DIARY – AINTREE FESTIVAL
GRAND NATIONAL DAY
SATURDAY 05 APRIL 2014
Winner of the Grade 1 Maghull Novices’ Chase,
Balder Succes ridden by Wayne Hutchinson
It was a second restless night at the Premier Inn. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the accommodation, I just couldn’t settle. I had taken my alarm clock with me, as in previous years, but did not set it; I felt under no pressure this year as regards timing my arrival at the racecourse.
I awoke, for the final time, at 06:20 today, showered, washed and dried my hair before applying moisturiser and dressing casually in blue jeggings, one of my thermal t-shirts and big blue cardigan to go to breakfast at 07:15.
The restaurant was almost deserted, just a family group in one of the window alcoves. I was given the choice of table today, so I sat on a 4-person table beside one of the windows overlooking the car park. I ordered an egg omelette, mushrooms and three rashers of bacon, before heading to the nearby ‘spread’ to see what other food was available whilst I waited.
I was very disappointed that there were no yoghurts today; it is my favourite part of this early morning meal. I had to settle for Weetabix and a sprinkling of fruit, plus a glass of apple juice. Having polished this off, my cooked breakfast then arrived and was soon consumed. I returned to my hotel room at 07:40, which left over 90 minutes for me to prepare for the day ahead. Glancing up at the outside of the Premier Inn itself, I was able to ascertain that my room was one of the larger central ones, like last year’s room; however this year there was no small divan bed to fill the extra space.
I applied my make-up, and dressed in today’s outfit. This was three thermal t-shirts – dark rose, purple and pink – black peplum cardigan, bright purple fleece, black gillet, and black summer skirt with beige roses print. I couldn’t decide which tights to wear, the black ones seemed to show every minute catch as I put them on, so I changed into a patterned pair, black with hearts … before deciding these made my legs look fat … so I finally decided upon a purple pair! No change there then!!!
M & S skirt
Black M & S peplum cardigan
(pink, purple, dark rose)
Bargain BHS coat
Black Clarks shoes, right
Scarf purchased at the
Lambourn Open Day 2011;
second from the right
I would wear my black coat as they had forecast rain showers throughout the day; it was pretty damp outside this morning, although not currently raining. My footwear would be decided upon when I arrived at the racecourse – burgundy ankle boots or beloved black Clark’s moccasin wedges; in the event I chose the latter.
It was then time to pack up all my belongings. Just time for a final check to make sure I’d not forgotten anything before I loaded up this yours truly Sherpa and headed downstairs with my suitcase, three bags and handbag. It was a struggle to get through the fire doors – one in the first floor corridor, one to enter and one to exit the stairwell, another to enter the reception area. I handed in my key to the guy on duty, before heading out to my car.
Having loaded up the vehicle, I set off at 09:20 for the racecourse. The route is just so easy; as the hotel is situated on an industrial estate alongside the A580; just to the east of the M6 and close to Haydock Park. The dual carriageway is as straight as a Roman road, with a 60 mph speed limit in the main; two roundabouts; the remainder of the junctions having traffic lights which, typically, I seemed to encounter on red in almost every case!
There was a small section of road-works approaching the M57, but these did not encroach on the junction itself. Having joined the motorway, I headed north to its termination point, followed by a left turn into the Ormskirk Road, past the Asda store on my left, under the railway bridge to join the back of the queue of traffic at the next junction.
Punters with badges to park in the centre course Steeplechase car park turn left into Aintree Lane, then bear around to the right to negotiate a number of speed bumps before reaching the Anchor Bridge entrance on the right. Along the route, the local scouts were advertising parking in an area beside their hut to raise money for their troop.
Today, there was a car holding up proceedings whilst the driver discussed something with one of the stewards. This meant that, having pulled into the central reservation, I couldn’t cross the road for a few minutes and traffic built up in a queue behind me, tailing back along Aintree Lane. After waiting a few moments, the driver ahead of me decided to join the short queue, thus blocking the road for the oncoming traffic; as a result, they had to negotiate a ‘chicane’ to get through.
