke Comer) and Village Voice (Jessica Harrington) are the other hopefuls.

Animal Rising, the organisation behind the disruption at last year’s Grand National, has announced it has no plans to interfere with the meeting next week.

Last year’s Grand National was delayed by around 15 minutes after members of Animal Rising attempted to glue themselves to a fence. Over 100 arrests were made by Merseyside Police.

Animal Rising went on to stage a further protest at the Derby at Epsom in June, which led to Ben Newman, one of the founders of the group, being given a suspended prison sentence because the Jockey Club, the owners of Epsom, had been granted an injunction preventing disruption.

Animal Rising issued a statement confirming they had no intention of attending this year’s Grand National which read: “Last year the British public saw through the myths of the horse racing industry as a spotlight was put onto the Grand National.

“We all want to see these horses living happy lives in sanctuaries, not being raced; just as we need to see mass rewilding and a plant-based food system to really tackle our climate and nature crises.”

A spokesperson for Aintree said the racecourse have not been contacted directly by Animal Rising ahead of next week’s event and that they continue to work with Merseyside Police and their own security teams to plan for all eventualities.

This afternoon’s meeting at Fontwell and Saturday’s Premier fixture at Kelso are the latest to fall foul of the persistent wet spell.

Officials at Fontwell held a precautionary inspection at 7.30am following over 30mm of rain through the week and a further 7mm in the last 24 hours tipped the decision over the edge.

Unfortunately for Kelso, where the £100,000 Herring Queen Series Final Mares’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle was the feature on a valuable card, heavy rain overnight left the course unraceable and more is forecast.

Clerk of the course Matthew Taylor said: “Unfortunately we’ve had a further 12mm overnight and it has left us unraceable.

“We had 22mm yesterday but then we had some improvement which was significant but this further 12mm has set us back quite a way. Up to 50 per cent of the track is waterlogged.

“It has just stopped raining by 8am and it is a bit breezy but we’ve got random sporadic showers forecast this afternoon which will be heavy and there’s a further rain band coming in Friday night and into Saturday morning.

“That wouldn’t give us enough time to do the work needed so we’ve had to abandon. We’re really sorry, we were desperate to get it on as a Premier raceday but we just can’t guarantee the integrity of the structure of the surface underneath.”

Wexford in Ireland were also forced to abandon on Friday while the meeting at Wetherby had already been called off.

Banbridge is set to lead a select Joseph O’Brien team to Aintree next week, with Triumph Hurdle fourth Nurburgring also among the Owning Hill handler’s raiding party.

O’Brien may be lacking in numbers in Liverpool but will undoubtedly saddle some quality, with star chaser Banbridge attempting to atone for a disappointing showing at the Cheltenham Festival.

Conditions ultimately proved too soft for the good ground-loving eight-year-old in the Ryanair Chase at Prestbury Park, but he has some high-class chasing form to his name.

Owned by Ronnie Bartlett, Banbridge was a Grade One winner on Merseyside 12 months ago in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase and is as short as 7-2 with bet365 for the My Pension Expert Melling Chase over the same course and distance on Friday, April 12.

However, he will also be given the option of stepping up in trip to three miles for the previous day’s Aintree Bowl – a race where he could meet the likes of John ‘Shark’ Hanlon’s King George hero Hewick.

“Banbridge will have a couple of entries there, as well as a couple of the juveniles, Nurburgring and Intellotto,” said O’Brien, with conditions in the north west set to have a significant bearing on where Banbridge lines up.

“Banbridge has options for both races and of course it will be discussed with Ronnie as we get closer to the time – and we will see what the ground is like. We haven’t made a decision on that yet.

“It was a bit soft for him at Cheltenham and we took a chance running, but when you don’t win, you learn something.”

Meanwhile, Nurburgring will be given the chance to build on his encouraging Triumph Hurdle display when he lines up in the Grade One Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle on the opening day of the three-day Grand National meeting.

“Nurburgring ran a very good race in the Triumph,” continued O’Brien. “Hopefully a similar performance would see him in the mix for a place and maybe give them a fright for a bit more.”

