AINTREE FESTIVAL 2016
Thursday 07 April to Saturday 09 April
Thursday 07 March 2016 – Grand Opening Day – Day 1
Picture of the Day
Winner of the Grade 1 Bowl:
Cue Card ridden by Paddy Brennan
Thursday almost started off with one of those ‘nightmare’ moments; the ones which happen in dreams when you miss something or someone because you’re late! I set the alarm for 03:15; when the alarm sounded I decided to wait until my heart had stopped pounding at the shock of waking so early, only to doze off to sleep again. I don’t have a ‘snooze’ option on the alarm clock. I eventually woke again at 03:45, but managed to make up all bar 10 minutes; I left home at 05:40 instead of 05:30. However, in hindsight, it may have been auspicious, because there were road-works on the M1 between junctions 11 and 12 and these usually take place between 22:00 and 06:00 – so it may have affected me had I left earlier.
I encountered heavy rain as I approached Uttoxeter and, because I was later than on previous trips, there was already a tailback of traffic through the underpasses by the time I’d reached Stoke. Already wanting to spend a penny, I would have stopped off at one of the Services on the M6, rather than wait until the M62, but it was still tipping it down and I didn’t want to get out of the car! The heavy rain had stopped by the time I reached the Mersey Bridge, and I was 20 minutes behind schedule when I arrived at Burtonwood Services. I popped to the loo, ate two cheese rolls and filled up the petrol tank before proceeding to Aintree; thus I arrived at 10:20 instead of the planned 10:00.
The security checks went very smoothly ... and the car bonnet closed first time too! That’s fourth-time lucky. Whilst I was loitering on the roadway for Sandra to arrive, a lady and gentleman asked if I was ‘Choc Thornton’s Superfan’. OMG, I’m infamous. It transpired that they owned horses and Choc used to ride them. The horses’ names were Bearaway and New Bird; research tells me Bearaway was trained by Heather Dalton, after which he transferred to Donald McCain. New Bird started off with Alan King, then Heather Dalton again, before ending up with Ian Williams. Choc rode Bearaway 9 times during 2004/2005 and New Bird 15 times between 2000 and 2006! I didn’t catch their names, and this information doesn’t appear to be recorded for ex-racehorses, but they did ask that I pass on their best wishes to my favourite ex-jockey when I see him!
Instead of being issued with badges for a number of the enclosures, including the Earl of Derby Terrace, wristbands were issued from a desk placed outside the said enclosure. Those issuing them were not ‘up to speed’ today!
The ROR Parade took place ahead of racing; participants were Cinders And Ashes, Comply Or Die, Danny John Boy, Denman, Liverpool, Mad Moose, Midnight Chase, Monet’s Garden, Naunton Brook, and Peddlers Cross.
Now on to the racing ...
Race 1: Manifesto Novices’ Chase (Grade 1 – 2 miles & 4 furlongs) – 8 ran
Arzal, trained by Harry Whittington and ridden by Gavin Sheehan, made all to win the first race; it was Harry’s first Grade 1 winner. Second favourite, Garde La Victoire, fell again; he’d previously failed to complete in the Cheltenham Festival’s JLT Novices’ Chase.
GB 1 Ireland 0
Race 2: Anniversary 4-year-old Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1 – 2 miles & 1 furlong) – 9 ran
The race was won by the Triumph Hurdle runner-up, filly Apple’s Jade, for Willie Mullins and Bryan Cooper. The Triumph Hurdle winner Ivanovich Gorbatov finished 2nd today. She was very impressive today, even including her 7 pounds fillies’ allowance, coming home 41 lengths ahead of her nearest rival, and being eased towards the line too!
GB 1 Ireland 1
Race 3: Bowl Chase (Grade 1 – 3 miles & 1 furlong) – 9 ran
Following his mishap in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, it was Cue Card’s chance to redeem himself and he did so in spades by taking the lead 3 out and going 12 lengths up before being heavily eased towards the line. Today he beat Don Poli and Djakadam into 2nd and 3rd respectively.
