DIARY – AINTREE
FRIDAY 08 APRIL 2011
FESTIVAL DAY 2 – LADIES’ DAY
Always Waining, this year ridden by Tom O’Brien,
wins his second consecutive Topham Chase.
This year, and in order not to put too much pressure upon myself, I decided to book a day’s holiday on Thursday 07 April, the day before my trip to Aintree. It would enable me to complete my packing at leisure and allow time for me to purchase any last minute items I might need ... and I’m not renouned for travelling light!
Having mentioned to mum that I might pop down to the local M & S Superstore, she asked if she could accompany me, as she wanted to buy a few items of clothing for the summer and valued my opinion on her choice. M & S is a very ‘dangerous’ place for me to go shopping, especially if I take my credit cards with me.
Mum was searching for a summer top or two and I just couldn’t resist perusing the rails, just in case there was anything I fancied. I found a burgundy coloured wrap front top which ideally suited the skirt I was planning to wear the following day. Then I tried on two skirts, one which suited but was a little large on the hips, the other I didn’t like at all once I’d tried it on. So I went to find a size 14 in the former style ... and it fitted! But not because I’d lost weight I fear, but because sizes are getting bigger!
Having decided upon a skirt, I thought that perhaps I’d search for a new jacket too; the grey Per Una one I subsequently tried on was too ‘wishy washy’, especially now that my hair colour is ‘Saga Blonde’! There were no black or dark grey ‘suit type’ jackets in my size, let alone ones I liked. I eventually settled for a reddish-pink unlined linen jacket in size 18 – there were no size 20s to be seen – I’m top heavy. Mum purchased 3 tops, all approved by me!
I couldn’t help but feel that, despite liking and purchasing the jacket, it might not be quite right for my trip north. So I then thought I’d take a look in the Next store, which also has a shop on the same Retail Park. Again, the biggest size available in any of the styles was size 18 ... but I found a lovely mink coloured jacket which I could jazz up with a bright scarf and which would go with anything. Besides, style guru Gok Wan recommends that a jacket should fit well on the shoulders and one shouldn’t worry too much if it doesn’t button up. It has turned out to be one of my best and favourite buys ever! The skirt is pencil shaped with black/white/grey flowers printed on it – and I love that too!
I then popped into Boots to buy a new tube of sun block factor 50 – not because I’ve got sun sensitive skin but because I want to protect myself from developing wrinkles for as long as possible. I replace my sun block on a regular basis, as I understand the product may lose its effectiveness over time. Besides, my daily moisturiser doesn’t contain a sun protection factor as it is, in fact, a ‘heavy weight’ night cream!
Not surprisingly, the afternoon was spent trying on more outfits from my collection at home as, having purchased new items of clothing, my ‘wardrobe’ plans for Aintree had changed. Of course I also tuned into the TV coverage of the first day of the Aintree Festival.
I had planned to get an early night but, in the event, it was gone 22:00 when I turned in, with the prospect of the alarm sounding at 03:30; I wanted to leave home at 05:30 so as to arrive early at the races.
I believe my alarm initially sounded at 03:05; I switched it off and dozed for a while, fortunately re-awaking at 03:30; there’s no snooze function on the clock. I suppose it might be more sensible to use the alarm on my mobile phone. Anyway, I showered, washed and dried my hair, applied warpaint to fill in the cracks, ate breakfast and loaded my suitcase plus two ‘grocery’ bags of items into my car. One bag contained the overflow from the suitcase, the other a number of bags of sweets, 4 cheese-filled submarine rolls, and a flask of black coffee.
I’d placed my aforementioned mink coloured jacket and reddish-pink coloured jacket in the car the previous evening. I also took my winter weight cerise coloured jacked, just in case the weather proved colder than expected. I’d been through a selection of jackets and raincoats in the day or two before my trip; choosing then discarding. My grey frill edged raincoat which I’d worn to Towcester; then my mid-blue one. My denim blue jacket, my beautiful blue Per Una jacket, as worn for my coursewalk with Choc at Newbury in March 2010. But, having decided upon my grey/brown/maroon skirt for Ladies’ Day at Aintree and my new mono-coloured skirt for Grand National day; plus my favourite grey tweed skirt and a pair of grey trousers in reserve, I decided that blue wasn’t the right colour, hence the new mink coloured jacket.