He will be joined on the teamsheet by the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned Intellotto, who was underwhelming in Grade One company at the Dublin Racing Festival but bounced back to his best with a comfortable victory at Limerick last month.

Owner Audrey Turley reported Galopin Des Champs to be on course for the Punchestown Gold Cup after seeing her Got Glory hit the target at Naas.

Galopin Des Champs followed up last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph by losing out to Fastorslow at the Punchestown Festival but will try to pull off the double this term at the start of next month.

The Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old powered to victory at Prestbury Park again when galloping on gamely up the hill to beat Gerri Colombe by three and a half lengths under Paul Townend.

Regarding a return to Punchestown, Turley said: “I think that is the plan and I think he’s doing good, so fingers crossed he’ll run.”

Reflecting on the gelding’s second Cheltenham Gold Cup success, she told Racing TV: “We’re watching it on the loop at home and we can’t get enough of it, to be honest. And the more you watch it, the more you enjoy it.

“He’s a superstar horse, he really is. The whole team are superstars and it’s just been a privilege to be involved with it. We’re thrilled and feel very lucky.

“It’s terrifying to watch (at the time) and I can’t watch it, but I really enjoy it afterwards when I watch it back. It was an incredible experience and it’s hard to put words on it – excitement, nervous, the anticipation, it’s all there and it’s all wonderful.”

After winning on her debut in France back in July 2021, Got Glory spent 636 days on the sidelines before being pulled up in last year’s Grade One Honeysuckle Mares Novice Hurdle first time out for Mullins.

Following another 361-day lay-off, she made an impressive reappearance when scoring by five and a half lengths at 4-7 in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Maiden Hurdle, with Townend in the saddle.

“It was very satisfying and she ran so well,” said Turley. “I think Paul makes it look very easy but over the last three years, she’s been injured quite a lot and it’s lovely to see her back on the track and winning the race. It’s incredible and really nice for her.

“We’ve had patience with her and it worked out in the end – she’s a beautiful horse, a beautiful mare and we’re delighted to be here having her running, let alone winning. It’s a real thrill.

“I think she looked fine and in good form, so I’d say she’ll run again pretty soon, maybe at Galway.”

Townend commented: “She was fresh and gassy and wanted to get on with it, but the engine is in there, we just have to keep the wheels on the bus.

“She’s a fine filly but has just had a lot of problems. The owners were patient, she does smart work and hopefully we can keep her right.”

Swingalong will have Group One ambitions this season, with connections hopeful their high-class speedster has found the required improvement to make her mark at the highest level.

Trained by Karl Burke, the Sheikh Juma Dalmook Al Maktoum-owned daughter of Showcasing has been the most consistent of performers throughout her two seasons in training.

A winner of York’s Lowther as a two-year-old, she was successful once again on the Knavesmire in Group Three company at three.

However, it was her encouraging runs at the top table throughout 2023 that were most impressive, beaten only two lengths in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot and finishing the campaign on the premises in both Haydock’s Sprint Cup and the British Champions Sprint at Ascot.

A return to her beloved York for the Group Two 1895 Duke of York Clipper Stakes on May 15 has been described as a probable starting point for the Spigot Lodge sprinter, with an ambitious campaign in store for the fast-moving four-year-old.

“I went to see her a couple of weeks ago and I thought she looked magnificent,” said Philip Robinson, assistant racing manager for the owner.

“I thought she just has to improve a little and if she can find a length and a half she will have a great chance of picking up one of those Group Ones.

“Physically she has bulked up and looks a proper sprinter now. I’m hoping I’m right in that she looks to have improved physically more than the length and a half I thought she needed to improve to win one of those big sprints.

“I’m going into the season very hopeful with her. We’ve got nothing to lose aiming at the good ones (races) and anything she does is a bonus because she’s already proven herself, she’s very genuine and very fast.”

Unbeaten sprinter Vandeek has the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock as his first target as he prepares for his eagerly-awaited three-year-old campaign.

