DIARY – AINTREE
FRIDAY 13 APRIL 2012
FESTIVAL DAY 2 – LADIES’ DAY – PART II
Photocall for winning trainer, jockey and the ‘Barbury Apes’
following Lovcen’s victory in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle
It was soon 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.
The jockeys began to line up behind the tape, walking their horses in slowly ... however, Wilson Renwick turned his mount, Montoya’s Son, away and then they were all asked to turn and line up again. Montoya’s Son appeared a little reluctant but he then trotted forward and they were off. Little Josh was amongst the leaders as they cleared the first fence. Matuhi was close up when he stumbled and unseated his rider here. Massini Sunset, initially amongst the leaders, wasn’t fluent at the obstacle and soon dropped towards the rear.
Heading down towards the Chair, the order at the head of affairs was Little Josh, Herecomesthetruth, Aimigayle, Always Waining, Sunday City, Triangular, Fistral Beach, Apt Approach, Gonebeyondrecall and Fabalu. Massini Sunset, not enjoying this new experience, dropped his hind legs in the water.
Around the grandstand turn and crossing the Melling Road, Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount still led; in rear, Massini Sunset jumped severely to his right and was pulled up. Douglas Julian made an error at the ditch. Tartak blundered at the 8th. Rio Gael fell at the 9th when in touch; Gonebeyondrecall made an error here too. Second favourite Triangular was pulled up before the 10th, Becher’s Brook.
Little Josh led over Becher’s, Sam Twiston-Davies hailing a cab as he landed. Herecomesthetruth now in second, Always Waining in third. Little Josh remained two lengths clear to Valentine’s Brook; Gonebeyondrecall fell here. The Richard Johnson ridden Chance Du Roy had made headway through the field since the Canal Turn and took the lead at the open-ditch, the 15th; Little Josh now in second, from Aimigayle, Always Waining, Fistral Beach, Herecomesthetruth, Frankie Figg and Tartak.
Chance Du Roy continued to lead the vanguard as the runners crossed back over the Melling Road and headed towards the penultimate fence, from Aimigayle, Little Josh, Fistral Beach and Always Waining.
Chance Du Roy, Fistral Beach, Always Waining and Aimigayle appeared to have the race between them as they cleared the final two fences; Little Josh having weakened. Tom O’Brien drove his horse to lead before the elbow and went on to win by 4½ lengths from Chance Du Roy and Fistral Beach. Aimigayle, one paced after the last, completed in 4th.
It was the third year running that Always Waining’s had won the race. It was a last minute decision to run in this event rather than in the following day’s Grand National, despite the horse having qualified for the latter by being within the top 40 entries.
Tom O’Brien had ridden the horse to win last year, Brian Hughes having triumphed aboard the horse in 2010. Always Waining was the first horse to win 3 Tophams; a flat-bred pedigree being by Unfuwain, the horse comes alive when running over the Grand National course, his form in other races being very disappointing these days.
And those which did not finish:
I returned, via the Derby entrance, to the Winners’ Enclosure to offer applause as Always Waining arrived back. It was raining no longer; in fact the sun had reappeared.
It was finally time for Choc’s first ride of the day, aboard the Alan King trained Lovcen (pronounced Lovchen). On this occasion I went to find a space beside the main area of the Parade Ring, so that I could see Choc before he mounted and exited onto the racecourse.
The horses having departed from the Paddock, I took up a position within the Derby Enclosure, beside the course-side rails.
The start of this race was half way down the home straight, with just over 2 circuits to travel.
Then they were off; first time. The field was led away by Catcherinscratcher, Golden Call and Gullinbursti. Lovcen was at the rear as the runners cleared the first; where Poole Master wasn’t fluent. Golden Call then took the advantage as they headed around the grandstand turn and into the back straight on the first occasion. Catcherinscratcher in second, from Netminder, Gullinbursti, Ballyrock, Forgotten Gold, Cotton Mill, Poole Master, Fingal Bay, Ipsos Du Berlais, Knock A Hand, Nagpur, Tap Night, Harry Topper, Makethemostofnow, Hawkes Point, Ely Brown, Lovcen and Aikideau.