I had two cardigans in my suitcase (one red, one blue) but then decided to take a black one too. I also had 3 tops in my suitcase, a white one, a black one and a sea green one. Where is the Sherpa when you need one? I took 3 pairs of shoes ... wedges in black, wedges in burgundy, and a pair of black sandals. I even left my red Hunter wellies in the boot. And I also packed a pair of jeans.
The forecast for the week had been wet and windy, then becoming sunny and warm at the weekend; but you just can’t be certain about these things!
It was 05:32 and still darkness as I pulled off the drive to set off for Liverpool. My route took me via my local ring road, then to Harpenden Common, cutting through to Redbourn and joining the M1 at junction 9. Road-works and a contraflow system were in operation between Luton and Milton Keynes. The sun rose during my progress north and it became apparent that it would be a nice day although, of course, it might be different in the Merseyside area.
As I prefer to avoid motorway driving if at all possible, instead of taking the M6 at junction 19, where bridge repairs were underway, I remained on the M1 until Junction 23A, south of Nottingham, and headed along the A50 dual carriageway passing south of Derby. The sun shone brightly and, as I was heading westwards, it reflected in my wing mirror causing some discomfort to my vision.
My route took me close to Uttoxeter and on to Stoke On Trent. As I approached the latter, it clouded over and became a little misty. I joined the M6 at junction 15; it was 07:53. The motorway was clear northwards to the M62; unlike last year when there had been a traffic jam on this section of my journey. My last opportunity for a service station ‘pit stop’ before Aintree was at the Burtonwood Services at Junction 8 of the M62. It was only 08:40; having brought food with me, it was time for my second breakfast of the day, as I wouldn’t eat again until almost 20:00!
As I sat in my car, a sole magpie flitted between the waste bins looking for scraps to eat. The sun had put in a reappearance and would remain for the duration of the Aintree Festival. I continued my journey at 09:10; travelling up the M57 to its termination a mere mile or two from the racecourse. Having used over half a tank of fuel, I filled up at the Asda store before proceeding to the ‘Steeplechase’ car park; my route taking me over Anchor Bridge to reach the centre of the course.
As always, the vehicles arriving centre course were checked by security. They looked under the bonnet, inside the car, and in the boot, a spaniel ‘sniffer dog’ jumping into the latter to check it out! I parked up at 09:40. Having changed into my burgundy coloured shoes, I set off for the entrance. Annoyingly, the grass in the car park had been recently mown, so blades stuck to my shoes. I bought a race-card, £4, from the kiosk before proceding to the security marquee (gazebo?) where my handbag was searched and I was asked to step through the ‘airport’ style security arch before being allowed to catch the shuttle bus to travel to the stands on the far side of the track.
As many of the workers were arriving at this time, I wasn’t actually asked to show my ticket; although I did have my badge attached to my handbag. Very remiss of the security staff. Having alighted from the shuttle bus, we had to wait for a horse and its jockey to cross our path; as it was being exercised on the all-weather gallop to the inside of the track. We’d waited for it to pass at the other side of the track before we’d boarded the bus too! My first port of call was the ladies loos, to clean the blades of grass off my shoes! I then went to buy a bottle of water from one of the catering outlets, before heading for the Parade Ring. When I’m alone at a fixture, the Parade Ring area is where I feel most at ease before racing begins.
As there had been dew on the grass, I shouldn’t have been too surprised that the seats around the Parade Ring were also damp. Eventually I dried one off with a tissue so that I could sit down. I chatted with one of the litter collectors as she passed by; and we spoke again when she returned for a second circuit of the area.
Today being Ladies’ Day, there were the usual ‘sights’ ... it is a Ladies’ Day like no other! A Matalan fashion show was one of the spectator events; and also included a ‘Best Dressed’ competition.
I also chatted with a group of local ladies; they wondered if I owned horses, as my ‘demeanour’ had suggested to them that I was more interested in the racing side of the event than in Ladies Day. No, I can’t afford to own a horse; but yes, my sole interest is in the racing (I didn’t mention my fascination with Choc) ... although I do ‘scrub up well’ and always make an effort to look my best when I go to the races, even when I’m dressed in smart casual.
Having waited patiently, the horses eventually began to arrived in the Parade Ring ahead of the first race of the day, in which Choc would be riding the Alan King trained Iolith. The jockeys appeared and were legged up; once Choc had left the Paddock aboard his mount, I set off to find a good vantage point inside the nearby enclosure.
