Aintree ‘the target’ for injured Barry Geraghty

Barry Geraghty is targeting a return to the saddle in time for next month's Grand National meeting at Aintree
Barry Geraghty is targeting a return to the saddle in time for next month's Grand National meeting at Aintree

Barry Geraghty is targeting a return to the saddle in time for next month’s Grand National meeting at Aintree.

The leading rider was ruled out of last week’s Cheltenham Festival for the first time in his glittering career after he suffered a collapsed lung and six broken ribs in a fall at Kempton at the end of February.

Geraghty feels his condition has improved in the last couple of weeks and hopes to have a firmer idea of when he might be ready to return after seeing a specialist in the coming days.

“I’ll have a scan in the next week and I should get a better idea after that,” the jockey said.

“Aintree is the target and it’s definitely coming along. We’ll see what the specialist says and go from there.”

Willie Mullins is responsible for seven of the 61 entries for the Randox Health Topham Chase at Aintree on April 7.

This year’s team includes Ballycasey, winner of the PWC Champion Chase and the Red Mills Chase at Gowran this season, and Haymount, who was third in the National Hunt Chase at last week’s Cheltenham Festival.

There are a total of 17 Irish-trained entries, including recent Navan winner A Toi Phil, who is one of three entries for Gordon Elliott.

The home team is headed by last year’s winner Eastlake, whose trainer Jonjo O’Neill also has Go Conquer and Fort Worth in the mix.

O O Seven, Gold Present and Cocktails At Dawn, who also holds an entry in the Grand National, could represent Nicky Henderson, who has won the Topham five times.

Other contenders include the Paul Nicholls-trained Frodon - one of five entries for the Ditcheat handler - and Robin Dickin’s stable stalwart Thomas Crapper.

Weights for Topham Chase will be revealed on Wednesday, March 29.

Enda Bolger is hoping a return to the Aintree fences will help On The Fringe bounce back to winning form after he was beaten at Cheltenham last week.

The pre-eminent hunter chaser of his day was looking to win at the Festival for the third successive year but could only stay on into fourth behind Pacha Du Polder.

He has also won Aintree’s Randox Health Foxhunters’ Chase for the past two seasons and his trainer is looking forward to him returning to Merseyside, for which he is one of 38 entries.

“All going well he’ll be at Aintree,” said Bolger.

“He came back safe and sound which is the main thing, maybe the ground was a little quick for him at Cheltenham.

“By the time of the race it had even quickened up from when I walked it in the morning, but we’re only looking forwards now, not back.

“He does love Aintree, he seems to come alive over those fences so hopefully that is in our favour.

“He had a lot of ground to make up at Cheltenham and just stayed on one-paced, but at Aintree he seems to be able to go with them early even though it’s a shorter trip.”

Cheltenham winner Pacha Du Polder will aim to follow up for Paul Nicholls while Balnaslow, who was prominent throughout, is another in the mix.

Persian Snow, Grand Vision, Big Fella Thanks and Black Thunder are other notable entries.