Simon and Ed Crisford’s Havana Grey colt had the perfect juvenile season, running four times and winning well on each occasion as he climbed the ranks from maiden to Group One.

At Goodwood, he took the Richmond Stakes on soft ground and he was then a game winner of the top-level Prix Morny at Deauville on very soft going.

But at Newmarket in late September, he showed his versatility when producing his best run to date to land the Middle Park on good to firm.

Currently ante-post favourite for the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, the Betfred-sponsored Sandy Lane has been earmarked for his opening assignment of the campaign, a six-furlong Group Two for three-year-olds on May 25.

“He’s going well, he’s wintered well, but like everywhere else, I think Newmarket has struggled with the weather,” said Chris Wall, racing manager for owner Shaikh Khalid’s KHK Racing organisation.

“They’re on target with the horse but they haven’t always been able to do what they’ve wanted to do because various canters have been closed.

“He’s in good heart and coming along nicely, he’s aiming at the Sandy Lane at Haydock in May.”

Vandeek was a leggy two-year-old and he is reported to have grown further and filled out through the winter.

Wall added: “He’s done everything right, he’s grown a bit. He was a big enough lad last year but he has grown a bit more, he’s filled out and he looks a lot stronger.

“He’s done everything the right way, he hasn’t done any fast work, so it’s too early to see if there’s a corresponding increase in his ability but we’d like to think that he’ll at least be no worse than he was last year – and that’s probably good enough.”

KHK Racing and trainer Roger Varian have a nice prospect in True Cyan, a No Nay Never filly out of the Group-winning Dark Angel mare Realtra.

Making her debut at Newmarket in September in a seven-furlong fillies’ maiden, the grey was a taking victor with a length-and-a-half triumph over three subsequent winners.

The three-year-old holds an entry for the 1000 Guineas and connections are likely to use the Nell Gwyn Stakes as a trial before hopefully proceeding in that direction.

“She’s wintered very well, I watched her do a piece of work yesterday (Wednesday) which was very satisfactory,” said Wall.

“Roger is keen to run her in the Nell Gwynn, all being well, which will tell us whether we’re Guineas-bound or whether we need to go down another route with her.

“It’s all good news with her, she looks to have improved throughout the winter, so she’ll find her level – whether that’s in the Guineas or somewhere else.

“The form from that race (her debut) looks decent, she did it very well. She’s going to be a nice filly this year if all goes well for her, at what level we will find out.”

Disruption to the fixture list looks set to continue into the weekend after Wetherby’s meeting on Friday became the latest to fall due to a waterlogged track.

With no sign of the current wet spell coming to an end, Southwell flew the flag for jumps racing in Britain on Thursday, with meetings at Warwick and at Clonmel in Ireland both called off.

Officials at Wetherby called an inspection for 3pm on Thursday ahead of Friday’s card and made the decision to draw stumps shortly after.

A statement on the track’s website read: “There has been insufficient improvement during the last 24 hours and the ground remains waterlogged, with false ground in several areas. A further 12-15 millimetres of rain is expected overnight Thursday into Friday morning.”

Fontwell’s Friday fixture is also under threat, with a precautionary check called for 7.30am, while Saturday’s Premier Raceday at Kelso is already in doubt.

The Borders track is due to host a high-profile card, part of which is set to be shown live on ITV, but the ground is described as heavy, waterlogged in places and an inspection will take place at 8am on Friday to assess the latest state of play.

Chelmsford’s meeting scheduled for Saturday evening has been moved to an earlier start, from 5.25pm to 2.50pm.

A statement from the British Horseracing Authority read: “In light of the current forecast for Saturday April 6, the BHA has agreed to move Chelmsford City’s fixture to a 2.50 start and rearranged the running order.

“This is in order to ensure an appropriate level of racing content for our customers on Saturday afternoon and offer potential ITV coverage to the Woodford Reserve Cardinal Conditions Stakes at 3.30 should other fixtures on Saturday be abandoned.”

Dual St Leger winner Eldar Eldarov has likely run his last race as he recovers from a neck injury sustained in the stalls at the Dubai World Cup.