As Ladies’ Day is quieter than Grand National Day, I was able to easily move between the Parade Ring, the Earl of Derby enclosure area, and the steps above the Winners’ Enclosure. A couple of times during the afternoon, when I was viewing from behind the horse-walk exit gate, young Willie Twiston-Davies was stood beside me. I was tempted to congratulate him on the previous day’s Foxhunters’ win, but my introvert nature prevented me from doing so!
The start of this race was at the far corner of the track, the horses initially heading along a short stretch of the track before turning into the home straight for the first time. Choc wishing to gain an inside berth, Iolith was barely moving as the field circled in an anti-clockwise direction at the start.
The Andrew Tinkler ridden Irish raider Maggio was reluctant to join the others; an assistant initially leading him in. However he soon decided to set off at a trot and found himself at the head of affairs.
Then they were off. The field was led away by the outsider Maggio, from First In The Queue, Brampour, Polisky, on the inside was Iolith, then Desert Cry, Andhaar, and Oilily. Held up were Alarazi, Topolski, Perfect Smile and A Media Luz. In mid-field Sire De Grugy was slightly awkward at the second flight.
Maggio had set up a clear lead of around 5 lengths as the field passed the winning post with one circuit to go. Chasing the leader was Brampour, First In The Queue, and Polisky. In rear, Alarazi was slightly squeezed for room on the turn. Andrew Tinkler’s mount had stretched his lead as they headed down the back straight, the prominent Brampour hit the 4th and the next too, 5 out.
Maggio had come back to the field as they crossed the final flight in the back straight; which the hard pulling Oilily didn’t jump particularly fluently. Brampour, Polisky and First In The Queue joinied the long-time leader around the top turn; Iolily was short of room around this bend, checking her initial progress. Choc’s mount, Iolith, had lost ground and was being pushed along in rear.
Maggio still held a slight advantage over 3 out, Brampour, Polisky, First In The Queue, and A Media Luz in close contention; Oilily, on the wide outside, took over the lead before two out. Choc pulled up his mount before this flight.
Sire De Grugy now took second, with Topolski in third and closing. Over the last, stand side, Oilily still led, Sire De Grugy centre, Topolski far side. The former and latter then came clear of Jamie Moore’s mount on the run-in, Topolski winning by ¾ of a length on the line; three wins in a row for the David Arbuthnot trained horse.
It was now time for the second race of the day; Choc didn’t have a mount in this event. The start of this race was at the far end of the home straight, with that and two full circuits to travel.
Then they were off. The field was led away by The Giant Bolster with Master Of The Hall in rear. Three runners almost abreast over the second, the open-ditch; nearside The Giant Bolster, far side Golan Way, between them was Sarando. Golan Way and Sarando disputed the lead over the next, followed by Wayward Prince, The Giant Bolster, Radium, Quito De La Roque, Robinson Collonges and Master Of The Hall.
Golan Way gained a slight advantage around the home bend, having got the inside berth, and held a narrow lead over the first fence in the back straight. The Giant Bolster fell at the next, jockey Tom Scudamore dislocating a shoulder as a result. Very bad luck for Tom who, along with Jason Maguire, had earlier been cleared to ride following painful falls the previous day. Golan Way continued to lead, from Wayward Prince and Sarando, Radium, Master Of The Hall, Quito De La Roque, with the grey Robinson Collonges in rear.
Golan Way ploughed through the cross-fence but retained his advantage; jumping out to his right at the next two fences. Radium and Wayward Prince now disputed second, with Sarando close in 4th position. The long time leader remained ahead as the field passed the post with one circuit to go; from Wayward Prince and Radium, Sarando, Quito De La Roque, Master Of The Hall, and Robinson Collonges still bringing up the rear.
Wayward Prince hit the first fence in the back straight and lost ground; both Golan Way and Quito De La Roque hit the next. Sarando took the lead having cleared the open-ditch and continued to hold the advantage, from Golan Way, Wayward Prince and Quito De La Roque.
The latter came to challenge Sarando as they cleared the final open-ditch two from home, but stumbled on landing. However, Davy Russell drove his mount to lead as they approached the final obstacle; Sarando rallied but couldn’t quite get to Quito De La Roque, who won by a neck at the line.
