PART I

DIARY – AINTREE FESTIVAL

GRAND NATIONAL DAY

SATURDAY 11 APRIL 2015

 

Whisper.jpg

 

 

Winner of the Grade 1 Stayers’ Hurdle (Liverpool Hurdle) -

Whisper trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Nico de Boinville

 

 

I woke up at 02:00 ... and couldn’t get back to sleep until 03:30.  I’d set my alarm for 05:45, so didn’t get a whole lot of rest overnight.  And I have to confess I experienced a strange dream too – I was looking for Choc but couldn’t find him.  I can only assume he had been the subject of my dream because I was hopeful I’d bump into him at some point during my forthcoming day at Aintree. 

In my dream even Channel 4’s Alice Plunkett had found and interviewed him but, by the time I arrived, Choc was nowhere to be seen.  I didn’t discover whether I would have eventually met up with my favourite jockey, because the alarm sounded and woke me up!  

Having gone to breakfast at 07:00, Sandra and I were seated in the main part of the restaurant overlooking the car park; I’ve sat there for breakfast before too.  I also took a couple of my bags down to my car on the way to breakfast, as I wasn’t staying for a third night and had too many for one journey.  It was raining this morning, but with the promise of a fine day ahead, although windy.  

Again I had the full English breakfast; three rashers of bacon, two fried eggs, a fried tomato, and mushrooms.  Also two yoghurts, exactly the same flavours as the previous day, and a glass of cranberry juice.  I may or may not have had a cup of coffee; I don’t recall!  We had returned to our rooms by 08:00, in time to watch the first hour of Channel 4’s The Morning Line; it was a two hour programme today. 

Having been dressed casually for breakfast, I changed into my Grand National Day outfit.  I wore my purple top, mauve cardigan and M & S Limited Edition purple/turquoise skirt.  The wind-chill factor was due to play a part in temperatures today so, despite not wearing any of my thermal T-shirts, I did decide to wear my purple fleece and black gillet. I would wear my black Hotter shoes again; I transferred the insoles from my black Clarks wedges to today’s selection.  I’d only put the insoles into the wedges since Cheltenham when, for the first time ever, they had been a little ‘hard’ underfoot.  I presume it’s because they are getting old; just like me! 

 

I’d make my decision as regards coat or jacket once at Aintree; in the event I chose to wear my black BHS bargain coat, worn with multi-coloured River Island scarf.  It was only the third ever outing for the coat; twice at last year’s Aintree Festival, and once at this.    

 

 

Cardigan Day 3.jpg

Skirt Day 3 a.jpg

Top Day 3.jpg

Mauve BHS cardigan

M & S

Limited Edition skirt

M & S Per Una

purple top

P4122395 r.jpg

Fleece Day 3.jpg

Gillet Day 3.jpg

Bargain BHS coat

Purple M & S fleece

Black M & S gillet

Aintree Shoes 2015.jpg

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Aintree Scarves 2015.jpg

I wore my black Hotter ‘Clarissa’ style shoes today (second from right)

Fired Creations jewellery

I wore the scarf pictured centre today;

a River Island one

 

 

With all of my belongings packed in the car we were ready to go.  Sandra and I set off for Aintree at around 09:15; I’d drop her back at the hotel tonight before then heading home.  We arrived at the racecourse at around 10:00, and I persuaded the security staff that they really didn’t want to open the bonnet of my car after Thursday’s problems – the guy vaguely remembered the incident and didn’t insist. 

Having parked, in section 13 again but one car from the roadway this time, we walked to the entry point, purchasing our programmes from a kiosk close to the Melling Road entrance; they were priced £5 today, as opposed to just £4 for each of the previous two days.  Having been cleared through security, we caught the bus to the grandstands side of the racecourse. 

Where is the best place to stand when searching for a particular jockey, whether it is one riding today or on the sidelines?  Upon the steppings below the Weighing Room of course!  So, having arrived within the main enclosures by 10:15, we made a beeline for the steppings.  When we arrived, Channel 4’s Gok Wan and chef Simon Rimmer were doing a piece to camera whilst standing beside the Winners’ Enclosure rails. 

To mark his impending retirement, AP McCoy set off to the old Weighing Room to be presented with a montage of photos; and the bar which now occupies the building was also renamed McCoy’s to commemorate him. 

We saw a number of jockeys whilst we were waiting on the steppings; but there was no sign of Choc unfortunately. However, Sandra did obtain Ruby Walsh’s autograph and Sam Waley-Cohen’s too.  A little later in the morning, we saw Choc’s mum Sally and her companions again; hopefully that boded well for later in the day. 

