Morris on a mission with Angel
Views from connections ahead of the Betfred Becher Chase at Aintree on Saturday.
Rogue Angel: Goes for the Becher on Saturday
Mouse Morris returns to Aintree this weekend as Rogue Angel aims to follow up Rule The World's Grand National success with a win in the Betfred Becher Chase.
Rogue Angel already has the perfect profile, having won the Irish National last season, and Morris sees him as the perfect type for the special Liverpool fences.
However, he will need to work his magic to get his charge back to something approaching his best form after a couple of below-par runs so far this season.
"Rogue Angel would be a real National horse – we have won it once and everything else would be a bonus," said Morris.
"He had a slight wind problem and just wasn't getting home so he had a small operation and that seems to have made a difference.
"We will see how he gets on at Aintree on Saturday. He will probably have another run and then we would plan to keep him fresh for the Grand National.
"He has one (National-style) fence set up at home to give him experience. He's popped over it a few times and seems to have taken to it well, but having said that he'll probably fall at the first!"
Remembering his big day in April, Morris added of the now-retired Rule The World: "I have never seen him look better ever – credit to the team up in Gigginstown. I might even bring him back! No, seriously, we won't.
"He is only nine, but he had had so many problems and where do you go after winning the Grand National? Anyway, he retired at the top.
"There is no point in sleeping if you don't dream – to win the Grand National with him was a dream come true.
"In my day (as a jockey) the fences were bigger and harder – nowadays you need a class horse to win – it is still special and quite spectacular but they have compromised on the fences and Aintree have done a good job.
"I would love to win another Grand National."
Second to Rule The World in April was Kim Bailey's The Last Samuri and with stable jockey David Bass heading to Sandown to ride Charbel in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase, top northern rider Brian Hughes gets the call.
"He's running off 10lb higher than he was in the National, but touch wood he jumps very well," said Hughes. "His jumping is his big asset, but he's not slow.
"I was watching a re-run of the National the other day and he travelled really sweetly all the way. It was surprising how well he travelled, but you've got to do that over those fences.
"I always enjoy riding over these fences, it's always good fun."
Alvarado has finished fourth in the National twice before but missed the cut last year and went on to be second in the Scottish version at Ayr.
Ready much earlier in the season than normal, he heads to Merseyside after a promising run at Cheltenham first time out.
"It was a really good run as the ground was softer than he'd like," said his trainer Fergal O'Brien. "I didn't expect him to run so well in all honesty, but he fairly flew up the hill.
"He trains himself in truth, he does what he wants and I didn't think we'd done enough with him.
"I'm looking forward to heading back there, he usually loves it but he'll do what he wants to do."
Highland Lodge is aiming to become the first back-to-back winner of the race and his participation speeded up the recovery of Henry Brooke, placed in an induced coma just seven weeks ago but who returned to the saddle this week.
"Jimmy (Moffatt, trainer) says everything has gone to plan with him and that he's in grand form," said Brooke.
"He was brilliant last year so if he's anywhere like that again he should go really well.
"I'm hoping for a really good spin."
Moffatt said: "When he won last year, he had already had a couple of runs for Emma (Lavelle) earlier in the season and had been on the horse walker since October 15.
"He had a level of fitness last year whereas this time he has had a nice, gradual run – he has been in full-training since the middle of July and the Becher has been the plan.
"The mistake I made with him last year after his Becher win when I was prepping him for the National was when I gave him a workout at Haydock.
"He worked exceptionally well that day and I had it in my mind after the Scottish National that he may have left his race behind there. There is no hiding place on track and if we are right, we are right and if we are wrong, we are wrong."
The Young Master won the Bet365 Gold Cup at the end of last season and is being aimed at April and the National by Neil Mulholland, who had a near-miss in the Hennessy last week with Carole's Destrier.
"He'll be looked after with the National in mind," said Mulholland.
"Sam Waley-Cohen schooled him over the Grand National fences last week. He jumped very well.
"He'll have a nice sight of the fences and we'll see how it goes."
Ucello Conti finished sixth in the National for Gordon Elliott and after a recent run over hurdles has been well backed during the week.
"He ran a belter in the National last year, he just couldn't quite stay," said jockey Daryl Jacob on At The Races.
"We've campaigned him for this race. He probably needed that first run over hurdles. He goes their with a run under his belt so hopes are high and I'm looking forward to riding him.
"He took to the fences really well last year in the National. He seemed to jump them very well. He made one mistake, but that was more pilot error than the horse.
"He was very good and I can't wait to get on him on Saturday."
Saint Are is another Aintree regular and trainer Tom George is pleased about the unseasonably dry ground.
"The ground coming good is a very big factor for him," said George. "In last year's Becher and in the National the ground was too soft for him, but we know he does like it there.
"He needed his first run of the season badly, but there were signs of the old sparkle last time out at Sandown.
"It looks a very competitive race."
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