Ruby Walsh had pulled up Robinson Collonges after the 13th fence; in rear the tailed off and tired Master Of The Hall had fallen 2 out. Despite lying on the ground for a while, Barry Geraghty’s mount recovered, got to his feet and was led away.
It was reported that Golan Way had lost two shoes during the race, one from a front hoof and the other from a rear.
I returned to the Parade Ring to see Choc arrive ahead of his ride aboard the Henrietta Knight trained Somersby in the next.
Being of an excitable temperament, Somersby was led out onto the course to be mounted in the enclosure in front of the Earl of Derby/Lord Sefton stands; Choc exiting on foot to join him. The horse was also permitted to miss the pre-race parade, Choc cantering him alone to the starting gate.
The start of this race was at the beginning of the back straight. For the third outing in a row (which included a race at Aintree yesterday), Chaninbar refused to take part; however he did go to Sandown Park later in the month and finished a very creditable second to French Opera in the Grade 2 Celebration Chase! On that occasion he wore cheek pieces, rather than the blinkers of today. Proving that when he consents to race, he is not without talent.
The field was led away by the giant Mad Max, with stable companion French Opera to his outside. Continuing along the back straight, Mad Max still held the advantage, Albertas Run up into second position following a couple of good jumps, French Opera now in third, Choc taking Somersby wide in 4th, then Tranquil Sea, Tartak, Master Minded, Kalahari King and Made In Taipan.
The Paul Carberry ridden Mad Max led over the cross fence from Albertas Run, French Opera, Somersby, Tartak and Tranquil Sea. The field was still well grouped as it headed down the home straight for the first time. In rear, Made In Taipan was a little slow at the final fence therein.
Around the bottom bend the order was Mad Max, from French Opera, Albertas Run disputed third with Tartak, Tranquil Sea was alongside Somersby, then Master Minded, Kalahari King and Made In Taipan.
The long time leader jumped the next with speed, but his stable companion was slow at the fence; Tartak came to take the lead with a good leap at the following obstacle. However, the latter hit the final fence in the back straight, Mad Max reasserting to lead once again. AP McCoy was soon pushing Albertas Run along.
Somersby came to join Mad Max at the head of affairs as they turned in for the final time; Master Minded had cruised through the field and was now in their slipstream. Ruby’s mount drew alongside the leaders as they cleared three out; Somersby got a little close to it and lost ground.
Ruby held onto his mount until he’d jumped two out, which he did upsides Mad Max, and then he went clear with ease; sailing over the last and being pushed out with just hands and heels to the line to win by 9 lengths from Albertas Run and the staying on Somersby. Tartak completed in 4th. Mad Max faded to finished 6th. Having been outpaced before making an error 5 out, Kalahari King was pulled up before 2 out.
Choc chatted happily to Ruby after they’d pulled up following the race; he and the other jockeys pleased that Master Minded had returned to form.
Master Minded’s price was 11/2, according to Graham Cunningham on Racing UK, his biggest price in 3 seasons! Another fact relayed was that Master Minded had started as ‘odds on’ 11 times. It was also pointed out that Master Minded is still only 8 years old. Both pundits and connections believe that he might be suited by December’s King George VI Chase at Kempton.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see Choc arrive back in the place reserved for the horse finishing third. Choc chatted to Henrietta Knight and her husband Terry Biddlecombe, in addition to the horse’s owners. Noticeably, Albertas Run was very keen to drink from a bucket of water when he returned!
It was then time for the fourth race of the day; the Topham Chase which is run over the Grand National fences. The start of the race was at the far end of the home straight, with 2 fences to jump before The Chair. Fortunately no ride for Choc in this event; as, try as I might, I knew I would worry about him as he set off in the Grand National the following day, so a second trip over the ‘big fences’ would not have been welcomed by me.
In this race, Jason Maguire deputised for the injured Tom Scudamore aboard the David Pipe trained Consigliere.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Dev; upsides the exuberant Frankie Figg. Postmaster, in mid-division, fell at the first fence; and Gansey unseated near the rear. Polyfast fell at the second, hampering Calusa Caldera who unseated Richard Johnson.
The runners headed for The Chair; Frankie Figg taking a slight advantage as they cleared this obstacle and then jumped the water. Turning the corner a loose horse (Gansey in fact) preceded the field as it headed for the line of 6 fences going away from the stands, at the end of which was Becher’s Brook. The next to depart was Fine Patchment, who unseated jockey Peter Toole at the 6th.
