AT last some good racing to savour as Aintree goes forwards with the Grand National tomorrow - and the Irish are allowed to come over and join in the fun.

This was better news, as the re-arranged Cheltenham Festival fell victim to the foot-and-mouth prohibitions when a new case was found nearer the course this week.

In the big race, Ferdy Murphy has two, Paddy's Return and Addington Boy - whichever Adrian Maguire chooses has the better chance. (NB: Watch out for Hindiana in whichever race Murphy picks of two today).

Jim Turner's Inn At The Top is to be partnered by Adie Smith over the big fences and any of the three can go close.

Norman Mason has Nosam, Red Marauder and Red Ark entered, with Richard Guest pencilled in for both the latter and Kenny Johnson for the first.

Tim Easterby's runner Scotton Green is out of the handicap, as too is Howard Johnson's Chopwell Curtains.

Other names to conjure with this weekend are those whose form is proven.

Brian Ellison took a Market Rasen double last Saturday, both partnered by his useful conditional (jumps apprentice jockey) Vinny Keane, who cut his teeeth in Irish point-to-points and joined the Malton trainer nine months back.

Patrick Haslam took the opener, a novice hurdle, with the versatile Fiori and chose amateur Ben Hitchcott to ride - a useful rider to follow.

Norman Mason won with Tyneandthyneagain at Haydock, where his Red Imp was a close-up second in the later handicap hurdle. The Crook permit holder is in great form just now.

At Musselburgh Mason's near neighbour, trainer Howard Johnson, gained some consolation for having had all his 1,000 farm livestock culled, despite being FMD-free, as part of the "firebreak" policy. He took a double with Big Max and My Senandoah, both ridden by Adie Smith.

Today Direct Route contests the Martell Melling Chase at Aintree, bidding for a third successive win. If the ground is good, Johnson expects a big race from his star - and so do we.

Last week, Jimmy FitzGerald sent out Old Feathers to win for the Marquesa de Maratalla on the Southwell sand (Keith Dalgleish up) and the flat success sharpened up his charge, who won at Musselburgh as part of a Tony Dobbin treble, which took the rider to a best-ever seasonal 70 wins.

Denys Smith may send out Musselburgh bumper (NHf) winner Daramsan to the bumper tomorrow at Aintree, sporting the red-and-white colours of former Sunderland director Barry Batey.

Perhaps the best of the week came latest, when Peter Niven neared his 1,000th career winner (only two to go as we go to press), partnering A Piece Of Cake to land the Ascot handicap chase for trainer Mary Reveley.

The Lingdale trainer's star, Function Dream, is due to run on April 28 at Sandown in a chase which is to replace the Queen Mother Champion Chase from Cheltenham, after which she will retire to stud.

She is to visit Overbury in Shropshire, as the travel restrictions prevent her going to Ireland for covering at present.

On the level, Mark Johnston's apprentice Keith Dalgleish caught the eye last year and has started this one equally well.

He followed last week's wins with two at Musselburgh, firstly for Les Eyre on Ptah in the two-miler and later for Kent trainer John Best on Vodka.

Middleham senior jockey Joe Fanning won on the same card, partnering Regal Song for Tim Etherington, getting off the mark for the year. Fellow Malton area trainer John Quinn had a seasonal first at Nottingham with Patrician Fox on Tuesday.

The all-weather once again proved a useful replacement for lost turf meetings and Alex Greaves, dubbed the Queen of the Sand when younger and making a name for herself, won at Southwell for husband David Nicholls on Waterford Spirit.

Mick Easterby marked his 70th birthday with a win by Ballet Master, formerly with Henry Cecil and now running for a Guy Reed partnership. The winner is heading for the Thirsk Hunt Cup.

At Lingfield on Tuesday our raiders were out of luck, David Chapman's grand campaigner Redoubtable coming a close second in the opener. The Stillington trainer fared better next day at the Surrey track, when Sharp Hat took the spring, ahead of Julie Craze's Jackerin.


Key: All meetings are now Flat on turf, except where marked: NH = National Hunt (jumps) meetings; and AW = all-weather flat racing. f = furlong (8f = 1mile); chs = steeplechase; hdl = hurdles race; NHf = National Hunt flat race (bumper). Hb = homebred by owner.

Thursday last week. - Musselburgh: (16f) Ptah (trained by Les Eyre, at Hambleton, Sutton Bank; owned by M Ford, M James & N Tritton), ridden by Keith Dalgleish; (5f) Regal Song (Tim Etherington, Notyon; Mtd Y Brierley), Joe Fanning.

Friday. - Southwell AW: (6f) Waterford Spirit (David Nicholls, Sessay; W G Swiers), Alex Greaves; (7f) Ballet Master (Mick Easterby, Sheriff Hutton; Guy Reed Winton Bloodstock), Terry Lucas.

Saturday. - Haydock NH: (hdl) Tyneand thyneagain (Norman Mason, Crook; permit holder), Richard Guest.

Market Rasen NH: (hdl) Fiori (Patrick Haslam, Middleham; I Wilson) Mr Ben Hitchcott; (chs) Arcticaldi (Brian Ellison, Malton; Mrs Susan J Ellison), Vinny Keane; (chs) Virtuous Circle (Brian Ellison; Flwd Precision Marketing Ltd), Vinny Keane.

Monday. - No DST area winners at Lingfield AW.

Tuesday. - Lingfield AW: (5f) Sharp Hat (David Chapoman, Stillington; Miss N F Thesiger), Lynsey Hanna.

Nottingham (5f) Patrician (John Quinn, Settrington; C R Galloway), Paul Hanagan.

Musselburgh NH: (hdl) Old Feather (Jimmy FitzGerald, Norton; Marquesa de Moratalla), Tony Dobbin; (hdl) Big Max (Howard Johnson, Crook; Peter Gormley) Adie Smith; (hdl) My Shenandoah (Howard Johnson; Gordon Brown/Bert Watson), Adie Smith; (NHf) Dahamsan (Denys Smith, Bishop Auckland; B Batey), Andrew Thornton.

Wednesday. - Ascot: A Piece Of Cake (Mary Reveley, Lingdale; Lightbody Celebration Cakes Ltd), Peter Niven