So ... who knows whether Cue Card would have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup had he not fallen 3 out that day? And would Don Cossack have beaten Cue Card if he’d not fallen during the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day? Cue Card definitely has Don Poli’s and Djakadam’s number, but I’d love to see Colin Tizzard’s star chaser go up against Don Cossack when they both have a clear round! Maybe at Punchestown when, evidently, Vautour may also be thrown into the mix!
GB 2 Ireland 1
Race 4: Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1 – 2 miles & 4 furlongs) – 6 ran
Champion Hurdler Annie Power confirmed her superiority over the boys when winning this race by 18 lengths from the Champion Hurdle runner-up My Tent Or Yours. Very uncharacteristically, The New One fell at the 5th flight having never fallen before. Fortunately both the horse and jockey Sam Twiston-Davies were fine following the mishap.
GB 2 Ireland 2
Race 5: Fox Hunters’ Chase (2 miles & 4 furlongs) – 22 ran
Another win for On The Fringe, today ridden by Jamie Codd; his regular pilot Nina Carberry was subject to a suspension. The horse had thus completed a double-double; the 2015 and 2016 Foxhunters at both the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree. But I can certainly see the point of view of those who feel the horse shouldn’t be eligible for these races – it’s not a level playing field and doesn’t give other truly amateur operations the opportunity to win one of these races.
The surprise of the race was the excellent run of the ex-Alan King-trained Dineur, priced at 50-1, which finished 2nd!
We knew something untoward had happened to Clonbanan Lad and Marasonnien respectively, as amateur riders Jody Sole and Patrick Mullins both returned without their mounts and carrying their saddles. Neither horse fell, both were pulled up; Clonbanan Lad after Valentines’ and Marasonnien after 3 out. We had already noticed that one of the horses had lost its action, when viewing the race on the big screen.
GB 2 Ireland 3
Race 6: Red Rum Handicap Chase (Grade 3 – 2 miles) – 12 ran
The race was won by Katachenko sporting the Trevor Hemmings silks; he is trained, appropriately, by Donald McCain and was ridden by Wayne Hutchinson today. Having taken over the running from one of my favourites, Pearls Legend, before the 4th fence, he retained the lead until the line. There was a stewards’ enquiry, involving the winner and the runner-up, Dandridge, but the places remained unaltered.
GB 3 Ireland 3
Race 7: Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat Race (Grade 2 – 2 miles & 1 furlong) – 17 ran
The Willie Mullins-trained Augusta Kate was expected to win, but 14-1 shot Kayf Grace out-battled her on the run to the line to win for Nicky Henderson, Nico de Boinville and owner/breeders James and Jean Potter.
GB 4 Ireland 3
My highlight of the Opening Day was Cue Card’s win in the Grade 1 Bowl Chase.
It had been a very similar day to the first day at the Cheltenham Festival, with GB just ahead of Ireland in terms of winners.
Sandra had reserved a table at the pub adjacent to our hotel for 19:30, but we overstayed our time at the racecourse itself, having remained to watch the beginning of the Goffs HIT (Horses in Training) sale. Notably, Sam Waley-Cohen’s father Robert, along with three friends, decided to purchase the Paul Nicholls-trained Black Thunder; the horse had an entry in the Grand National and would thus provide conveyance for Sam in this year’s event. Another horse, a youngster, was sold for more than £200,000!
Having returned to the Steeplechase car park to reach our respective cars, Sandra was quicker ‘out of the blocks’ than me. I took my usual route to the hotel, via the M57 and A580; Sandra went via the M58 and M6 and arrived some time before me.
As mentioned, I was running late, so wasn’t quite ready to go to the pub at 19:30. It didn’t help that I made two or three additional trips back to my car to collect my belongings! Kitchen-sink springs to mind! With the recent back problems I’d been experiencing, I took the lift to the first floor with my main suitcase on this occasion, instead of using the stairs.
The rooms at the Premier Inn had been refurbished since my last visit; including new bathroom suites and large wall-mounted TVs. I was assigned to room 33, which is one of the slightly larger ones, south-facing and the same room I stayed in during the 2014 Festival!