There was near carnage at the 8th, where 6 runners departed. In second place, Dev fell; Buffalo Bob in third pecked and unseated Sean Quinlan; near the rear, Passato, Seigemaster and Bible Lord fell; Nevada Royale was brought down. Bible Lord would suffer a serious neck injury requiring prolonged veterinary treatment, and the fall left his rider Harry Haynes concussed. These departures left Frankie Figg clear of his pursuers.
The horses headed down to Becher’s Brook, where the grey Pickamus took a nasty looking fall but he got up and galloped away. Free World, near the rear, also departed here; one of the loose horses took another tumble! Frankie Figg led over the Canal Turn; in rear Isn’t That Lucky was hampered by another loose horse. Last year’s winner, Always Waining, had begun to make progress through the field. Another of the greys, Alfa Beat fell at the 15th.
As the field turned back towards the final two fences, Ruby Walsh aboard Mon Parrain appeared to be travelling the best and duly took over the lead from Frankie Figg before two out; also in the leading group were Always Waining, Gonebeyondrecall, Scotsirish and Swing Bill.
However, as they approached the elbow, Always Waining put his head in front, Ruby’s mount unable to respond once ‘off the bridle’; the former staying on to win by 4 lengths. Irish raiders finished 3rd and 4th, Scotsirish and Gonebeyondrecall; a neck behind was Swing Bill, who beat Frankie Figg by a nose. There were 16 finishers from the 30 runners.
Having pulled up after the line, Brian Hughes, the jockey of Frankie Figg, lent across and patted the winning horse. Brian had been aboard Always Waining when they won the event last year. Peter Bowen’s charge ‘came alive’ over Aintree’s Grand National fences, having recently shown little form elsewhere. He had been one of the reserves for the Grand National, but it had been decided that he would take his chance in the shorter distance race instead; besides it was doubtful he’d stay the longer distance of tomorrow’s race!
The third victory in the race for trainer Peter Bowen; Dunbrody Millar having triumphed in 2007, and Always Waining last year and this. A memorable double too, it having occurred only twice in the past – Roughan in 1957 and 1958 and, before that, Culworth in 1950 and 1951.
I returned to Winners’ Enclosure to see the winner arrive back; I saw Choc enter the Parade Ring ahead of the next race, as I was still standing of the steps viewing the presentations. I decided to head immediately to the Earl of Derby enclosure to wait for Choc to make his appearance aboard the David Sewell owned Jetnova.
Pre-race, Alan King mentioned the post-fall incident at the Cheltenham Festival, when Jetnova had suffered a few cuts having fallen over on the course crossing ‘pontoons’ when loose.
The start of this race was half way down the home straight, with just over 2 circuits to travel. Richie McGrath replaced the injured Harry Haynes aboard Aikman.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Aikman, then Fists Of Fury, Basford Bob, Back In Focus, Yurok, For Non Stop, Cloudy Too, Mossley, Cantlow, Saint Are, Russian Song, Handy Andy, Jetnova, Listenlook, Court In Motion, Westmeath, Indian Daudaie, Sparky May who was pulling hard, and Muldoon’s Picnic.
Aikman continued to lead as the runners progressed along the back straight; Back in Focus wasn’t fluent at the third, Muldoon’s Picnic made an error at the final flight therein. Saint Are made headway as they galloped around the far bend. On the outside near the rear of the field, Sparky May was still pulling hard. Turning into the home straight on the first occasion Jetnova was in mid-field, taking a mid line.
Sparky May made ground as they headed towards the winning post with one circuit to go. Listenlook, Russian Song and Yurok were not travelling particularly well. Around the bend in front of the stands, the order was Aikman, Fists of Fury, Saint Are, Back In Focus, Basford Bob, For Non Stop, Jetnova, Handy Andy, Mossley, Court In Motion, Cantlow, Sparky May, Westmeath, Cloudy Too, Indian Daudaie, Yurok, Russian Song, Listenlook and Muldoon’s Picnic.
The long time leader continued at the head of affairs as the field set off down the back straight on the second occasion; Basford Bob was untidy at the first flight therein. Sparky May had pulled her way into third position, although she made an error at the last flight, 4 from home.