It was also my lucky day, as an impatient maniac sports car driver decided to overtake the waiting queue on the wrong side of the road at speed, Vrrrrrroooooooooom, from the rear of the queue which had formed behind me. I’d rather not think about what would have happened if, at that moment, the entrance over Anchor Bridge had cleared and I’d decided to cross the oncoming lane which was clear of traffic at that moment in time. Albeit to say, my car would have been trashed if he’d hit me side on, as would I have been too. A trip to the local hospital in an ambulance would not have been my idea of a good Grand National day. Even the stewards at the entrance looked incredulous as the driver sped past on the wrong side of the road. There are some dickheads out there on the roads.
Having been asked to show both my car parking badge and my ticket on the two previous days, I had them ready on this occasion; the ‘Job’s Worth’ steward from Thursday and Friday had moved further up the bridge (he was annoying), so a different one checked the items today and let me through to drive over the canal; I chose to drive along the right-hand lane and got a little too far along the lane for them to re-direct me into the enclosed camping area on the left. My parking docket number today was 82, my Earl of Derby Terrace badge No.1 again.
Having arrived at the security check area, once again I was requested to open both the boot and the bonnet of the car so they could look inside. And today’s security guard actually believed me when I told him the bonnet wouldn’t open at present. Having been ‘cleared through customs’ so to speak, I was directed along the roadway to park on the grass area beyond; I was further back than on the previous two days, many visitors had arrived early today and I’d already noticed that a fairly lengthy queue had formed tailing back around the corner of the large hut-like building close to the entrance.
Having put on my shoes and coat I headed across the damp grass to reach the driveway and walk the short distance to the entrance; an umbrella was also required at this point in time. Today, on my way to join the queue, I purchased a race-card from the kiosk situated beside the driveway; cost £5.
Having reached the head of the queue, my ticket was scanned and my handbag searched; a different member of the security staff carried this out today. However, for the third day running, I was body scanned by the same older guy; he asked me if I’d be back next year. ‘Hopefully’, I replied. I crossed the Melling Road and set off across the turf and all-weather gallop to reach a bus which was waiting to take both spectators and workers to the grandstands’ side of the racecourse.
Soon the bus was full and we set off in a clockwise direction along the roadway to the inside of the park course. It is the road used by the emergency vehicles during the races. Having alighted at the far side, I walked across the green carpet to reach the betting ring. I realised that the inward course-crossing point had been moved three or four yards to the left since yesterday, thus helping to protect the grass by spreading the footfall over the duration of the fixture. The outward course-crossing point was situated to the winning-post side, and used by those people wishing to walk the Grand National course or visit Red Rum’s grave; I’ve done the former twice (in 2009 and 2012), but never visited the latter.
As always, the first task of the day was to visit the loo ... as I didn’t want to miss any of the action later in the afternoon. As everywhere was still damp, initially I set off to the steppings below the Weighing Room, but didn’t stay long as I couldn’t put my bag on the ground or lean against the wooden safety rails. So I went to the course-side rails for a while, to my usual spot beside the walkway entrance. The Military Wives choir were standing within the pulling-up area and rehearsing the National Anthem. Simon Claisse, Clerk of the Course at Cheltenham, had been walking the course today too.
However, the weather turned for the worse soon after, so I headed for the shelter of the area beneath the stairway which leads up to the Earl of Derby seating. As happens on all Grand National days before racing, there is a Parade of Champions when all the surviving winners of the big race are led around the Paddock; fortunately by this time the rain had stopped. I headed to the side of the Parade Ring to see the horses and to take photographs.
The parade was led by Lord Gyllene, winner of the 1997 event and 26-years-old now. Also making an appearance today were Red Marauder (2001), Bindaree (2002), Monty’s Pass (2003), Amberleigh House (2004), Hedgehunter (2005), Numbersixvalverde (2006), Silver Birch (2007), Comply Or Die (2008), Mon Mome (2009), Don’t Push It (2010), Ballabriggs (2011), and Neptune Collonges (2012). Unable to make the trip were the oldest currently surviving winner, Rough Quest (1996) aged 28, Papillon (2000) aged 25 and last year’s winner Auroras Encore who is still recovering from a career-ending injury sustained at Doncaster in January.