We turned in before 22:00. And there was no repeat of last year’s incident when I left the key in the door of my hotel room, only for the night manager to take it back to reception following his/her security check. Keys have been replaced by credit card-sized swipe cards; these also permitted the occupier to switch on the lights within the room. It saves on electricity as, when removed from the ‘socket’ upon exiting the room, the lights then switch themselves off!
Friday 08 April 2016 – Ladies Day - Day 2
Picture of the Day
Winner of the Grade 1 Melling Chase:
God’s Own ridden by Paddy Brennan
I had intended to rise at 05:30 but, in the event and having suffered from a restless night, I reset my alarm clock to 06:15. In fact I was so laid back that I only just managed to get ready in time for our agreed breakfast rendezvous time of 07:15. I’d also chosen the wrong pillow (there’s a choice of two) – it was too soft, so I ended up with a ‘clampy’ head.
Sandra drove us to the racecourse today, whilst I acted as navigator. She’d gone slightly ‘off piste’ on her inward journey the previous morning and again in the evening when negotiating the ‘weird’ junction at the northern termination of the M57.
Friday is Ladies Day for some, but it is course-walk day for us. We dressed sensibly, wearing boots too; the grass is always damp, even when it’s not raining. A new feature is the opportunity for those less fit, or just plain lazy, people to have a close up look at the Grand National fences; a multi-person buggy left at regular intervals to take them around the inner-perimeter road.
The pre-race Parade Ring attraction was a side-saddle riding demonstration ... again!
Now, on to the racing:
Race 1: Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3 – 2 miles & 4 furlongs) – 22 ran
A victory for the bottom-weight Party Rock, price 33-1, trained by Jennie Candlish and ridden by Sean Quinlan.
GB 5 Ireland 3
Race 2: Top Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1 – 2 miles & ½ a furlong) – 11 ran
The Nicky Henderson-trained Buveur D’Air, ridden by Noel Fehily, claimed the prize close home from outsider Petit Mouchoir; the latter trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by his nephew David Mullins. The favourite Limini, winner of the Grade 1 Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, could offer little in mixed company and completed in 3rd.
GB 6 Ireland 3
Race 3: Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Grade 1 – 3 miles & 1 furlong) – 8 ran
Having looked to need every inch of the 4-mile National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival when chasing home Minella Rocco on that occasion, Native River was given a very positive ride by Richard Johnson and, having led for most of the race, stayed on gamely to win by 3 lengths from Henri Parry Morgan.
This was the Tizzard’s second Grade 1 victory of the Aintree Festival; the first being Cue Card on Day 1.
GB 7 Ireland 3
Race 4: Melling Chase (Grade 1 – 2 miles & 4 furlongs) – 6 ran
This was the shock result of the entire Festival, with God’s Own winning for trainer Tom George and jockey Paddy Brennan.
The surprise was that Vautour, the 1-5 favourite, fell at the 9th fence; thus handing a winning opportunity to one of the other competitors. The word which sprang into my mind to describe this incident was ‘complacent’ and, strangely enough, it was the same word which trainer Willie Mullins used too – although I don’t know whether he was using it to describe the horse or the jockey!
I think Ruby was taking it for granted that his mount would take off on a long stride, but Vautour thought “No, I’m too far away from the fence”; so he put in a short one, got too close and came down.
GB 8 Ireland 3
Race 5: Topham Chase (Grade 3 Handicap – 2 miles & 5 furlongs) – 29 ran
The race was won by Eastlake trained by Jonjo O’Neill, which had finished 3rd in 2014; he pulled up in the event last year. It must have been a sign, as we’d seen only one jockey when we’d walked the course earlier in the day ... namely, winning rider Barry Geraghty!
Bishops Road, fancied for the Grand National but failing to get a run despite being 1st reserve, blundered and unseated at the first fence!