Harry Topper made errors at the second and third flights; Forgotten Gold not fluent at the latter. The leader, Golden Call, fell at the fourth, bringing down Makethemostofnow. Hampered were Fingal Bay, Gullinbursti and Ballyrock. Knock A Hand was pulled up. This left Catcherinscratcher in the lead once more. Gullinbursti led at the next. Lovcen had improved his position on the inside of the field. Ballyrock dived at the 6th flight.
The order now was Gullinbursti, Catcherinscratcher, Netminder, Ballyrock, Fingal Bay, Poole Master, Cotton Mill, Forgotten Gold, Lovcen, Ipsos Du Berlais, Tap Night, Harry Topper, Nagpur, Aikideau, Hawkes Point and Ely Brown in rear. Fingal Bay made an error at the 8th, the first in the back straight, as did Ely Brown in rear.
Richard Johnson’s mount took the lead at the 10th, where Netminder made an error when weakening, as did Catcherinscratcher. Fingal Bay led around the far turn from Cotton Mill, Lovcen, Gullinbursti, Tap Night, Ipsos Du Berlais and Forgotten Gold; these were clear of the remainder. Poole Master fell three out.
Choc drove Lovcen to take second position approaching 2 out and was upsides Fingal Bay as they headed for and jumped the last. It was then a battle on the run-in; both jockeys going for everything, whilst remaining within the whip rules! Lovcen eventually got the better of the argument and won by 1¾ lengths at the line. Cotton Mill completed in 3rd, Ipsos Du Berlais was 4th; the latter’s jockey, Davy Russell, congratulating Choc with a shake of the hand as they pulled up after the line.
Wicked; another Grade One winner for Choc!
I waited for Lovcen to be led back down the course towards the winning post, before he entered the walkway to be greeted by the applause of the crowd. On this occasion I crossed over into the Lord Sefton enclosure in order to wait beneath the stairways which lead into the stands as Choc returned to the Winners’ Enclosure along the walkway below. Having taken a photograph, I headed after him to find a position on the steppings beneath the Weighing Room.
Choc unsaddled and debriefed connections, the Barbury Apes, one of whom is Max McNeill, although he was not in attendance today. He then posed for a photograph before heading to the scales placed beside the podium to weigh in. Choc handed his saddle to an official for it to be returned to the Weighing Room; he then waited for his turn to mount the podium to collect his memento. Following another photo-call, Choc was interviewed by Tom O’Ryan from Racing UK; the jockey admitting that he’d been further back in the field than he would have preferred at the off.
Having waited patiently to offer my congratulations to the winning jockey, I soon had my opportunity. And it didn’t matter that both his face and silks were a little mud splattered, and I told him so too! I gave him a peck on the cheek and a hug too; for today’s Grade 1, yesterday’s Grade 1 and for the fact that I was almost certain he’d not got a ride in the Grand National. Bless him. As he headed away from me, I did ask him about the latter just to check. No, he hadn’t a ride. “Chepstow?” I asked. “Yes” came his reply. I was disappointed for him and disappointed for me too. I enjoy horseracing but it’s not quite the same without him, especially when he’s riding at one racecourse whilst I’m at another.
It was now time for the sixth race of the day. Again I returned directly to the area in front of the Earl of Derby stand to view the race.
The starting gate for this event was part way down the back straight, with one and three quarter circuits to travel.
Then they were off; first time. The field was led away by Cape Dutch from Art Professor, Los Nadis, Act Of Kalanisi and Attaglance.
The white blazed Los Nadis had taken the lead by the time the runners cleared the second flight. He was followed by Dare Me, Act Of Kalanisi, Cape Dutch, Art Professor, Attaglance, Tour D’Argent, Orsippus, Like Minded, Bourne, Ski Sunday, Robinson Collonges, It’s A Gimme, Arthurian Legend, Kilmacowan, All The Aces, I’m So Lucky, Street Entertainer, Saphir River, Hazy Tom and Lava Lamp.
Around the far bend and into the home straight on the first occasion, Los Nadis continued to lead from Act Of Kalinisi and Dare Me. Orsippus made an error at the 4th. One of the greys, the Ruby Walsh ridden Robinson Collonges, was pulled up on the grandstand turn and dismounted. Bourne and Lava Lamp were at the rear of the field.