With the race sponsors having changed from John Smith to Crabbies this year, there was a noticeable lack of pre-races entertainment. Just a sole Hall of Fame inductee, but more about that later, and no Aintree Legends Charity race either when ex-jockeys used to compete in a flat race prior to the start of the proper race programme.
This being the case, I returned to the course-side rails in order to reserve my favourite spot before anyone else got there first! I was there in time to see the previous Grand National winners led up the course in front of the grandstands too ... however, Numbersixvalverde was a little late in arriving and was thus heading in the opposite direction as the others returned!
Eventually it was time for the first race of the day. Choc had a ride in this event, Wilde Blue Yonder, who was the 11-2 joint second favourite with Oscar Hoof; the Alan King runner trying the 2 mile 4 furlong trip for the first time. The favourite was Lac Fontana winner of this season’s County Hurdle; trained by Paul Nicholls, AP McCoy took the ride today as Daryl Jacob had been injured due to a freak accident at Cheltenham.
The starting gate for this race was located midway down the back straight, with two flights to negotiate before the far turn.
The runners having gone to the start, there was a minute’s applause in support of the Hillsborough 96 campaign. I presume this occurred after the runners had reached the starting gate so as not to scare any of the horses.
The runners circled the ‘island’ of rail dividing the hurdle and chase courses ahead of the race. Monkey Kingdom seemed a little reluctant to start having placed himself to the outside of this rail whilst the others continued walking clockwise around it. The Assistant Starter led him in initially and he rejoined the others as they jogged towards the tape. Then they were off, passing to the outside of the first flight in the back straight before heading through the starting gate and towards their first obstacle. The gathered spectators cheered ... but it was a feebler effort than is heard at Cheltenham!
Monkey Kingdom led narrowly from Splash Of Ginge and the blinkered Kayf Moss to his inside. Choc took a centre line aboard the keen Wilde Blue Yonder in mid-field, and Kilcooley against the rails brought up the rear. The runners crossed the pathway and cleared the second flight without incident before heading into the far turn, still led by Monkey Kingdom; Sea Lord now brought up the rear.
The horses travelled along the short stretch of track at the far end of the course and then turned into the home straight on the first occasion. Monkey Kingdom led from Splash Of Ginge, Kayf Moss, Dell’ Arca, Volnay De Thaix, Oscar Hoof, Wilde Blue Yonder, Lac Fontana, Un Ace, Kilcooley, the hurdling debutant No No Romeo and Sea Lord. Clearing the third hurdle, both Kayf Moss and Sea Lord were a little untidy.
Jumping the fourth flight, Lac Fontana was baulked slightly by Volnay De Thaix ahead of him; after the flight AP steered his mount to the nearside and encouraged him to overtake Richard Johnson’s mount in order to get a clear look at the fifth flight. There were no incidents here. The runners headed down past the grandstands and the winning post, now with one circuit to go. Monkey Kingdom continued to lead the field and held a two lengths advantage over his nearest pursuers.
The runners galloped the short distance past the hospitality boxes and entered the back straight; No No Romeo was now at the rear of the field. The pace increased as they headed to and cleared the first flight therein. Jamie Moore’s mount continued to lead, from Splash Of Ginge, Dell’ Arca, Lac Fontana, Oscar Hoof and Kayf Moss; Wilde Blue Yonder was next in the field, from Volnay De Thaix, Un Ace, Sea Lord, Kilcooley and No No Romeo. Choc’s mount tipped the top of the next, but it didn’t affect his momentum.
They crossed the pathway and headed to the next flight, which they cleared without incident; Kayf Moss had now dropped to the rear of the field and was being ridden along. The runners headed into the final turn, Monkey Kingdom still led but by only half a length; it was at this point that Wilde Blue Yonder got slightly squeezed for room between Dell’ Arca and Lac Fontana. (Oi, you lot, leave my Choc alone!)