There were two fatalities – Gullinbursti and Minella Reception – and they both departed at Becher’s. The latter was taken back to the stables to be assessed by the veterinary team but his injuries were too great for him to be saved. At the time of writing, I don’t have access to a recording of the race, so am unable to surmise the nature of their injuries. However, I understand Gavin Sheehan had decided to take the inside route aboard his mount, where there is still the biggest drop; although this has been revised in recent years.
GB 9 Ireland 3
Race 6: Sefton Novices’ Chase (Grade 1 – 3 miles & ½ a furlong) – 15 ran
Another victory for the home team, with the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Ballyoptic, ridden by Ryan Hatch, claiming the prize from Bellshill close home. Patrick Mullins was deputising aboard the latter, as Ruby Walsh had stood himself down following falls in the previous two races.
GB 10 Ireland 3
Race 7: Champion Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Grade 2 – 2 miles & 1 furlong) – 17 ran
Bacardys claimed today’s prize, having finished 3rd in the Cheltenham festival bumper. Battleford, second in the Cheltenham race, finished 2nd again, with Cheltenham winner Ballyandy in 4th. Patrick Mullins finally rode a winner. Alan King’s Zipple Back finished 9th.
GB 10 Ireland 4
It was later announced that Ruby has sustained a hairline fracture to a wrist so, yet again, he’d be forced to miss his ride in the Grand National. The problem with Ruby is ... he’s a risk taker; win at any cost, frequently falling at the last when in with a winning chance. Unlike other jockeys, who become more and more aware of the risks as they get older and subconsciously take more care, Ruby seems unaffected by the spectre of injury.
So, the highlight of Day 2 is ... two highlights ... Native River winning the Mildmay Novices’ Chase under a very positive ride from Richard Johnson and God’s Own winning the Melling Chase; the latter being an example of ‘you have to be in it to win it’.
We successfully negotiated the ‘weird’ junction at the start of the M57, under my tutelage; but I have had eight years’ experience! The driver in front of us was having difficulty in deciding which side of the island to select – the left takes you onto the M58, the right onto the M57. It’s the queerest road junction I’ve ever encountered!
We were also well on schedule to meet our evening restaurant reservation time; we had 45 minutes to spare.
Saturday 09 April 2016 – Grand National Day – Day 3
Picture of the Day
The Grand National Winner:
Irish-trained Rule The World,
ridden by David Mullins
I decided to set my alarm for around 05:30 on the final day, to ensure I not only had time to have a shower and put on my make-up before breakfast, but also to pack my belongings too.
Here is an article about the early manifestation of the Grand National, namely the ‘St Albans Grand Steeplechase’:
I mention this because William Lynn, who brought the idea of running the Grand National to Liverpool, was inducted into the Aintree Hall of Fame today.
And to think that, had history been different, I would have been able to stay at home for the duration of the ‘St Albans Festival of Racing’!!! Although a book which I possess states that the St Albans Grand Steeplechase was run in Bedfordshire, between Harlington Church and the obelisk at Wrest Park. Strangely enough, Wrest Park is just around the corner from where my little brother lives, in Silsoe; but that wouldn’t have been far to drive to either.
As usual, the Parade of Champions took place today – this year’s turn out comprised of Lord Gyllene (1997), Red Marauder (2001), Bindaree (2002), Amberleigh House (2004), Hedgehunter (2005), Silver Birch (2007), Comply Or Die (2008), Mon Mome (2009), Don’t Push It (2010), Ballabriggs 2011), Neptune Collonges (2012) and Auroras Encore (2013). The 2014 winner, Pineau De Re failed to make the Grand National ‘cut’, having been outside the top 40 entries and the 2015 winner Many Clouds was taking part again today.
Anyway, on to the racing ...
Race 1: Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3 – 3 miles & ½ a furlong) – 19 ran
This event was won by the Gary Moore-trained Ubak, ridden by son Joshua, price 16-1.
