DIARY – AINTREE FESTIVAL – GRAND NATIONAL DAY
– SATURDAY 10 APRIL 2010
The prize is finally his ...
AP McCoy returns triumphant aboard
the Jonjo O’Neill trained Don’t Push It
Having attended Day 2, Ladies Day, of the Aintree Festival, I spent the night at the Premier Inn in Golborne, setting my alarm for 06:00 in order to get an early start in preparation for Grand National Day. The day had dawned bright and sunny.
Breakfast was arranged for 08:00 at the adjoining pub, so I was ready to depart for the racecourse at 08:45. Having located my ticket and parking pass, I put them in a canvas carrier bag and then, stupidly, locked it in the car boot! I then set off in a westerly direction along the A580. As I was driving along, it suddenly dawned on me that I’d need my parking pass, so I stopped in a layby in order to have a rummage in the car boot. Having located the tickets I was on my way again, and soon proceeding northwards up the M57 motorway. I didn’t miss my turning today, and drove down past the Asda supermarket, turning left at the traffic lights where signposted.
My route then took me over the canal, via Anchor Bridge, and across the Grand National course, before I joined the queue to have my car security checked before I parked up. I’d arrived at the course at 09:10 and, as the gates didn’t open until 10:00 I had a long wait. Having sat in the car for a few minutes, I got out and locked the vehicle, and then got chatting with another spectator who had parked his car nearby.
I then went to wait near the entrance in preparation for gate opening time. Whilst I was waiting I purchased a racecard and, having read through the race entries, it confirmed that Choc did not have any riding engagements at Aintree today. When the gates opened, I was waived through the security ‘body’ check – presumably I didn’t look ‘shifty’ today and, besides there were only a limited number of racegoers they would have time to screen. I then walked across the Melling Road, across the park course, and caught a bus to the standside crossing point.
Having reached the Parade Ring side of the stands, my first task was to buy a copy of the Racing Post, where I discovered an article which confirmed Choc had gone to Chepstow to ride today. He had five riding engagements at Chepstow, and it would transpire that three of his rides would be pulled up, one being lame (Rupestrian), the other two both finished 5th in their respective races. In his Hound and Hound column Choc admitted he hated every moment of his afternoon at Chepstow, saying it seemed strange to watch the Grand National on TV for the first time since he was a schoolboy.
I was very disappointed that Choc wouldn’t be at Aintree, not even as a spectator. Oh well, I would try my best to enjoy my day.
I sat beside the Parade Ring for a short time, then went to find a suitable place on the steppings at the front of the Earl of Derby stand. As I was wearing high platform wedge shoes, I did sit down for a while to rest my feet, although it did become apparent later in the day that those who had sat down on the steps tended to gather grey concrete dust on their posteriors. But, fortunately, this didn’t happen to me as, although my skirt material did feel slightly strange, the dust was not visible!
As Choc wasn’t at Aintree, I remained in my chosen viewing spot throughout the course of the day. I had the best view possible in relation to my type of ticket, although I wasn’t in my favoured place just inside the horsewalk exit gate.
At one point, did I see Choc’s father walk along the concourse in front of the stands? Choc’s wife Meally remained at Aintree for Grand National day, as she’d pre-arranged to meet up with her younger sister, Sarah. However, I didn’t see her today. Although, in hindsight, I believe I may have seen her yesterday with a group of friends, in the vicinity of the Parade Ring/Weighing Room steps.
The Band and Bugles of the Rifles was parading and playing out on course at 11:15. Also prior to the races commencing, previous Grand National winners were paraded in the Paddock and then, a short time later, on the course itself, in front of the stands. I believe one of the winners, possibly Rough Quest, was held up in the race day traffic and failed to make the initial parade in the Paddock.
It was a 7 race card, the off time for the first race being 13:45. The start of this race was in the back straight, with one and three quarter circuits to travel.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Bygones Of Brid, closely followed by Sleepy Hollow, with Peddlers Cross prominent on the inside. A few yards before the second flight, Bygones of Brid jinked slightly as he approached and crossed the path (that’s the path which runs across the course to reach the car parking area where I had parked my car). Into the straight the order was still Bygones of Brid, from Sleepy Hollow, Peddlers Cross, and Najaf; Lucky William, Duke Of Lucca and Solway Sam were in rear.
Having been prominent on the outside of the field, A’dhere made an error at the 7th and soon lost his place. Into the home straight, Bygones Of Brid still held the advantage, from Sleepy Hollow, and Peddlers Cross, Vino Griego blundering 3 out, hampering the improving Duke Of Lucca.
Peddlers Cross swept into the lead just before the second last flight and went on to win by 2 lengths from Duke Of Lucca. Najaf, under Ruby Walsh, having been outpaced and pushed along in the back straight, stayed on the finish 3rd. Long time leader Bygones Of Brid completed in 4th.
The start of the next race was in the far corner of the track, with one and a half circuits to cover; the first obstacle being the cross fence.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Bedlam Boy, Overclear and Archie Boy. The grey, Noble Alan, was held up in rear, Schelm being the back marker.