Fists of Fury took over the lead briefly, before Saint Are went on. Sparky May coasted into second position, following these were Jetnova upsides Fists Of Fury. Mossley, having loomed up on the outside soon came under pressure, weakened quickly and was pulled up before 3 out.
Sparky May came to challenge Saint Are at the third last, Jetnova was in third, Fists of Fury fading into fourth, then Cantlow, the latter clipped the top of this flight. Saint Area wasn’t fluent two out, but continued to lead. When closing in fifth, Court In Motion appeared to bump into the rear of Cantlow as they cleared this flight, the former stumbled and fell as a result; Indian Daudaie, who was close on his heels, fell here independently.
Despite pricking his ears, suggesting he was idling in front, Saint Are ran on to win by 4 lengths from Cantlow; Sparky May completed in third, Fists Of Fury was 4th; then the staying on Muldoon’s Picnic, after which were Aikman and Jetnova. A 33-1 winner.
It was Tim Vaughan’s first ever Grade 1 winner. A very good end to the season for the trainer, who subsequently trained Beshabar to win the Scottish Grand National, again ridden by Richard Johnson, later in the month.
The ‘Face of the Racing Lottery’, ‘model’ Lystra Adams, who was the partner of the owner of the horse, led him in. However, it was very ill judged of her to enter the ‘Best Dressed’ competition, which she duly won; because it solely appeared to be a publicity stunt. With £5,000 and a 10-day ‘exclusive’ holiday to St Lucia as the winning prizes, surely it is meant for members of the ordinary general public to take part in? It was indefensible to high-jack the competition.
Having seen Choc unsaddle his unplaced mount on course, I returned to the Parade Ring in preparation for the next race. His mount in this event was Sir Harry Ormesher, again owned by David Sewell. However, as the horse has a ‘fiery’ temperament, like Somersby earlier in the afternoon, he was led out onto the course for Choc to mount before cantering to the start.
Barry Geraghty replaced the injured Tom Scudamore aboard Battle Group.
Like the previous race, the event started in the home straight, with just over two circuits to travel.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Buena Vista. In midfield Son Of Flicka, ridden by Henry Brooke, fell at the first flight; bringing down Giles Hawkins aboard Barnhill Brownie. The top weight and bottom weight out of the race. Pistolet Noir was badly hampered as a result; Ringaroses and Cloudy Spirit too. Choc was also fortunate to side-step the fallen horse.
Around the grandstand bend, the order was Buena Vista, Swingkeel, Kilcrea Kim, Mr Moonshine, Mobaasher, Super Wisdom, Viking Blond, Ackertac, Souffleur, Carpincho, Golden Chieftain, with Sir Harry Ormesher nearer last than first. Buena Vista stepped on the fourth flight, Cloudy Spirit wasn’t fluent here either.
Leading into the home straight on the first occasion, Buena Vista lead, from Mr Moonshine, Swingkeel, Viking Blond, Superior Wisdom and Kilcrea Kim. Sir Harry Ormesher wasn’t particularly fluent over the next flight, perhaps a little unsighted due to the closely packed field.
The runners were waived around the last flight in the home straight; green screens had been erected around a prostrate jockey on the landing side of the hurdle, with medics in attendance. It was Henry Brooke, who had been concussed when Son Of Flicka fell on the previous circuit.
Buena Vista and Mr Moonshine disputed the lead around the grandstand bend, the field heading off into the country for the final time; Viking Blond was being driven, Mobaasher was struggling, Souffleur was pulled up before the next flight. Kilcrea Kim flattened the middle flight in the back straight. Buena Vista led the field into the home straight; Golden Chieftain and Battle Group close on his heels. Sir Harry Ormesher was being driven in around 7th or 8th position.
Buena Vista led from Battle Group over what turned out to be the final hurdle, Sir Harry Ormesher close in third having responded to Choc’s urgings. Ringaroses also mounting a challenge under AP McCoy.
Having bypassed the fallen jockey and nearby hurdle, Battle Group took up the running and went on to win by 5 lengths from Ringaroses, the latter overtaking Choc’s mount on the run-in. Cloudy Spirit completed in 4th. Long time leader, Buena Vista, completed in 6th, behind Golden Chieftain.
I returned to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure to see Choc unsaddle his mount. And a little later I realised that Choc’s mum and dad were standing on the steps just a couple of levels below me!