Travelling around the turn, the long-time leader was soon swallowed up as first Splash of Ginge, then Lac Fontana, Dell’ Arca, Oscar Hoof, Wilde Blue Yonder, Volnay De Thaix and Sea Lord all passed by him.
The field entered the home straight and headed to the third last flight, Splash Of Ginge held a narrow advantage over this. To the inside, Oscar Hoof tipped the top and couldn’t get his landing gear out in time, giving Barry Geraghty a fall. The jockey was soon on his feet, holding on to the horse’s reins waiting for him to rise.
The leading group of six headed down to the penultimate flight; Sam Twiston-Davies still holding onto his advantage over Lac Fontana. Wilde Blue Yonder was in third, from Dell’ Arca, Volnay De Thaix and Sea Lord; Richard Johnson’s mount was a little awkward here. They cleared this and galloped to the last; and still Splash Of Ginge remained ahead as they jumped it. Wilde Blue Yonder made a small error here; after all, it was the last!
However, Lac Fontana under a strong drive from AP McCoy gradually wore down the leader’s advantage and went on to win by 1½ lengths at the line. Tom Scudamore and Choc battled it out for 3rd place, and they did close down the leaders as they approached the winning post; Dell’ Arca claimed it by half a length, and he was half a length behind Splash Of Ginge too. Volnay De Thaix finished 5th and Sea Lord 6th.
Sam is so sporting; he shook hands with AP having pulled up after the line. Oscar Hoof was fine following his fall; he was just winded and, once he was up on his feet, he was led back to the stables.
Despite Choc having finished 4th in this race, I decided not to return to the Winners’ Enclosure, as I was frightened of losing my vantage point ahead of the big race, even at this stage of the day! The same had happened at Cheltenham on Gold Cup Day when I’d stayed at the course-side rails despite Choc having finished 3rd in the County Hurdle aboard Montbazon. Although it must be stressed that if he’d been the winner on either occasion I would have definitely gone back to see him and to take photographs.
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE:
The Stewards noted that the winner, LAC FONTANA (FR), and DELL’ ARCA (IRE) placed third, had both interfered with WILDE BLUE YONDER (IRE), placed fourth, on the bend leaving the back straight but after viewing a recording of the incident they were satisfied that it neither involved a riding offence nor improved either LAC FONTANA (FR)’s or DELL’ ARCA (IRE)’s placing.
WHY THEY RAN BADLY
The Veterinary Officer reported that the gelding UN ACE (FR), which was pulled up, trained by Kim Bailey, had bled from the nose. The Stewards ordered UN ACE (FR) to be routine tested.
The favourite for the next race was Irish raider, Trifolium, trained by Charles Byrnes and ridden by AP McCoy; priced 11-4. The Alan King representative, Balder Success, ridden by Wayne Hutchinson was the second favourite at 7-2. The horse wasn’t entered at the Cheltenham Festival; he was being saved for this race and also a race at the Punchestown Festival on 01 May. Three of the seven runners were trained in Ireland.
The starting gate for the second race was in the far corner of the track; the cross fence being the first obstacle.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Next Sensation, who likes to front run. He was followed by Trifolium, to the outside Moscow Mannon who pecked slightly on landing over the cross-fence, and between these Balder Succes. Hinterland travelled in fifth position, followed by Ted Veale and Simply Ned.
Having cleared the first fence, the runners headed around the turn and into the home straight on the first occasion. There were no mishaps at the next, although Balder Succes got a little close to it, after which the field headed to the first open-ditch. At this stage, Hinterland was fighting for his head under Noel Fehily. All of the runners cleared this well and then travelled across the Grand National course, between the final fence and the Chair to reach fence number four on the Park course.