The Roger Varian-trained five-year-old was due to contest the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan on Saturday to kick off his 2024 campaign after landing the Irish St Leger on his final run last season.

He was loaded into the stalls but another horse kicked out and unsettled him, causing him to rear up and hit his head before being withdrawn from the contest.

The son of Dubawi was sent to the local equine hospital and later treated by two specialist vets who flew over from America at the request of owner Shaikh Khalid.

Eldar Eldarov has undergone an operation on a fracture to his neck and though he is not out of the woods, there are encouraging signs of his recovery after the procedure.

“He had an operation on Tuesday to stabilise a fracture in his neck, initially when he was in that post-operative phase, he had a rough time of things but he’s making progress now,” said Chris Wall, racing manager for Shaikh Khalid’s organisation.

“It will be small steps, he’s got a long way to go but the future is looking brighter than it did 48 hours ago.

“He’s in good hands in the equine hospital in Dubai, they’ve done a very good job so far.

“We flew in two vets from America who said they thought they’d be able to do something for him and they have.

“We are thankful and grateful to them, and to Shaikh Khalid for insisting that we left no stone unturned to try to give the horse a future.

“He still has quite a long way to go, he’s by no means in the clear yet, but the progress report this morning (Wednesday) was positive and he’s moving in the right direction.”

Eldar Eldarov’s future will either be at stud or in complete retirement, depending on how he fares in his recuperation.

“I think we can safely say he won’t be returning to racing, it’s now a question of whether he can do a stud job or whether he just has a happy retirement somewhere,” said Wall.

“We’ll have to see, that all depends on how his recovery goes and it’s a bit early to say for certain.”

Facteur Cheval is likely to head to Royal Ascot after his Dubai World Cup night heroics in Meydan.

Jerome Reynier’s five-year-old has been the most consistent of operators when campaigning predominantly over a mile, finishing no worse than third in six starts in top company last season and ending the campaign by chasing home Big Rock at Ascot on British Champions Day.

Upped in distance to nine furlongs for a red-hot renewal of the Dubai Turf, the French challenger finally got his moment in the spotlight, revelling around the turns of Meydan to prevail by a short head in the hands of Maxime Guyon.

Further international assignments could be on the horizon once a trip to Royal Ascot for the meeting-opening Queen Anne Stakes is out of the way, with connections keen to explore more opportunities to race around a bend.

“I think the conditions favoured him and he’s more of an American type of horse to tell the truth,” said Barry Irwin, CEO of Team Valor, who own the horse in partnership with Gary Barber.

“I think he wants to run on a round track and with a pace to run at.

“He can handle any kind of surface, but I think he prefers a sounder surface and most of those races in Europe he ran in when he was finishing second and third, they were too tactical – especially in France, where they go so slow – and he doesn’t have that instant burst of speed.

“I think now we have figured out what he enjoys doing, we’re going to figure out a programme around that.

“We will go to Ascot probably and run in the Queen Anne because it’s an exciting race and people would like to see it, but after that I think we will focus on international races on a round course.”

Facteur Cheval could also be seen plying his trade on dirt before the end of the year, having impressed in his trackwork on that particular surface out in the Middle East.

Although no concrete plans are made, that would bring some valuable prizes in America into the equation, including the season-ending Breeders’ Cup, which this year takes place at Del Mar in November.

“Another thing is, he trained great on the dirt over there in Meydan and I think we will try him on that also,” continued Irwin.

“I wouldn’t run him in the Breeders’ Cup Mile because that is two turns and at Del Mar it is too tight a turf course and he’s too big a horse to adapt to that.

“Santa Anita would be a little better but a mile and a quarter on dirt is something we will take a good look at. We haven’t planned anything yet after Ascot, but after that every option is open.”

Irwin also reserved special praise for the son of Ribchester’s handler, who he credits with formulating the successful Dubai Turf plan.

He added: “I’ve got to give all my credit to my trainer and he figured the whole thing out.

“He took a chance not prepping the horse beforehand and he knew what he had. For a young guy, he is quite the thinker and a very impressive individual.”