I didn’t place any bets ... but Sandra and I were selecting horses to win this particular race, just from an interest point of view. My first choice was Ubak, with the favourite If In Doubt as the challenger. And just to think that I could have won £100 for an each way bet on that particular race ... what a bummer! I knew that Ubak had been running well this season, including a third place in the Coral Cup. Also, somewhere in the back of my mind was the idea that his name rang a bell – it transpires he’d won the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at the Aintree Festival in 2013; it has been upgraded from a Grade 2 to a Grade 1 race during the intervening years.
Following that promising start, Ubak had been on the sidelines for two and a half years due to suspensory problems. His original injury had repaired, only for it to reoccur just a month before he was due to return to action. However, the owner explained that his horse had then been given stem cell treatment as a last resort, and he returned to action this season. His initial chasing efforts earlier in the season were described as ‘failed to convince’ but his ability as a hurdler has not been dimmed by his prolonged absence. I need to add him to my ATR tracker ... he’s my kind of horse!
Sadly the David Pipe-trained Kings Palace struck into himself during the race and had to be put down as a result.
Another casualty was Brian Hughes, whose mount Urban Hymn fell at the first flight when disputing the lead; the jockey sustained a broken collarbone as a result. He had been due to ride O’Faolains Boy in the National but, with that horse a non-runner due to lameness, he’d been re-booked to ride stable companion The Romford Pele instead, thus replacing Trevor Whelan. So, following this accident, Trevor was then back on his original mount!
It’s easy to follow the ups and downs of the jockeys’ and trainers’ fortunes, as you just have to listen out for the public announcements asking for a trainer to report to the Weighing Room; whether it is associated with an injured jockey or an injured horse.
GB 11 Ireland 4
Race 2: Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1 – 2 miles & 4 furlongs) – 6 ran
This event was won by Yorkhill, ridden by Paul Townend and trained by Willie Mullins. This year’s Neptune winner pulled hard for much of the race, but there were no rivals good enough to beat him.
GB 11 Ireland 5
Race 3: Maghull Novices’ Chase (Grade 1 – 2 miles) – 5 ran
Another winner for Paul Townend and Willie Mullins, with Douvan romping away with the prize; another Irish-trained horse finished second, in the shape of The Game Changer.
GB 11 Ireland 6
Race 4: Liverpool Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1 – 3 miles & ½ a furlong) – 6 ran
Thistlecrack rules supreme in this discipline this season, and won by 7 lengths from Shaneshill. There was a hailstorm as the runners were heading out along the horse-walk to the racecourse; I styled it out, as I wasn’t giving up my favourite vantage point to anyone ahead of the Grand National!!!
GB 12 Ireland 6
Race 5: Handicap Chase (Listed – 3 miles & 1 furlong) – 14 ran
There were just 6 finishers in this 14 runner race, with Irish-trained Maggio claiming the prize for trainer Patrick Griffin and jockey James Reveley; Brian Hughes had been due to take the ride. Maggio was 4th reserve for the Grand National so didn’t get a run in the main event. He’s owned by the connections of Auroras Encore.
GB 12 Ireland 7
Race 6: The Grand National (Grade 3 – 4 miles & 2½ furlongs) – 39 ran
The race was won by Rule The World, trained by Mouse Morris and ridden by 19-year-old David Mullins, son of Thomas and nephew of Willie; it was his first ride in our Grand National. Today was his mount’s 14th run over fences and his first win too; he had, however, finished 2nd on 7 previous occasions, including runner-up to Thunder And Roses in last year’s Irish Grand National. He’d also finished 2nd to The New One in the Neptune at the Cheltenham Festival in 2013. The last maiden to win the event was Mr What in 1958!
Rule The World had also fractured his pelvis on two occasions in the past. In the words of his trainer, “How good would he be with a proper arse on him?”
The deteriorating going had a massive bearing on the result. There were 16 finishers – 6 Irish and 10 British – but those Irish horses finished 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th! The final 6 finishers actually trotted or walked over the line. The first three carried 10 stone 7lbs, 10 stone 8lbs and 10 stone 6lbs respectively – the lighter weighted horses had triumphed in the soft ground conditions.
Personally, I was surprised by how well the runner-up The Last Samuri jumped ... and that Buywise, a known poor jumper, actually completed!!! But the latter was ridden by Paul Moloney, who holds an excellent record for completing the race!