As always on Grand National Day there is a Parade of Champions.  This year’s oldest attendee was Lord Gyllene (1997); also appearing were Red Marauder (2001), Bindaree (2002), Amberleigh House (2004), Hedgehunter (2005), Numbersixvalverde (2006), Silver Birch (2007), Comply Or Die (2008), Mon Mome (2009), Don’t Push It (2010), Ballabriggs (2011), Neptune Collonges (2012) and Auroras Encore (2013).  It was good to see the latter in fine health, having suffered an injury in early 2014 which ended his career.  Last year’s victor, Pineau De Re, was competing in this year’s race.  

There is a mistake in the race-card – Numbersixvalverde (2006) has been omitted, instead Hedgehunter is listed as the 2006 winner when he, in fact, won the race in 2005!

There was also a demonstration by HorseBack UK; the charity provides equine therapy  to help veterans and serving soldiers overcome mental and physical injuries and trauma received in the line of duty; they’d brought along a couple of miniature Shetland ponies.  Also appearing were Peopleton Brook plus Monkerhostin ridden by George Beilby, both had taken part in Thursday’s RoR presentation too; George was dressed in uniform today.

 

We stayed put on the steppings until we thought it wise to seek out our usual viewing location ahead of the first race; we just caught the tail-end of the ‘on the course’ Parade of Champions. 

The favourite for the first race was Nichols Canyon, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh; price 3-1.  Days Of Heaven was an absolute lunatic; he needed two handlers to lead him out onto the racecourse, at which point he was handed over to a mounted escort to be ponied to the start!  The pony and rider remained with the Nicky Henderson runner until the field began to jog towards the tape. 

If I’d had a bet on a runner in this race it would have had to be Three Musketeers ... I love the BBC1 Musketeers, especially Aramis played by Santiago Cabrera!   He was born in a vintage year ... 1978 – just like the lovely Choc!

The starting gate for this race was located midway down the back straight, with two flights to negotiate before the far turn. 

Race 1

Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)

Distance

2 miles 4 furlongs (11 hurdles to negotiate)

No. of Runners

12

As De Mee, Ballybolley, Days Of Heaven, Go West Young Man, Grand Partner, Mckinley, Mister Fizz, Nichols Canyon, Paulour Games, Seedling, Sub Lieutenant, Three Musketeers

 

And then they were off ... to the sound of a loud cheer from the expectant crowd.  Go West Young Man took a little while to get into his stride and AP McCoy had anchored Parlour Games at the rear of the field; Ballybolley held a very slight advantage as the runners cleared the first flight.  They then headed towards the next, crossing the pathway in the process; the same pathway I walk across to reach the Steeplechase car park on the far side of the Melling Road. 

 

The Nigel Twiston-Davies runner led over this one, from Mister Fizz, Mckinley who landed a little awkwardly, Nichols Canyon, As De Mee, Sub Lieutenant, Days Of Heaven, the extremely quirky Go West Young Man which has the habit of snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory, Three Musketeers, Grand Partner, Seedling and Parlour Games. 

 

The runners headed around the top bend, with Mister Fizz and McKinley keeping close tabs on the leader and Nichols Canyon travelling in his slipstream.  Ballybolley went into a clear lead under Daryl Jacob having cleared flight number three.  Go West Young Man departed at the next hurdle when amongst runners; he appeared to stumble on landing, depositing Jake Greenall on the turf.  Grand Partner, who had been travelling in his slipstream, was hampered by the prostrate jockey and only just managed to steer to the correct side of the rails that recommenced shortly after the flight.     

 

The remaining runners continued their journey down the home straight and over the next.  However, at the rear of the field, Grand Partner appeared to be struggling and had lost touch with the main body of the field.  Ballybolley led the runners around the grandstand bend; in midfield, Three Musketeers was a little short of room to the inside of the track and, as a result, to his outside Days Of Heaven got squeezed up between the former and Sub Lieutenant.

 

Meanwhile, up front, the hooded Ballybolley continued to hold a narrow advantage over Mister Fizz, with Parlour Games at the rear of the main group.  Having turned into the back straight and to the inside of the field, Three Musketeers flattened the inside panel of the next flight.  Paul Carberry pulled up Grand Partner having cleared this one; he’d given his mount time to recover from the earlier incident but to no avail.  The horses continued their journey, with Sub Lieutenant making an error at flight number seven, after which he was being pushed along.