I headed back out to the course exit point to wait for Choc to appear aboard Tante Sissi.
The start of this race was in the far corner of the track. There was an amusing moment as the runners circled at the start; when the amateur rider James Banks (who is attached to Alan King’s yard) attempted to get his mount, the Nick Lampard trained La Belle Au Bois, to move. She eventually put her head down, and he toppled off over her right shoulder. How embarrassing? But it was funny! Two horses had their saddles adjusted at the start, the aforementioned La Belle Au Bois and Miss Hippy.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Sharlene’s Quest, from Zhakiera Spirit, Baby Shine, With Grace, Elegant Touch, Sparkling Hand, Thynetocatcher, Tempest River, Monnow Made, Heather Royal, Miss Hippy, Ceol Rua, Keyaza, the keen running Tante Sissi, Lady Knightess, La Belle Au Bois, last year’s winner Big Time Billy, and Eyesontheprize.
Charlene’s Quest was well clear of her pursuers around the grandstand bend and led along the back straight. Elegant Touch jumped the path 6 furlongs out (that’s the one which leads to the Steeplechase car park!). Charlene’s Quest had come back to the field by 5 furlongs out, Zhakiera Spirit going on from Baby Shine around the far bend, the latter subsequently taking the lead. Choc’s mount, Tante Sissi, was in 5th place turning into the home straight.
Tempest River, Big Time Billy and Ceol River came to join Baby Shine two furlongs out. The former running on to win by 2¼ lengths at the line. Ceol Rua got the better of Big Time Billy to take 2nd, with Baby Shine finishing in 4th.
Tanta Sissi completed in 11th place.
Following the race, I headed for the steppings in front of the Weighing Room overlooking the Winners’ Enclosure. When Choc returned from briefing Alan, having unsaddled his unplaced mount on course, he took a detour up the side steps to reach the Weighing Room, thus avoiding the crowded area immediately beside the Winners’ Enclosure.
I waited a few minutes after racing before setting off to catch the bus. The green carpet protecting the course was strewn with litter and plastic glasses. A woman had dropped her handbag, the contents strewn around and she was busy picking up the bits and pieces as I passed by. I was surprised that there was no wait to catch the shuttle bus, as I had been fully expecting a long queue. The bus took a clockwise route around the ‘in-field’ to drop its passengers at the far side of the park course. I crossed over the all-weather track and took the pathway across the course, over Melling Road, to reach the Steeplechase car park.
Having returned to my car, I set off for the hotel at Golborne where, like the previous year, I’d be staying overnight. My route took me back over Anchor Bridge, the extremely impatient driver behind me ‘tooted’ a group of pedestrians who were ambling towards the canal bridge and obstructing our path. I turned left and drove along Aintree Lane; and encountered a lengthy delay as there was a tailback at the traffic lights at its junction with the Ormskirk Road. The phase timing on traffic signals is unbelievably slow in the Merseyside area! They have longer ‘stops’ and longer ‘goes’! But perhaps it’s the slower pace of life!
Anyway, I eventually turned right onto the Ormskirk Road, headed past Asda and through another couple of sets of lights and then headed south along the M57. Upon reaching its junction with the A580 I turned eastwards, heading for Golborne, which is just to the east of the M6.
My friend Lesley had travelled up by train from Milton Keynes; she had already arrived at the hotel. I arrived a little before 07:00, checked in and found my room, number 38, on the second floor. Having unpacked a few bits an pieces, and changed into my jeans, I went to call upon Lesley, who was ensconced next door in room 40.
Dinner was booked for 19:45, so we went to the adjacent restaurant to eat. I ordered fish and chips – the meal was not as good as last year – and the service was slow too; probably because the pub/restaurant seemed busier than on my previous visit. We couldn’t resist ordering puddings too – mine was, perhaps appropriately, ‘Chocolate Tart’!
This year I had a north facing room and, having returned following the meal, I noticed a horse transporter in the car park. It was signed ‘James Motherway’. I have to confess that my finger hadn’t been on the Grand National ‘pulse’ this year, so I wasn’t sure which horse or horses he would be running at the fixture.
It had been a long day, so I turned in early, initially watching ‘Have I Got News For You’ and a few minutes of ‘QI’ before I dozed off to sleep. I awoke again just before 23:00; switching off the TV and lights too!