Next Sensation put in a good leap at this fence and led the field down past the grandstands, past the winning post and out into the country for the one and only time. The horses were travelling well within themselves and the leader held just a length and a half’s advantage over his nearest rival, Trifolium. Entering the back straight, both AP’s mount and Ted Veale got a little close to the first fence therein.
Tom Scudamore’s mount continued to lead as they cleared the next; there were no jumping errors here. The following fence was the open-ditch. Ted Veale was a little slow here having jumped out to his right. The field headed across the pathway and towards the final fence in the back straight. The leader was a little low at this one, having reached for the fence, but he continued to hold the advantage as they headed into the far turn. In second position was Trifolium, from Balder Success and Simply Ned. There was then a break in the field of two lengths to Moscow Mannon and Hinterland. Outpaced, Ted Veale was detached in rear.
Approaching the cross-fence, Trifolium drew alongside the leader. However, he made an error here which delayed his challenge initially. The runners entered the home straight and faced up to the third last; AP’s mount jumped the fence almost upsides Next Sensation. But, to the outside of this pair, Balder Succes was now just half a length down, and Simply Ned close up too to their inside. In fifth position, Moscow Mannon made a very bad error, which permitted the under pressure Hinterland to draw alongside him.
Heading to the penultimate fence, Balder Succes cruised up alongside the leading duo and he and Trifolium went on. Wayne’s mount put in the better jump here, as the Irish raider was a little awkward and lost time in the air; the Alan King runner moved into the lead on the run to the final fence, with both Trifolium and Simply Ned under strong pressure to close the gap.
However, it was sealed at the last when Balder Succes put in an almighty leap; he reached for the fence, cleared it with ease and landed running. Having gained ground in the air he was quickly away from the obstacle, and stretched away from his pursuer to win by 4 lengths at the line; his jockey saluting with his whip as he passed the winning post. Simply Ned won the battle with Trifolium for 2nd, and Moscow Mannon stayed on to pip Next Sensation by a head for 4th.
Wayne was absolutely thrilled to have won and, having pulled up, he patted his mount a number of times and gave him a brief hug too! He also shook his fist in delight. Not surprisingly the horse’s lad Steve Ayres was delighted with his charge too, hugging the horse as he greeted him before being led back. Alan King said he was very proud of his horse when interviewed by RUK.
Following the race, Balder Succes was installed at a best price of 20-1 for next season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase. RUK’s pundits believed he was now at the top of this year’s tree of novice 2-mile chasers.
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE:
WHY THEY RAN BADLY
It was also announced that the County Stand would be renamed the Lord Daresbury Stand and, hey presto, the first moment I looked at the name sign above the steppings it read County Stand, and just a minute or two later, it read Lord Daresbury Stand!
The favourite for the next race was At Fishers Cross, trained by Rebecca Curtis and ridden by AP McCoy; his price 11-8.
The starting gate for this event was situated part way up the home straight, with one flight and then two full circuits of the course to travel.
And then they were off, having walked towards the starting gate at a sedate pace. Zarkandar led the runners over the first flight, from At Fishers Cross, Melodic Rendezvous, Whisper who was sweating and pulling, the grey Thousand Stars, Salubrious and The Knoxs. The runners continued down past the grandstands and past the winning post on the first occasion. AP’s mount was keeping close tabs on the leader, drawing almost upsides as they negotiated the grandstand bend. This duo held a three length advantage over the main body of the field.
The horses headed along the side of the track past the hospitality boxes and entered the back straight. The pace of the leading duo began to stretch out the pursuers. They cleared flight number two; Whisper bunny-hopped it and The Knoxs in rear did a cross between a bunny-hop and a paddle! The leaders headed on to the next flight; At Fishers Cross demonstrating his preference to jump out to his right, and Whisper not fluent again as he landed on all fours.
They proceeded across the pathway, and headed towards flight number four; Melodic Rendezvous the least fluent jumper at this one. Zarkandar and At Fishers Cross matched strides as they entered the far turn and travelled across the top of the course; their lead now eight lengths. Having turned into the home straight and jumped the next flight, the leading duo’s margin over the field was now greatly reduced. At the next flight, yet again Whisper was less than fluent. There were no noticeable errors as the runners crossed the next; with At Fishers Cross continuing to jump out to this right.