As they passed the winning post with one circuit to go, Tataniano had now taken the lead. Schelm was already struggling when he made a mistake at the fifth fence, soon becoming detached from the field. Bedlam Boy briefly regained the advantage before Tataniano took up the running again over the sixth. Osana began to improve his position.
The diminutive Joe Jo Star blundered at the 8th, and crumpled on landing, when near the rear of the field.
Tataniano led into the home straight, Noble Alan having improved to take 2nd position by this stage. As Noble Alan began to fade, Osana came through to lead the remainder of the field, but none of the runners could get close to Tataniano, who won by 13 lengths easing up.
Bedlam Boy, having faded into last place, fell at the final obstacle but, fortunately both he and his jockey Graham Lee were fine. Schelm had been pulled up before 3 out, and Joe Jo Star and his jockey were okay too.
The start of this race was in the back straight, with one and three quarter circuits to travel.
Then they were off. The field was led away by the giant Quwetwo, followed by Petit Robin (reverting to hurdles) and Zaynar; Celestial Halo was held up in midfield. Champion Hurdle runner-up, Khyber Kim, was the least fluent over the first 2 obstacles. Towards the rear, Won In The Dark was noticeably sweating, and also made a jumping error at the 5th flight, dropping to the rear of the field.
Soon Petit Robin came to dispute the lead with Quwetwo, Celestial Halo now close upsides Zaynar in third.
Petit Robin led into the final straight from Quwetwo, Khyber Kim noticeably closer. Zaynar stumbled after third last when short of room, his jockey Barry Geraghty having to regain an iron as a result. Celestial Halo now led, but fell at the penultimate flight.
Khyber Kim, having been left in front by Celestial Halo’s departure, ran on to win by 5 lengths from Muirhead who had taken 2nd after the last, Zaynar and Won In The Dark fought out the minor honours to the line, the former claiming 3rd, Petit Robin fading into 5th.
Celestial Halo was okay following his fall, but Ruby Walsh had been kicked by Won In The Dark who was travelling in his wake, Ruby sustaining a fractured left arm as a result.
The start of this race was at the far end of the home straight, with just over two complete circuits to cover.
Then they were off. Dom D’Orgeval led the field way, Wogan was prominent on the outside, Rare Bob close on the inner. In rear, the grey Never So Blue landed slightly awkwardly over the first, and Wogan wasn’t fluent either. In rear Paddy Brennan’s mount, Carlitos, hit the second obstacle, then having jumped the third it became apparent that the horse was lame, so was quickly pulled up and dismounted. Rare Bob took up the running after the third obstacle.
Heading up the back straight, Jaunty Flight crashed out at the fourth fence. The mare, having got to her feet, looked distressed and collapsed again. However, she was okay, as she rose again and was led back by her jockey.
By the sixth fence, Wogan had pulled his way up through the field to dispute the lead with Rare Bob. Dom D’Orgeval was just behind the leaders.
Heading past the winning post with one circuit to go, the order was Wogan, Rare Bob, Dom D’Orgeval, Alderburn, Edgbriar, Au Courant, Seven Is My Number, From Dawn To Dusk, Sa Suffit, Daldini, Ma Yahab, Tatenen (jockey Nick Scholfield replacing the injured Ruby Walsh), Never So Blue, and Mister Quasimodo.
Into the back straight they turned, Wogan retained the lead until he hit both the 13th and 14th obstacles, this allowed Rare Bob to regain the advantage until he too, blundered badly at the 15th and it was Dom D’Orgeval’s turn to briefly lead, with Au Courant also in close order.
However, Rare Bob rallied under AP McCoy and led over the fourth last, holding the lead until Dom D’Orgeval set sail for home after 2 out, the open-ditch. His advantage didn’t last for long, as Richard Johnson drove From Dawn To Dusk into the lead as they approached the last and went on the win by 8 lengths.
Dom D’Orgeval completed in 2nd, Rare Bob in 3rd and Wogan 4th.
The guy standing next to me on the grandstand steps asked if there were enough runners to pay on the 4th home ... I said no, as I hadn’t realised there were that many runners. But there were actually 16 and, as it was a handicap, it was a winning each-way ticket. However ... I did admit my mistake to him shortly afterwards and he took it in good heart, despite being unable to find his betting slip, which I believe he’d already thrown away!!! However, Reg and I chatted throughout the remainder of the afternoon ... and we found the ‘ticket incident’ amusing, although he wouldn’t let me forget it. But, luckily, he seemed to have at least one winning betting ticket in each race and definitely went home ‘quids in’! Liverpudlian Reg was at the races with his father, and his brother Joe who was on a visit home, from Australia.
Reg asked me for my tips for the big race - I had 4 fancies – Character Building, Backstage, Comply or Die and Niche Market. And he went to put money on all of them!
As Ruby Walsh was injured, Barry Geraghty switched rides and would now be aboard Big Fella Thanks. I understand the ruling is that if a jockey has ridden a horse before, then he is permitted to switch from one horse to another when the original mount is still going to compete. The lucky replacement was Richard Johnson, who then took the ride aboard Barry’s original mount, Tricky Trickster. I can’t help wondering if Choc would have got the ride had he been at Aintree ...