Last year’s winner, Many Clouds finished last and was reported to have made a ‘noise’ – a breathing operation is now in the offing.
Sam Waley-Cohen, aboard the recently purchased Black Thunder, was doing okay until he almost ‘bellied’ the water-jump and his rider pulled him up having jumped a further 4 fences.
It was a fillip for the trainer, who had lost his son Christopher ‘Tiffer’ last May due to carbon monoxide poisoning while he was travelling in Argentina, but annoying that the ghastly Michael ‘Ryanair’ O’Leary had claimed the Grand National as well as the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!
But Michael O’Leary points out that since all Ryanair prices became all-inclusive and he became what he describes as ‘all nice and cuddly’ two years ago, he’s won a Gold Cup, two Irish Nationals and a Grand National. He says that if he’d know that being so nice to customers would bring him so much luck, he’d have done it 10 years ago! Ummmmmmmmmm!
But the best result was that no horses were fatally injured during the race. J
GB 12 Ireland 8
Race 7: Handicap Hurdle (for Conditional Jockeys’ & Amateur Riders – 2 miles & ½ a furlong) – 17 ran
Buoyed by his victory in the Grand National, David Mullins won this race riding Ivan Grozny for Uncle Willie! But at least the horse is owned by the Wylies!!! David’s nickname is ‘Stud’!
GB 12 Ireland 9
The highlights of Day 3 were Ubak and Thistlecrack winning for the home team. And at least the Grand National winner was a first for both the trainer Mouse Morris and for jockey David Mullins, even if it was an Irish winner.
For security reasons, none of the spectators who had left their cars in the Steeplechase car park were permitted to leave the main enclosures until after the final race of the day; this included the passengers of numerous coaches which were also parked in the centre of the Grand National course, to the far side of the Melling Road.
Everything could have gone pear-shaped, time wise, if we’d turned left upon reaching Aintree Lane, signed as ‘All routes’; our usual route was tailing back almost to the Melling Road exit point. However, I decided to turn right instead ... I don’t have a satnav but just how lost can one get? I had a map book and a navigator if required!
So we headed in a south-easterly direction, along the B5194, with just a brief delay prior to crossing another canal bridge. The locals knew their route home as, having arrived at traffic lights denoting a cross-roads junction, they headed westwards, back into Liverpool. In contrast, I turned left and headed along the dual carriageway of the A506; it’s the road signposted for use by owners and trainers. It wasn’t far to Junction 6 of the M57, so we joined the motorway for a brief period before leaving it again at Junction 5 and heading back along the A580 to our hotel.
Having dropped Sandra back at the hotel, I began my drive home at 19:55. Tiredness during the drive wasn’t an issue, but there were three occasions when the heavens opened – possibly shortly after crossing the Mersey, definitely just prior to the Stoke exit, then again maybe at Stafford; on one occasion there was hail too. It was cold yesterday evening, hence the hail, 5 degrees in Golborne, 4 degrees as I headed south, and only 1 degree in Hertfordshire – there was a frost the following morning.
There were two holdups on the motorways – I was worried about the possibility of late evening motorway closures – but in the event these turned out to be just lane closures being put in place ahead of works commencing. I was delayed by 25 minutes on the M6 in Birmingham, due to 3 lanes of traffic merging into one; the main issue being inconsiderate and overbearing drivers who continue to overtake despite knowing that they will run out of road very shortly; they then push in, forcing everyone who has been patiently waiting, to wait even longer. Selfish pigs!
The same happened on the M1, just before Junction 12; information signs were informing drivers that the southbound carriageway was closed between that exit point and Junction 11. However, after 20 minutes of queuing, it transpired that the majority of drivers had decided to continue on the motorway regardless of the signage, so I followed them and there was not a problem. So, instead of reaching home at 23:30, I was delayed until 00:15. But, actually, it was like taking two rest breaks, without having to visit the Services! And I was even able to consume a number of Jaffa Cakes whilst I waited in the Birmingham queue.