The seven competitors galloped down past the grandstands and the winning post once more before heading around the turn; one more circuit to go. The runners travelled along the track past the hospitality boxes and into the back straight once more. The duo leading were four or five lengths clear of the main group led by Melodic Rendezvous. There were no jumping errors at the first flight in the back straight, but the aforementioned was less than fluent at the next.
The field headed over the pathway and jumped the next flight; Zarkandar landed on all fours. The leaders’ advantage had reduced slightly as they headed into the final turn; Thousand Stars now a couple of lengths adrift at the back of the field. The runners negotiated the bend and entered the home straight for the final time. Zarkandar and At Fishers Cross were still locked in battle at the head of affairs; two or three lengths behind, Whisper and Salubrious were endeavouring to hunt them down as Melodic Rendezvous began to lose ground.
Zarkandar and At Fishers Cross led over three out; the latter continued to jump out to his right. Whisper and Salubrious continued to gain upon them as they approached two out. To the inside of the track Noel Fehily’s mount was beginning to tire and landed on all fours over this. Harry Derham had chosen to steer his partner to the outside of the runners and, as a result, was hampered when At Fishers Cross jumped out to his right and across his path!
The battle was still joined as the leaders headed to the final flight. It was Whisper who took off marginally ahead of At Fishers Cross over this hurdle. Salubrious had now begun to tire and made a jumping error at the last; he was disputing third with Zarkandar now. The leading duo headed for the line, they were being driven hard by their respective jockeys and, although AP’s mount did close the gap, slightly, Whisper won by a length.
Thousand Stars stayed on through beaten horses to claim 3rd, with Zarkandar 4th, Salubrious 5th, and The Knoxs 6th. Melodic Rendezvous hadn’t seen out the trip and was eased to finish a tailed-off last.
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE:
WHY THEY RAN BADLY
Following the third race I got chatting to a couple of racegoers. They were endeavouring to visit as many racecourses as possible and this was the first time they’d been to Aintree; the lady was shocked by the state of some of the women who attended the meeting – inappropriate clothes and behaviour. I had to agree with her, it does spoil it somewhat. The following weekend they’d be heading to Ayr for the Scottish Grand National meeting.
seemed to lose my ‘spot’ as a
result of my chat, which was annoying as I’d managed to retain it thus far;
including foregoing the option of seeing Choc return to the Winners’
Enclosure having finished 4th in the earlier race.
The starting gate for the next race was at the far end of the home straight, with that and two full circuits to travel.
Then they were off; or at least sixteen of the runners were. The exception being Carruthers who was kept away from the other horses as they circled within the infield. He joined the group as they exited onto the racecourse but the group was so tightly packed that the horse touched the plastic rail, jinked and Nico de Boinville fell off; the jockey walked away uninjured.
The remaining runners headed towards the first fence; leading over it were Minella For Value, Unioniste, Kian’s Delight, Vino Griego and Gullinbursti. There were no further mishaps and the field headed to towards fence number two, an open-ditch; the light grey Our Mick, ridden by Wayne Hutchinson, jumped into the lead at this fence. At the rear of the field was the favourite Victor Hewgo.
Wayne’s mount got in a little close to the third fence, as did Unioniste; near the rear of the field Sir Du Bearn was baulked by Wetak. The runners headed down past the winning post and out onto the first of two complete circuits. Our Mick continued at the head of affairs, from Minella For Value, Kian’s Delight, Vino Griego, Gullinbursti, Renard, Golden Chieftain, Unioniste, Duke Of Lucca, Saint Are, Wiesentraum, Wetak, Johns Spirit, Sir Du Bearn, Tranquil Sea and Victor Hewgo.
