Friday 10 April 2015


Here is my round-up of Day Two of this year’s Aintree Festival.

Red Rum's Grave 2.jpg

Becher's Brook.jpg


We paid a visit to the Aintree legend’s grave,

situated adjacent to the winning post ...



... and walked the course too;

this is me at Becher’s Brook


Katie Walsh.jpg



Grand National Ambassador, Katie Walsh,

demonstrates the art of Side Saddle riding



Race 1 - the Grade 3 Alder Hey Children’s Charity

Handicap Hurdle, is won by Theinval, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Jeremiah McGrath

Cyrus Darius.jpg

Carraig Mor.jpg


Race 2 - the Grade 2 Top Novices’ Hurdle,

is won by Cyrus Darius, trained by

Malcolm Jefferson and ridden by Brian Hughes


Race 3 - the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase;

the Alan King-trained, Noel Fehily-ridden, Carraig Mor

leaves the Parade Ring

Saphir Du Rheu.jpg

Sire De Grugy.jpg


Race 3 - the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase;

the winner is Saphir Du Rheu, trained by

Paul Nicholls and ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies



Race 4 - the Grade 1 Melling Chase;

leaving the Parade Ring are Sire De Grugy

ridden by Joshua Moore and Wishfull Thinking

ridden by Richard Johnson

Cue Card.jpg

Don Cossack.jpg


Race 4 - the Grade 1 Melling Chase;

leaving the Parade Ring are

Cue Card ridden by Daryl Jacob and the

ill-fated Balder Succes ridden by Wayne Hutchinson



Race 4 - the Grade 1 Melling Chase;

the winner is Don Cossack, trained by

Gordon Elliott and ridden by AP McCoy



Rajdhani Express.jpg


Race 5 – the Grade 3 Topham Chase;

exiting the Parade Ring is the Martin Keighley-trained Annacotty, ridden by Gavin Sheehan



Race 5 – the Grade 3 Topham Chase;

the winner is Rajdhani Express, trained by

Nicky Henderson and ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen


Ordo Ab Chao.jpg



Race 6 – the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle;

leaving the Parade Ring is the Alan King-trained representative, Ordo Ab Chao, ridden by

Denis O’Regan (deputising for

the stood-down Wayne Hutchinson)



Race 6 – the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle;

I think the big screens give the

winner’s name away ... it’s Thistlecrack,

trained by Colin Tizzard

and ridden by Tom Scudamore


Barters Hill.jpg 


Race 7 – the Grade 2 Champion Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race;

the winner is Barters Hill, trained by Ben Pauling and ridden by David Bass



Up at 05:45 today with breakfast at 07:15 ish ... I had a last minute panic prior to heading down to the Table Table restaurant because I couldn’t find my room key; in the end Sandra went downstairs to reception to ask if it had been handed in.  Yes, the night-watch person had found it still in the door the previous night; I am going senile!!!  The table we were offered and accepted for breakfast was in the corridor – the same one I sat at last year for my evening meal on Thursday evening. 


In light of my car bonnet problems the previous day, it was decided that we’d travel to Aintree racecourse in Sandra’s car today.  This being the case, the security check-in went very smoothly and we parked in section 13 before walking to the gates to have our bags searched and our bodies scanned.


We took the bus to the grandstands area before purchasing our race-cards and heading back across the ‘outwards’ green carpet to visit Red Rum’s grave, close to the winning post.  It’s the first time I’ve paid a visit to it.  We then set off on the course-walk, encountering Richard Pitman, Katie Walsh plus AN Other walking the course with women who had been attending today’s Grand Women’s Summit. 


Evidently as part of the summit there had earlier been a Question and Answer panel chaired by Channel 4 presenter, Gina ‘soppy’ Harding; her TV colleague Emma ‘ghastly’ Spencer, a Ladies Day Ambassador, co-hosted the event.  I’m amazed why either women was chosen when Channel 4 revamped their format a while back; there really is no need to have silly women talking about racing on TV, what we need is women with character and authority who can be taken seriously.  


Having returned to the steppings below the Weighing Room following our course-walk, I noticed Choc’s mum and her usual racing companions were in attendance today ... but no sign of Choc, or at least not yet. 