British racing has launched a new campaign designed to promote and share the facts around welfare in racing.

HorsePWR will have its own dedicated website ( to provide information about the sport and the thoroughbred, the lives they lead and the high welfare and safety standards within racing.

The website explores the areas that racing has committed to improve, such as the lives after racing horses go on to have, reducing risk on and off course and facts surrounding the whip.

Grand National-winning trainer Lucinda Russell said of the new campaign: “This is just what racing needs. We must provide the facts, help educate, and confront the tough questions head on.

“The facts matter. We understand our responsibility and respect our horses, and we want to make sure the public know this too.

“It’s good to see us taking a new approach, showing pride in the lives we give our horses, and challenging and correcting inaccurate information which is put into the public domain by those who are opposed to the sport.”

Robin Mounsey, BHA head of communications and member of the sport’s Horse Welfare Board, said: “The HorsePWR campaign sees the sport take a new approach when it comes to talking about welfare.

“It is about being up-front, open, and transparent. It is about tackling head-on the elements of the sport that we know are areas of concern and providing information to educate and reassure.

“Those who work in the sport are rightly proud of our record and standards when it comes to welfare. This campaign provides a platform to allow those connected with the sport to share their pride.

“It will be aimed at racing’s current and potential fans, seeking to ensure that future generations of racing followers are not lost to the sport due to negative perceptions around the welfare issues which are tackled by this campaign.

“HorsePWR has received significant support from across the racing industry, and we are especially grateful to the Jockey Club for providing additional funding to support the initial stage of the campaign.”

This afternoon’s National Hunt meeting at Warwick has become the latest victim of the current wet spell, with course officials left with no option but to abandon the fixture due to a waterlogged track.

While persistent rain continues to play havoc with the racing programme, no inspection was planned at Warwick, with only minimal rainfall forecast overnight.

However, the track posted on X, formerly Twitter, on Thursday morning: “Following 16 millimetres of rainfall overnight and into this morning, which is a significant change from the three millimetres initially forecast, the track is now waterlogged and therefore unraceable.

“All tickets will automatically be refunded.”

Southwell’s Thursday card is set to go ahead as scheduled after the course passed a precautionary check at 7.30am, but racing at Clonmel in Ireland has been called off.

Further disruption looks likely heading into the weekend, with Friday’s meeting at Wetherby subject to a 3pm inspection this afternoon and Saturday’s Premier Raceday at Kelso also under threat.

The Borders track is due to host a high-profile card, part of which will is set to be shown live on ITV, but the ground is currently heavy, waterlogged in places and an inspection will take place at 8am on Friday to assess the latest state of play.

Further adjustments to the National Hunt programme have been “under discussion” as the British Horseracing Authority seeks to improve competitiveness within that sphere.

A total of 300 jumps races and 20 jumps meetings were removed from the 2024 fixture list as part of a package of initiatives focussed on increasing field sizes.

However, the BHA’s director of racing and betting Richard Wayman reports that while the numbers of runners for all-weather meetings on the Flat in the first three months of the year have been pleasing, National Hunt numbers have not reached similar heights.

While citing the wet winter as a possible reason for a lack of competition, Wayman admits jump racing is “short of where we want it to be”.

He said: “It is a mixed picture. If we wanted to look at it positively, on the all-weather through the winter our Flat fixtures have generated probably more competitive racing than we have had for a long time.

“If we look at the percentage of races that have attracted eight runners, you’ve got to go back to 2007 to find the sort of percentage we have achieved in the first three months of this year.

“Obviously, jumping isn’t where we want it to be and we continue to face our challenges with the competitiveness of jump racing. The numbers for jump racing on core fixtures are around 47 per cent, a little bit better at the Premier meetings but either way that is short of where we want it to be.

“I think we haven’t been helped by the ground conditions that we have faced through the first three months of this year – 78 per cent of races have been run on soft or heavy ground compared to 44 or 43 per cent in the last two years, it just demonstrates how wet it has been and that clearly will have had an impact on field sizes.

