Alan Hill believes Reikers Island could be capable of giving him a first victory as a trainer in the Randox Foxhunters’ Chase in April after insisting that he is tailor made for the famous Grand National fences at Aintree.
The Aston Rowant handler (pictured above), who has won the prestigious amateur rider contest twice as a jockey aboard Border Burg in 1987 and Sheer Jest in 1995, has earmarked the race as the long-term target for the nine year old following his latest success at Warwick on Sunday (January 23rd).
After making a winning debut for Hill’s wife Lawney at Cartmel in June, the Yeats gelding booked his ticket to Aintree when following that victory up with a fine front-running success in the Willoughby De Broke Open Hunters’ Chase under Izzie Marshall.
Hill said: “The idea was to go to Warwick and finish in the first three to get qualified for Aintree as he won at Cartmel last season. Dan Cherriman, who owns him, couldn’t ride him at the weekend as he hasn’t got himself fit to be race riding so that is why Izzie rode him. We have got him qualified now and Aintree is the aim.
“Izzie had a big advantage as she has ridden 50 or more winners pointing while a lot of the other jockeys in the race at Warwick were novice riders and I think that helped us tremendously. She used her experience and rode a sensible race. At the moment, the two runs he has had would suggest that he is tailor made for Aintree. He is big enough and has got the scope but he is not too brave. Sometimes when you run them at Aintree if they are too brave they sometimes just jump out the other side and fall on their nose. Even I might have a go riding him around Aintree!”
Hill hopes that Reikers Hill can provide his enthusiastic owner with a better experience in the Foxhunters’ than the one he endured aboard Kashmir Peak in last year’s race.
He added: “Last year Dan fell at the first aboard Kashmir Peak and he straight away said “that’s it, I want to come back again”. Looking at that horse at Warwick he should have a good spin on him. We will definitely give him another run for Dan to have a ride on him. The idea was to have a creep around in a little men’s open but after that performance we may go and run him in a hunter chase. Dan has had two or three point-to-point horses with us - Kashmir Peak, who I got off Dan Skelton, and Stage One, who I also got off Dan, but this horse is by the far the best he has had.
“We bought him off Richard Newland as Richard said the owner wanted to sell him but Richard was not so keen to sell him. Richard said he is alright and it looks like he is as has now had two runs for us and two wins.”
Marshall, who combines riding out for Hill along with working for The Racecourse Association, will not be left on the sidelines when it comes to Aintree after Hill confirmed she will be back aboard last year’s Foxhunters’ fourth Clondaw Westie.
He added: “Izzie got off on Sunday and said she would love to ride this horse around Aintree but she can’t as Dan will be back on this one but she has Clondaw Westie. Izzie is very good at riding to instructions and she is a great asset to the yard. She was fourth on Clondaw Westie last year and she is desperately keen to go back. He will probably go and disappoint this year but if you are an amateur or a professional, Aintree over the Grand National fences is the place you want to have a go.”