The pre-race entertainment was a display of Side Saddle riding; Katie Walsh was persuaded into the saddle too.  It’s supposed to give more stability and security than riding astride ... personally I’d recommend Western style riding, because you don’t get any aches and pains afterwards; although you do need a very good support bra, because you cannot do a rising trot!!!


Anyway, back to the racing ...


Race 1: Alder Hey Charity Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)

This race had been moved from race 6 last year to the top of Friday’s card.  It was won by the Nicky Henderson-trained, Jeremiah McGrath-ridden, Theinval.  The horse was second-favourite today, having changed stables this season and won a Cheltenham consolation race in style at Kempton last month. 


He may have been a little lucky today, as the favourite The Saint James was hampered at the 7th where AP lost an iron briefly and also hit the last when in second position; the winning distance just half a length.


The horse’s sire is Smadoun, the same as the Alan King-trained Smad Place. 


Race 2: Top Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2)

This race was won by Cyrus Darius, trained by Malcolm Jefferson and ridden by Brian Hughes; the jockey’s second victory of the Festival.  I’m not sure whether it was a sign ... but we saw Malcolm’s horse-box arrive when we set out to walk the course earlier in the day!  It was the only ‘named’ horsebox I saw during my entire trip to Merseyside. 


Race 3: Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)

This event was won by Saphir Du Rheu, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies.  The horse was reverting back to fences following previously disappointing efforts during this, his novice season; he won one race and failed to complete in the other two.  Having reverted back to hurdles in-between, he’d won the Cleeve Hurdle and finished as runner-up in the World Hurdle too.


Alan King had a runner in this race, namely Carraig Mor; the horse is owned by Masterson Holdings, owner of Balder Succes.  Retaining the ride was Noel Fehily, having won aboard the horse at Newbury in November when Wayne Hutchinson was on the injury sidelines.  Today he finished a distant second, 15 lengths behind the winner, and a head in front of the Paul Nicholls second-string Irish Saint.


Race 4: Melling Chase (Grade 1)

The race was won by Don Cossack, trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by AP McCoy; the horse is owned by the Gigginstown Stud ... in other words Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary.  Don Cossack is a beautiful animal and very talented too.


The race also featured Cue Card returning from a break, during which time he’d undergone a breathing operation.  Following an interrupted season, Sire De Grugy had returned to claim 4th place in Cheltenham’s Champion Chase; today he was ridden by Joshua Moore because usual pilot, brother Jamie, had broken his leg in a freak accident on the walkway at Towcester. 


Al Ferof had been off the racecourse since the King George VI Chase 105 days ago; in between he’d had surgery for an entrapped epiglottis.  Champagne Fever was taking his chance today having missed Cheltenham due to a bite on his lip sustained in transit to Gloucestershire.  Balder Succes had been disappointing in the Ryanair Chase won by stable companion Uxizandre, after making a bad blunder at the second fence. The remainder of the field consisted of Cheltenham specialist Johns Spirit, Simply Ned, veteran Wishfull Thinking and Croco Bay.


It was an eventful race with Joshua Moore breaking his collarbone when Sire De Grugy fell at the sixth fence; the horse was absolutely fine and headed back to the enclosures to be caught, but not before he’d jumped The Chair and the water-jump too!


But it wasn’t such good news for poor Balder Succes who took a heavy fall at the third fence; he’d been travelling to the outside of the mid-field at the time.  At first he seemed okay because he got up and moved out of camera shot, but I think it had to be a concern that he didn’t follow the field when loose.  


I didn’t catch sight of his lad, Steve Ayres, who I presume would have headed out onto the track as soon as Balder had fallen; but we did see Alan King’s Assistant Trainer Ollie Wardle and Travelling Head Lad Matt Howells, exit via the small gate situated beside the horse-walk with the hope of reaching the horse as soon as possible.  However, having reached the rail to the outside of the enclosure in front of the Earl Of Derby/Lord Sefton stands, a steward prevented them from crossing the track until the horses had completed the race. 