Heading out into the country, there was still no change at the head of affairs; Los Nadis leading from Act Of Kalinisi, Dare Me, Cape Dutch, Tour D’Argent, Art Professor, Like Minded, It’s A Gimme, Attaglance and Ski Sunday. Los Nadis retained the lead around the home turn, with many challengers queuing up behind him.
The runners fanned out across the course approaching three out; to the far side was It’s A Gimme, Tour D’Argent to his right, Los Nadis centre course, Cape Dutch to his right and Attaglance towards the stand-side rails. AP McCoy’s mount possibly had the advantage as they jumped 2 out but he hit it, losing momentum. This allowed the Barry Geraghty ridden Tour D’Argent to go on. He was soon joined by Attaglance as Cape Dutch and Los Nadis retreated. The grey Saphir River sneaking into the picture on the inside.
Barry Geraghty’s mount was a whisker ahead clearing the last but Attaglance kept on gamely on the run-in to win by 1¾ lengths. Tour D’Argent finished second, Los Nadis was 10 lengths back in 3rd, having held on by a neck from Saphir River. Hazy Tom stayed on to finish 5th. Orsippus fell 2 out, but was fine.
With Cape Tribulation winning yesterday and Attaglance today; Malcolm Jefferson had trained his first ever winners at the Aintree Festival. The horses had completed a remarkable ‘double double’, having both won at Cheltenham too. And they had both carried top weight to victory here at Aintree in very competitive handicaps.
Having returned to the Winners’ Enclosure via the Sefton entrance on the previous occasion, I did so again. Once the prizes had been presented I walked around to the main Parade Ring area to see Choc as he arrived ahead of the final race of the day. Once he had been legged up aboard his mount and exited from the Paddock I headed towards the entrance to the Derby enclosure.
It was then that I heard a commotion on the horse walkway to my right. It was Call Me A Star attempting to burst out through one of the gates leading onto the concourse. Choc was unseated in the process. Her stable lass had lost control of the animal, so Choc took over and leant his weight against the mare as she eagerly forced her way towards the racecourse. Her jockey was then legged up and Call Me A Star almost bolted out onto the racecourse but Choc remained in control, feet out of stirrups. Having reached the all-weather strip running beside the home straight, he put his feet in the irons and his mount cantered briskly to the start.
The starting gate for this race was in the far corner of the track. The one-eyed As I Am was kept away from the other runners at the start; as race time approached, they came out onto the course to join her. [Spookily, as I was about to write this section of my diary, her trainer/breeder, Don Cantillon was interviewed at Punchestown by ATR ... his unraced charge, Grand Gesture, then won one of their bumpers minutes later! And he claimed he took Grand Gesture to Ireland solely as a companion for As I Am who was due to run in another bumper the next day!]
Then they were off; first time. The field was led away by June French, from Diligent, As I Am, Umadachar, Missunited, Buxom, Doyly Carte, Hidden Lite, Rock Me Gently, Sun Lady, Ginger Fizz, Call Me A Star, Amber Cloud, Dr Machini, Blase Chevalier, Duchess Theatre, She Will Rock You, Eleven Fifty Nine, Flementime and Bonny Burnett.
Halfway down the home straight, Doyle Carte bobbled around as Jason Maguire restrained her, bumping into She Will Rock You and Blase Chevalier. Heading away from the stands, June French still led from Hidden Lite, Umadachar, As I Am, Diligent, Missunited, Buxom, Rock Me Gently, Ginger Fizz, Doyly Carte, Sun Lady, Call Me A Star, Dr Machini, Blase Chevalier, Amber Cloud, Duchess Theatre, Eleven Fifty Nine, Flementime, She Will Rock You and Bonnie Burnett still in rear.
Call Me A Star was just 5 or 6 lengths off the pace by the end of the back straight. As I Am went on around the top bend, from Umadachar, Buxom, Missunited and Call Me A Star. Rachael Green aboard Eleven Fifty Nine had been tracking Choc. Then, as the runners splayed out upon entering the home straight, she nipped up the inside as Choc steered Call Me A Star down the centre of the track.
