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Last Updated:  Saturday, 5 April, 2003, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Aintree diary: Day two
By Sophie Brown
BBC Sport at Aintree

Champion jockey Tony McCoy
McCoy will be on board Idris Bleu in the National
Champion jockey Tony McCoy and some of his weighing room colleagues took time out of their hectic schedules on Friday to visit the the Alder Hey children's hospital.

Mick Fitzgerald, Carl Llewellyn and Jim Culloty, all of whom, unlike McCoy, have won the Grand National, were also present with Richard Johnson and Seamus Durack making up the party.

Several jockeys visited the hospital last year to help raise funds for a new 10m cancer unit, which will be opened next month.

The Grand National is a betting bonanza with bookies always looking for new ways of taking the public's money.

One of the more unusual markets comes courtesy of William Hill, who have opened a book on what star sign the winning horse will be.

With horses usually born in the first half of the year, Taurus is the even-money favourite, followed by Aries at 100-30 and Gemini at 4-1.

Those who think these things important might be interested to know that one of the Grand National runners, Behrajan, actually celebrates his birthday on the day of the big race.

Jonjo O'Neill was the trainer with the most winners at the Cheltenham Festival but had a diasastrous start at the Aintree meeting.

His three runners on Thursday failed to yield a winner and the highly-rated Coolnagorna had to be put down after suffering a serious leg injury.

Behrajan, trained by Henry Daly,
Behrajan will carry top weight for Saturday's race
However, his luck changed on Friday when he had a treble with Master Tern, Iris's Gift and Clan Royal, the latter winning the Topham Chase, which is run over the National fences.

The former champion jockey will saddle just one horse in the Grand National itself, Carbury Cross, a first entry in the event for O'Neill, who never won the race during his riding career.

But his lack of winning experience is more than compensated by that of Carbury Cross' owner, Anne, Duchess of Westminster.

The owner of the legendary chaser Arkle, she won the race in 1985 with Last Suspect.

Another man who enjoyed a change of fortune on the second day of the meeting was jockey Tony Dobbin.

The northern-based rider was dealt a blow on Thursday when his mount Kingsmark was withdrawn with injury.

But the Northern Irish jockey bounced back on Friday with the first two winners and willnow ride in the big race following Norman Williamson's withdrawal.

It was only fitting that there should be a female winner on Ladies Day and trainer Venetia Williams obliged when Limerick Boy won the novices' hurdle handicap.

Williams rode in the Grand National herself although she fell at Becher's - and none of the eight runners she has sent out as a trainer has managed to get round.

It looked as if she wouldn't have a runner at all this year after Bramblehill Duke missed the cut by one.

But Kingsmark's withdrawal means that Bramblehill Duke just scrapes in at number 40.

No such luck for female jockey Polly Gundry, however, whose Murt's Man was next on the list - because no other horses had withdrawn by Friday morning, her mount defintely won't run.

Links to more Grand National 2003 stories


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