Once given the all clear, they ran over to a vehicle parked to the inside of the track and were driven out into the country to find their horse.  A number of minutes later, the horse ambulance drove down the road to the inside of the home straight, light flashing; Balder had been collected.  Having reached the bottom bend, they stopped for a few moments before proceeding across the racecourse to the stables.


Ollie Wardle returned via the horse-walk, carrying Wayne’s saddle and Balder’s bridle; he looked very glum.  A very worrying sign.  However, Steve Ayres kept his followers informed as best he could.  Balder would be staying in the stables overnight, and he in Liverpool too, rather than returning home.


On Saturday morning, Steve tweeted a photograph of Balder travelling in a horsebox; it transpired he was being delivered to the Leahurst Equine Hospital.  He also mentioned that his pride and joy was reacting strangely to the sounds of the Liverpool traffic, such as sirens.  There was no announcement regarding the nature of the injury at this stage.


Then, on Sunday, it was announced that poor Balder had been put to sleep that morning having sustained a shoulder injury which was discovered to be inoperable.  It was devastating news for connections and everyone who appreciates talented horses. 


Following his fall from Balder Succes, Wayne Hutchinson was stood down for the remainder of Friday and would have to pass the doctor before being able to take the ride aboard Godsmejudge in the Grand National the following day.


Race 5: Topham Chase (Grand National course)

The race was won by Rajdhani Express, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Mr Sam Waley-Cohen.  The amateur rider thus became the winning-most jockey over the Grand National fences with 6 victories ... but he does get more opportunities because he can also ride in the Fox Hunters event!


Martin Keighley had a runner in this race, namely Annacotty; after a slow start and a mistake at the first fence, he got into his stride but fell at the Canal Turn (12th) where there was a lot of ‘carnage’.


Thirty horses set out, just 10 returned; with 5 pulled up, 6 fell, 7 unseated (or 1 refused depending on the source), plus 2 brought down.  There was some excellent ‘jockey-cam’ footage of Aidan Coleman coming to grief late in the race due to a loose horse refusing in front of him; Aidan ended up trapped within the fence and he had to wait until the coast was clear before stepping out of it.  He also managed to find his mount, which had ended up in the fence-side ‘corral’ along with others.


Race 6: Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)

This race was won by a 25-1 shot, Thistlecrack, trained by Colin Tizzard and ridden by Tom Scudamore. 


This was an attritional race, with just 6 of the 16 runners completing.  There was one faller, the remainder were pulled up; one of those being the Alan King-trained Ordo Ab Chao.  


I’m led to believe that winners of this race, such as Lovcen, tend not to ‘train on’ despite high hopes ... but we shall see.


Race 7: Champion Standard Open NH Flat Race (Grade 2)

The winner of this race was Barters Hill, trained by Ben Pauling and ridden by David Bass; a triumph for sire Kalanisi who was Katchit’s dad.  And also envisaged to be the sire of The Pirate Queen’s first foal – I presume that mating is Choc’s idea! 


In previous years this race had been run as the final event of the festival; this time around it was swapped with the Mares’ bumper race. 


We waited for a brief time upon the steppings after racing; Choc’s mum and companions were there but, again, Choc was nowhere to be seen.  I was still hopeful though, and kept a lookout whilst waiting outside the loos to the back of the Earl Of Derby stand.  Nope; still no sign of Choc.


I had what I shall describe as a strong ‘inkling’ that Choc would be at Aintree on Saturday, and had been there today too ... but I won’t elaborate on my source!  It’s my secret!  But I did relay my hopes to Sandra when we went to supper in the restaurant adjacent to our hotel later that evening; it makes one’s trip so much more exciting if there’s a prospect of seeing Choc. J


Our table tonight was just around the corner from the bar, to the left; I’ve sat there before too, a couple of years ago!  I chose fish and chips tonight, with garden peas; I try to avoid my favourite restaurant meal whenever I can but, after the previous evening’s disappointment, there was no other choice for me today.  Dessert was lemon meringue pie, as recommended by the waitress; I liked it.  We were chatting so much that we forgot to ask for the bill; so, in the end, the waitress asked us if we’d like it.  We took this as a hint that it was time to return to our rooms ...


Bedtime was at around 22:45; and I double-checked that I’d not left the key in the door tonight too! 






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