Maggio takes on Saphir at Kelso

Maggio will put the finishing touches to his Grand National preparations in Thursday's Ivan Straker Memorial Chase at Kelso.

Maggio would enjoy a bit of rain

Now 12, he missed the cut for the National last year and when he won the three-mile handicap by 12 lengths at the same meeting, connections were left wondering what might have been.

His whole campaign this season has been built around the National and as he is guaranteed a run this year, the big race cannot come soon enough.

Maggio is facing a stiff task at Kelso though, as the conditions of the race mean he must concede 6lb to Paul Nicholls' Saphir Du Rheu despite that horse being rated 6lb superior.

Trainer Pat Griffin's son and assistant James said: "He's always runs above himself when he's wrong at the weights, like when he won the Premier Chase a couple of years ago.

"I'm not really that bothered about what else is in the race, if he runs as well as he seems at home he'll go very close.

"We could probably do with a bit of rain to put a bit of life in the ground, that's all.

"Derek Fox has won on him before and he's fit and well. Fingers crossed, he comes back safe and then it's on to Aintree."

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Owner Andy Stewart is hoping Saphir Du Rheu can get his head back in front before an ambitious tilt at the Gold Cup.

"I asked Paul what race he was going to run in at Cheltenham and he can't win a handicap off his mark, so he's going for the Gold Cup," said Stewart.

"Paul said we may as well go to Kelso – it's worth £25,000, the race usually cuts up and we'll put Sam (Twiston-Davies) back on him.

"We know we can't beat Thistlecrack, but hopefully if he stands up this will be a nice confidence booster. I'd have thought the Grand National is a year too early for him.

"I actually thought he was going to win the race I sponsor at Cheltenham last time out, but he was giving so much weight to the winner (Foxtail Hill) he just couldn't catch him up the hill."

Malcolm Jefferson runs Firth Of The Clyde for the first time this season after a setback, with Nicky Richards' Bernardelli making up the four-runner field.

Jefferson said: "He was ready to run and then got an infection in a back leg which took a while to clear up.

"He's a 145-rated 12-year-old, so where am I supposed to go with him? He's not easy to place.

"He's actually in grand fettle and I'm sure he'll run well, but this race could have been framed for the Nicholls horse.

"We had him ready to run and it was actually Brian (Hughes) who suggested this and it's as good as anything I could find and if we hadn't run, there'd only be three.

"I think the race would be better as a handicap in truth."

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