 

The horses cleared the next flight without incident before heading into the far turn; Ballybolley still led, with Master Fizz to his outside.  McKinley was bumped along for a few strides in third position, from the hooded As De Mee, Nichols Canyon, Sub Lieutenant, Three Musketeers, Days Of Heaven, Parlour Games and Seedling.  Heading off the final turn, the race began in earnest as the runners headed towards the third last flight. 

 

Ballybolley led over it, from centre McKinley, Mister Fizz between them, Nichols Canyon to the far side and As De Mee near side.  At the rear of the field, Seedling and Sub Lieutenant bumped each other on landing.  The action began to happen to the far side, with Nichols Canyon now making his challenge to the leader, with Parlour Games and Three Musketeers following him through.  Ruby Walsh’s mount jumped into the lead over the penultimate flight, with Parlour Games in hot pursuit, also Three Musketeers.  The tiring Seedling fell at the flight. 

 

The leaders headed down to the final hurdle, with AP McCoy’s mount just a length behind as they cleared it.  But, with Nichols Canyon being a smaller and speedier type of animal, he soon extended his advantage over his nearest rival to win by officially 4½ lengths at the line; although it looked like more than that!  Three Musketeers completed a further seven lengths away in third, with Sub Lieutenant staying on to deny Ballybolley 4th position close to the line. 

 

Sadly Seedling had landed upon his neck as he fell and it proved fatal; the green screens were soon erected and a loosebox was manoeuvred into place to take his body away.          

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Nichols Canyon

Ruby Walsh

Willie Mullins

2nd

Parlour Games

AP McCoy

John Ferguson

3rd

Three Musketeers

Harry Skelton

Dan Skelton

4th

Sub Lieutenant

Jonathan Burke

Sandra Hughes

 

When interviewed, Ruby Walsh said that the horse did not settle until the second last when running at Cheltenham, at which point he had made an error, thus resulting in a disappointing third place in the Neptune.  Today’s plan had been to lead but, as Daryl Jacob wanted too also, it was decided that whoever got to the first flight first would make the running; hence it had been Ballybolley and Ruby was thus pleased to settle in behind them.  

 

Willie Mullins said that he was surprised at how well the horse had run, because he didn’t look well in his coat today.  Plans would be to go back on the flat, as it was thought the Punchestown Festival would come too soon. 

 

Sandra had a bet on Nichols Canyon so was a winner too!  I cannot bet on an Irish runner on principal!!!

 

Race 1 - 1:30pm

THE WORLD FAMOUS JUST EAT MERSEY NOVICES' HURDLE RACE (CLASS 1) (Grade 1)

No Stewards Enquiry.

Paul Carberry, the rider of GRAND PARTNER (IRE), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding was hampered by a faller at the fourth hurdle and was never travelling thereafter. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of GRAND PARTNER (IRE) failed to reveal any abnormalities.

Peter Carberry, the rider of DAYS OF HEAVEN (FR), unplaced, reported that the gelding ran flat. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of DAYS OF HEAVEN (FR) during routine testing failed to reveal any abnormalities.

 

We saw Steve Ayres, Balder Succes’ lad on a number of occasions today, including when he put an item of rubbish in a nearby bin and when he was watching a race from upon the steppings within our enclosure; he seemed okay, but obviously at this stage he was still hopeful that Balder Succes would be okay. 

A field of just six runners for the two mile Grade 1 Novices’ Chase, with the favourite being God’s Own, trained by Tom George and ridden by Paddy Brennan; price 15-8.  The horse had finished second in this year’s Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival, beaten by Un De Sceaux that day. 

The Gary Moore runner was ridden by Leighton Aspell, deputising for the injured Josh Moore who had broken a collarbone when falling aboard Sire De Grugy the previous day; Jamie Moore was already side-lined due to a freak injury which had occurred on Towcester’s horse-walk recently.   

The starting gate for the second race was in the far corner of the track; the cross fence being the first obstacle.

Race 2

Maghull Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)

Distance

2 miles (12 fences to negotiate)

No. of Runners

6

Art Mauresque, Court Minstrel, God’s Own, Sizing Granite, Solar Impulse, Traffic Fluide

 

And then they were off, with the hooded second-string Paul Nicholls-runner Art Mauresque leading the way from stable-mate Solar Impulse and Irish-raider Sizing Granite; Solar Impulse sported the colours of the Wylie’s, and Sizing Granite those of the Pott’s.  There was a little bit of argy bargy at the first fence, which was the cross-fence; God’s Own jumped out to his right, Traffic Fluide to his left, which left Court Minstrel a little short of room being the meat in the sandwich just behind them. 