Approaching the final furlong As I Am wandered towards the stand side under pressure, Choc switching his mount to the inside. Umadachar had headed down the far side; with a clear run, Eleven Fifty Nine to her right hand side had soon got the better of the former. Call Me A Star stayed on late under pressure but was held towards the line, Eleven Fifty Nine winning by 1½ lengths. Umadachar finished 3rd, As I Am in 4th; the Martin Keighley trained but inexperienced Flementime completed in 6th.
Considering the excitability of his mount today, it was a good result to finish second, despite starting as the race as favourite.
Once again I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure via the Sefton entrance. Having unsaddled his mount and briefed connections, I was rewarded with a helmet-less Choc as he weighed in upon the scales placed beside the podium.
Having then left the Winners’ Enclosure, Choc paused on the steps below the Weighing Room to speak with his parents and their companions before returning to its confines. It was my last view of Choc during this year’s Festival, and possibly for a few weeks too. L
To enable the crowds to disperse following racing, I waited for a while on the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure. I then headed to the ladies loo; there was a queue and, as always at the end of the day, the state of the toilets was disgusting!
I then set off to walk across the home straight to catch a bus back to the car park. Fortunately there was no queue and I arrived back at my vehicle in time to leave at 18:40. There was only a short queue to cross Anchor Bridge, and I turned left once outside the racecourse, joining a queue of very slow moving traffic to reach the Ormskirk Road. Once through the traffic lights I turned right, headed past Asda in the outside lane in order to turn right again at the next set of traffic lights; then a further right turn to commence my drive back down the M57.
Further down the motorway I moved into the inside lane which veered off down the slip-road and onto the A580. The road is very straight indeed and, after numerous sets of traffic lights, I arrived at the M6 junction, passing beneath the motorway and continuing in an easterly direction. I’m sure the speed limit has been increased on the A580, it now being 60 mph rather than 50 mph. About this time the heavens opened, and it was pouring with rain as I drove past the Premier Inn at Golborne and onwards to my chosen Travelodge at Lowton.
To reach the hotel I turned right at the traffic lights onto the B5207, then left at the next set of traffic lights and took the first left to enter the car park. It was still raining heavily as I parked up just across the way from the Travelodge. Next door was a Toby Carvery pub; a number of vehicles in the car park belonging to their clientele. It was 19:20. I waited for the rain to ease up, and I waited and waited ... the sky to the west suggested it would stop soon ... but it didn’t. In fact I waited until just before 20:00, at which time I decided that I’d have to make a move, the rain not being quite so heavy now.
I put on my jacket and my coat, and took my suitcase and two of my bags out of the boot too; leaving my shoe bag in the car. The path to the reception was just in front of me; when I got there it was unmanned, but a guy soon appeared to check me in. My room was on the first floor, at the car park end of the corridor. Doors ... one door to leave reception, a second to enter the stairwell and a third one to leave it. Then another one or two fire-doors located along the corridor prior to reaching my room. That will serve me right for not travelling light!!! It was a struggle. Why is there never a Sherpa when you need one?
My room was at the front of the Travelodge, overlooking the roof of the Toby Carvery. I couldn’t quite see my car from the window. It wasn’t as well maintained as a Premier Inn room but, at the end of a long day, it was a welcome bolt-hole. It was quite chilly, so I turned the heating on, hung up my coat and jacket, and rummaged in my ‘food bag’ to find something to eat. A bag of crisps and two hot cross buns; I wasn’t bothered enough to pay a visit to the Carvery.
I turned in at 21:00; watching Have I Got News For You and Not Going Out on the TV provided. I had dozed off before The Graham Norton Show, but woke later to switch the TV off. My alarm had been set for 06:00 in the morning.
Hopefully I would enjoy Grand National Day but, as in 2010, it wouldn’t be quite the same without Choc. Although, having said that, I do worry for his safety during the big race ... and during most races for that matter.
* * * * * * *
As my diary for this day is rather large, I’ve written two instalments ...
Click here to read my Aintree Diary 13 April 2012 Part I