I was a bit disappointed that there were no lights on the M1 carriageway, apart from at junctions. Is that part of the process to become a ‘smart’ motorway? I’ll give them ‘smart’ ...
Festival Round-Up 2016
With the Aintree Festival successes, Ireland-based Willie Mullins had now taken the lead in our Trainers’ Championship ... with Paul Nicholls seeming to have little chance of redressing the balance with just two weeks of the season still to go. The Trainers’ Championship is decided on monies won, not number of winners.
In the words of my elderly mother, “b*gger Willie Mullins”! And she hates horse-racing.
But ... Paul Nicholls then won the Scottish Grand National the following Saturday with Vicente and regained the lead as a result ... making the Championship a whole lot more interesting!!!
Again, I encountered issues with my RUK recordings. Because of earlier problems, I decided to record solely the highlights programmes, along with the entire live coverage of Grand National Day; I didn’t record any Mark Your Cards. However, the only one which worked was the live coverage of Grand National Day!
I managed to manually record Saturday’s highlights programme ... starting at 00:30 on Sunday morning. I’ve also got the Racing Breakfast analysis show, broadcast the day after the Festival. However, at the current point in time I’m hopeful that all three highlights programmes will be re-broadcast on the morning of Sunday 17 April, or maybe Sunday 24 April; thus following the format of last year! And Sandra has promised to send me a recording of Channel 4’s coverage too.
And my thoughts on the later start time of the Grand National ... personally I don’t like it but, sadly, I seem to be in the minority. L With the race being the sixth one on the card, it felt like a bit of an anti-climax; although the weather probably didn’t help this year in damping the atmosphere, literally.
It may have been an excellent Festival for Willie Mullins, but that’s no surprise; a very special mention has to go to the Tizzards, with a Grade 1 victory each day – namely Cue Card, Native River and Thistlecrack.
It was also nice to be chilled out and unstressed during Aintree ... unlike my experience during this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Sadly there were a total of 5 fatalities during the 3-day Festival.
Day 1: Two deaths
Both fatalities occurred during the Foxhunters’ Chase over the Grand National fences; however neither was a result of a fall.
Firstly, 10-year-old Clonbanan Lad, trained by Louise Allan at Newmarket.
Secondly, 10-year-old Marasonnien, trained by Willie Mullins and owned by Susannah Ricci, wife of Rich. It was another equine loss for the Ricci’s, having lost Pont Alexandre and Long Dog at Cheltenham too.
Day 2: Two deaths
Again both fatalities took place on the Grand National course; this time they were a result of falls at Becher’s Brook.
Firstly, 10-year-old Gullinbursti, trained by Emma Lavelle; he was euthanized at that point.
The second fatality was 10-year-old Minella Reception, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies. Jockey Alan Wedge was also reported to have been injured in the fall. However, connections were initially hopeful that the horse could be saved, so he was returned to the stables for veterinary assessment; sadly this proved not to be the case.
Earlier in the afternoon, Sandra and I had been discussing Emma Lavelle’s poor record as regards to losing horses on the racecourse due to injury ... ummmmmm.
Day 3: One death
The fifth and final fatality was 8-year-old Kings Palace, trained by David Pipe. Again, not a result of a fall during the Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle; he was pulled up sharply before the 9th flight in the first race of the day by jockey Tom Scudamore – race comments stated he was lame.
Here is an excerpt from the trainer’s weekly news update, explaining what happened to his charge:
“Unfortunately that cannot be said for all of the team and I am extremely saddened to report that Kings Palace was put down after striking into himself in the handicap hurdle, the opening race on Saturday. It is especially difficult as we had had him since he was a young, untried store and I had always held him in the highest regard and he had long been the apple of my eye. He showed his quality when winning a bumper, three hurdles and three chases (including a Grade 2 event at Cheltenham) and he possessed the ability to go right to the top. The lads and lasses in the yard are all very upset, a comment that also applies to Tom Scu and his doting owners – he will be greatly missed.”
R I P