Rookie National trainer Crawford hoping rain stays away from Aintree

Northern Ireland-based trainer Stuart Crawford is putting the final touches to the preparation of Grand National 2011 hopeful Killyglen and has made it clear to all who care to listen that his charge’s hopes rest primarily on the weather being set fair up to the big day itself on Saturday, writes Elliot Slater.

Soft ground would thoroughly spoil Killyglen’s chance of being in the mix in the four-and-a-half-mile marathon, but if the sun shines and the going is good or better, then Crawford reckons that Killyglen will give a very good account of himself and belie his current odds of as big as 66/1 in the ante-post market for the Aintree feature.

Formerly trained by Howard Johnson in County Durham for whom he won a number of good races including the Grade 2 Mildmay Novices’ Chase at the Aintree Festival in 2009, Killyglen joined Crawford’s small County Antrim yard last summer and ran well to be only narrowly beaten on his first outing for new connections when going under by just over a length in the Cat Buster Hurdle at Thurles in October.

Thrown in at the deep end next time out in Down Royal’s Grade 1 Chase, it came as no surprise to see the Presenting gelding finding the great Kauto Star rather too hot to handle, but back in the right grade he again showed decent form when third at Punchestown’s New Year’s Eve fixture behind Four Chimneys in a handicap hurdle.

Judged to have gone off rather too fast in the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster last time out under Denis O’Regan, it was no surprise to see Killyglen fail to get home in a race run at near course record pace, but that outing will have blown the cobwebs away and put Killyglen spot on for a big run in the main event on Saturday.

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