Having travelled past the hospitality boxes Our Mick led the field into the back straight, the loose horse upsides him. He held a clear advantage over the field; all of which cleared the next fence without incident. Johns Spirit got a little low at the next; he dragged spruce from the apron so that it lay across the top of the fence. Kian’s Delight took off too soon at the open-ditch and stepped through the birch; Brian Hughes clung onto his reins, regained his balance and continued. But he did drop back to mid-field.
The field cleared the final fence in the back straight without incident; Saint Are was being ridden along three from the rear at this stage. Our Mick led the runners around the top bend heading to the cross-fence; having bypassed the open-ditch, the loose Carruthers was travelling upon the hurdles track and well out of the way of the remaining runners.
The field negotiated the cross-fence, where Victor Hewgo in rear made a bad error; James Reveley called a cab and had to rearrange his reins upon landing. Shortly afterwards the partnership called it a day. Our Mick continued to lead as the field turned into the home straight and headed over the next fence, where Vino Griego made a mistake. Tranquil Sea now travelled at the rear of the field, detached by a number of lengths.
Unioniste made a bad error at the following fence, an open-ditch. Our Mick extended his lead once more as he headed down to and jumped the fence in front of the stands. His nearest pursuers were Gullinbursti, Vino Griego and Minella For Value. Having passed the winning post with one circuit to go, the leader was five or six lengths clear of the others. He headed around the grandstand bend, past the hospitality boxes once more and entered the back straight for the final time.
Having taken a route along the hurdles track, Carruthers soon arrived within the ‘corral’ just to the front of where I was standing. He entered at a rate of knots and, initially, it appeared he might jump the centre plastic rail dividing the two halves of it. However, he also had excellent brakes and applied these to very good effect. His trainer soon arrived and he was led back to the stables unscathed.
Meanwhile, Our Mick travelled strongly at the head of affairs and the field began to string out behind the leader. Saint Are hit the first in the back straight and fell, slightly hampering Tranquil Sea in the process. The horse rose quickly and uninjured followed the others, his jockey sat up and was attended by medics. There were a few untidy leaps at the back of the field heading over the next fence; namely from Wiesentraum and Johns Spirit, and from Tranquil Sea and Sir Du Bearn who bumped in the air.
His pursuers were closing as Our Mick reached the open-ditch; he made an error and his advantage was in danger of being lost. Again at the rear of the field the errors were coming thick and fast; Johns Spirit ploughed through the final fence in the back straight, there was also another error from Wiesentraum and from Sir Du Bearn.
Wayne had gathered up his mount once more and his lead had extended to four or five lengths as he headed to the cross-fence; which all the remaining runners cleared without incident. However, a number of runners were now in hot pursuit and his advantage had been reduced to a length as he cleared the third last. Vino Griego drew alongside as they jumped the final open-ditch. Duke Of Lucca, to the inside, just a length behind the leading duo.
It is a long run between the second last and last on Aintree’s park course; approaching the last fence, Vino Griego and Duke Of Lucca extended their advantage over Our Mick as the latter tired. Golden Chietain was gaining upon the grey, and Gullinbursti was staying on even better, towards the last.
Duke Of Lucca held a narrow advantage as they cleared the final obstacle, and got away from the fence the quicker. However, on the run to the line, Vino Griego began to inch closer again with every stride but he ran out of time; the winning distance a head. Gullinbursti stayed on the take 3rd, with Kian’s Delight recovering from his early blunder to take 4th. Golden Chieftain completed in 5th, with Our Mick 6th.
I remained beside the course-side rails; hoping to obtain a good vantage point prior to the Grand National.
The horses returned to the Winners’ Enclosure via the usual route but, once unsaddled, they were led back via the walkway onto the racecourse to return to the stables. The usual route to the stables was choc-a-bloc with Grand National entries heading in the opposite direction and thus prevented them from using it.
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE:
WHY THEY RAN BADLY
considered the running of UNIONISTE (FR) ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies
and trained by Paul Nicholls, which finished unplaced. They noted the trainer
could offer no explanation for the gelding’s performance. They ordered
UNIONISTE (FR) to be routine tested.
That’s it for this section of the diary ...