“However, it is important to stress we’re not using that as an excuse, I think that has been a factor in where we are this year but the challenges we face with jump racing competitiveness are beyond just the fact we’ve had a wet three months.

“We’ve introduced measures this year, we made changes to the programme, we took out 300 races through the year and some will have fallen in the first quarter. It is certainly under discussion whether we need to go further for 2025 in an attempt to make racing more competitive at this time next year than it has been in the last few months.

“Having said that, in our view, you can’t just keep reducing fixtures and/or races with a view to making jump racing more competitive. There are more fundamental issues that as a sport we are going to need to tackle to try to support the long-term future of jump racing.

“We are looking at that and I think we will need to introduce further measures beyond race volume to try to support the future of jump racing longer term.”

During a briefing call, the BHA’s director of communications and corporate affairs Greg Swift confirmed discussions remain ongoing with the Betting and Gaming Council over a reform of the levy, with gambling minister Stuart Andrew due to issue an update later this month.

Swift said: “Meetings are accelerated between BGC and DCMS – in fact, I had a meeting with them this morning.

“We will have at least two next week and we had two last week and there are conversations and meetings that take place outside of those formal arrangements with DCMS at which the minister is trying to bring us closer to an agreed position.

“We continue to work at pace, in good faith on all sides. We are not there yet but we will keep our shoulder to the wheel to try to get an arrangement agreed with the sports minister in time for him to update the house on April 24.”

Tomorrow’s National Hunt meeting at Southwell and Friday’s jumps card at Wetherby will need to survive inspections to go ahead.

While the Flat season is now under way, the persistent rain is playing havoc with the new campaign, with the meeting at Nottingham on Wednesday abandoned.

Catterick’s card did go ahead after passing an inspection but there is no sign of the wet weather abating and Southwell has called a precautionary check for 7.30am.

The course is currently raceable, but should more rain than the forecast showers fall overnight, then there may be an issue.

There is a jumps meeting at Warwick where the ground is heavy but no inspection is currently planned.

It is a similar story at Fontwell on Friday but at Wetherby there are “multiple areas of standing water/waterlogged ground”.

An inspection will be held at 3pm on Thursday after 7mm of rain fell on Tuesday night and a further 6mm arrived through Wednesday up to 1pm. The forecast for Thursday is mainly dry but another 11mm is forecast for Thursday night.

Kelso are also keeping an eye on the situation ahead of their Premier meeting on Saturday.

A post on social media read: “We are closely monitoring the weather conditions with regard to racing on Saturday. We will be in a better position to assess the impact of today’s rainfall by Thursday morning, when declarations will be made for Saturday’s races.”

Fiona Needham is one trainer who hopes the rain keeps falling ahead of Sine Nomine’s potential Coral Scottish National bid.

An ‘old-fashioned’ winner of the Cheltenham Hunters’ Chase in that Needham is strictly an amateur behind her day job as Catterick’s clerk of the course, the grey’s victory was one of the most popular at the Festival.

The Congratulations Fifi & Sine Nomine Handicap took place at Catterick on Wednesday in homage to her achievement, something she knew nothing about, but while the racing world is counting down to Aintree, Needham, who won the Cheltenham race as a jockey on Last Option as well, has her eyes fixed elsewhere.

“It was 22 years after riding the winner but it was a dream come true – I didn’t think I’d have a horse good enough to run in it again, so to win it was unbelievable,” she told Racing TV.

“I never think I’m going to win, I’m the biggest pessimist, but my boyfriend did back her and when I asked why he said ‘you must be quite confident, as you said we might be placed, which is as good as it ever gets’ – so I suppose you could say I fancied her.

“She always travels well in her races, which is what you need there. She’d run there twice before, the first was first time over fences and the second we thought she might not have got up the hill, but she over-raced a bit.

“My only instructions to John (Dawson) were to save a bit for the hill but he was very cool.

“She’s come out of it very well, she’s very much a confidence mare and knows she’s won. She’s entered for the Scottish National, obviously she’d need to get in, but it keeps raining, which is in our favour, so we’ll see where we go from there.”

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