Before the race one of the greys, King Johns Castle, dug his heels in, refusing to start. The horse’s trainer then came out onto the course, taking birch twigs from the ‘protector’ at the end of the rail, and then proceeded to strike the horse around its hindquarters ... however it was to no avail, as the horse although willing to move from his original spot, dug in his hooves and didn’t move when the field set off. The trainer, Arthur Moore, was clearly upset, as he got his handkerchief out to wipe his eyes as he headed back to the stands! He was, however, rightly cautioned by the Stewards.
A very short description of the Grand National I’m afraid, as I can’t cope with 39 horses over a distance of 4 and a half miles! Besides, everyone will have watched the race on TV!
The field was led away by Eric’s Charm, but he fell at the first. Hello Bud then assumed the lead until the 5th. Conna Castle took up the running between the 5th and 21st, Black Apalachi then taking over until headed before the last by the winner, Don’t Push It under AP McCoy.
The official result, and record of what happened to each of the runners was as follows:
And those which did not finish:
My best placed selection, Character Building, had finished 7th. But Reg was pleased as he had wagered on Don’t Push It! I later noticed that Don’t Push It had won the 4th race on Grand National day last year!
AP McCoy was a very popular winner, this being his first victory in the big race at his 15th attempt. A number of former champion jockeys had failed to win the event and it was beginning to look as if AP might suffer the same fate. It was also owner JP McManus’ first winner of the race, despite having had numerous runners in the race over the years. And it was the first winner of the race for trainer, and former jockey, Jonjo O’Neill, his probably best remembered association with the Grand National having been as the jockey of the ill-fated Alverton, who lost his life during the 1979 race just weeks after triumphing in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Jockey Wayne Hutchinson suffered a hand injury as a result of his first fence fall and missed a few days action. It was later discovered that Tom Siddall, having fallen aboard Palypso De Creek and then suffered a fall at Southwell the following day, had broken a bone in his neck and he’d be out of action for a few months.
Having watched the celebrations out on the course and as AP rode back in, I didn’t venture to the Winners’ Enclosure but remained in the stands in preparation for the next race.
The start of this race was at the far end of the course, with just under a circuit and a half to travel.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Dantari, then Stravinsky Dance, Issaquah, Grandad Bill, Gus Macrae, and Dee Ee Williams. At the rear were Rookery Rebel, Palomar, European Dream and Thumbs Up.
Palomar made a slight error at the second. Dee Ee Williams was prominent on the outside of the field. Issaquah came to dispute the lead with one circuit to go, and she and Dantari set up an advantage over the other runners. Around the final bend, Issaquah was still going well.
Issaquah was joined by Dee Ee Williams at the second last, the latter driven to lead in the final 100 yards. The winning distance was 6 lengths. Leslingtaylor, having made progress, stayed on to take 3rd, with Nearby in 4th. A win for the top weight.
It was soon time for the final race of the fixture. The start of this race was over in the far corner of the track, with one and a half circuits to travel.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Fishoutofwater, Dear Sam soon assuming the lead. These were followed by Whispering Hills and Don’t Turn Bach. Mic’s Delight was prominent on the outside of the closely packed field.
Fishoutofwater retook the lead 10 furlongs out, Dear Sam remaining prominent for much of the back straight before fading. Don’t Turn Bach and Whispering Hills were still prominent. Amuse Me, ridden by AP McCoy, was the first beaten, so was eased down and soon tailed off.
Into the home straight there were many of the runners still in with a chance, notably Fishoutofwater, Megastar, Dare Me and Whispering Hills. Megastar took the lead over 2 furlongs out, with Dare Me his pursuer. These two runners pulled clear of the field within the final furlong, the former fighting off the persistent challenge from Dare Me to prevail by 1½ lengths.
Having said cheerio to Reg and his family, I left the grandstand area, walking across the course to join the queue to catch the bus back to the car parking area. Unfortunately I’d not got my flat shoes with me otherwise I’d have walked back across the course instead.
Whilst I was waiting, a number of drunken spectators took it into their heads to run towards the water-jump, presumably with the aim of throwing themselves into it. Fortunately there were racecourse stewards on hand to intercept them.
As I’d not eaten for around 8 or 9 hours, I ate a quick snack before setting off in my car to join the queue out of the mid-course car park. Unfortunately coaches were being given priority over cars and, then, instead of being permitted to exit via Anchor Bridge over the canal, which is the route I know, my queue was directed to the left and along a very dusty track, then past the back of the grandstand area, taking a right turn onto the Ormskirk Road. Luckily this took me back to re-join my proposed route, but there was a massive tailback of traffic.
At 06:55 I finally reached the beginning of the M57 motorway. I headed south to join the M62 eastbound, then the M6 southbound. I remained on the old M6 through Birmingham, not venturing onto the toll road, and finally joined the M1, driving south to Hertfordshire. Darkness had fallen whilst I was driving through Birmingham. I originally thought I might have to stop for a rest-break but, in the event, this proved unnecessary.
I reached home at 09:55, my homebound journey having taken 3 hours. I made a note of my mileage, and the total journey distance over the two days was 432 miles.