 

Art Mauresque led the runners around the turn and into the home straight; there were no problems at fence number two, although Court Minstrel in rear received a slap down his shoulder as they galloped away from it.  The next fence is the first of the open-ditches; there were again no incidents, although God’s Own continued to display a slight tendency to jump out to his right.  The six competitors then travelled across the Grand National course and down to obstacle number four, where the leader jumped it with plenty of room to spare. 

 

The runners then headed down past the winning post, now with one circuit to travel.  Art Mauresque continued to lead from Solar Impulse, Traffic Fluide and Sizing Granite; these three line across the track.  Bringing up the rear were God’s Own and Court Minstrel.  The leader went a little wide on the grandstand turn, but jockey Nick Scholfield soon had him back on track as they headed around the corner and into the back straight for the one and only time.

 

The field continued their journey and jumped fence number five, where Traffic Fluide got in a little bit close; just a minor error though.  God’s Own took off too soon at the next and dragged his hind-legs through the fence as a result; the runners then headed to the second of the open-ditches; the leader made a mistake here but he still retained the lead, although by less than a length at this point.  The six closely grouped competitors then traversed the pathway before reaching the final fence before the far turn.

 

The leader reached for this fence but got safely to the other side.  The runners headed into the bend in revised order; although Nick Scholfield’s mount still led, Sizing Granite was in second position, from Traffic Fluide, Solar Impulse, Court Minstrel and God’s Own.  The leader was again a little bit unbalanced as they came off the bend to straighten up ahead of the cross-fence.  The cheek-pieced Solar Impulse found himself short of room on the inside and made a bad mistake at the fence; as a result he was soon relegated to the rear of the field.  God’s Own jumped out to his right over this one and collided with Court Minstrel’s quarters too. 

 

Meanwhile Sizing Granite had cruised up almost alongside the leader; the latter was now being bumped along in an attempt to retain his advantage.  Also, God’s Own was travelling particularly well in fifth position.  The runners cleared three out without incident and began their journey towards the final open-ditch.  Art Mauresque, now a spent force, was soon swallowed up by Sizing Granite to his outside and Traffic Fluide to his inside.  These two went on as they jumped the fence, and they were followed through by God’s Own and Court Minstrel; the two Paul Nicholls runners now relegated to the final two places.

 

Once ahead, Sizing Granite wandered around a little but he still continued to pull away from his three pursuing rivals and held a two or three lengths advantage as they cleared the final fence.  His rivals jumped it in unison but Court Minstrel blundered badly and dropped back; however God’s Own jumped it big and bold and landed running.  This meant that the gap between him and the leader began to close as they headed to the line, but the Irish runner held on to win by a length.  Traffic Fluide claimed 3rd place 2¼ lengths back, with Court Minstrel a further 3¼ lengths away in 4th.  Art Mauresque and Solar Impulse came home in their own time.  

 

Looking at the head-on recording, it appeared that Court Minstrel may have been a little unlucky not to finish nearer as, once again, the wayward God’s Own had jumped out to his right and made contact as they cleared the last fence. 

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Sizing Granite

Jonathan Burke

Henry de Bromhead

2nd

God’s Own

Paddy Brennan

Tom George

3rd

Traffic Fluide

Leighton Aspell

Gary Moore

4th

Court Minstrel

Paul Moloney

Evan Williams

 

Having started as an amateur rider three years previously, winning jockey Jonathan Burke had only been riding as a professional for seven months.  Jonathan was appointed first jockey to the owners, Ann and Alan Potts, last September; he took over the role from Andrew Lynch.  The son of trainer Liam Burke, he is still a teenager and, at this point in time, can claim 3 pounds in races where it is permissible.  Jonathan is hoping to ride in the Grand National at some point in the future; his intended ride this year missed the ballot cut by three.   More

 

Sizing Granite had missed the Arkle because the owners and trainer already had Smashing entered for that race but Henry de Bromhead said he’d been very disappointed to see Un De Sceaux amongst today’s entries earlier in the week and was about to change his mind about running when he got wind that the Willie Mullins horse would not make an appearance after all.  Sizing Granite needs to be fresh and has been backward; now seven, Henry hopes to aim him at two-mile graded races next season – he disappointed when raced over a longer distance previously. 

 

The favourite for the next event was World Hurdle winner Cole Harden, trained by Warren Greatrex and ridden by Gavin Sheehan; price 2-1.  Also in the race was Zarkandar who had made a bad error two out in the aforementioned Grade 1 event and was considered as unlucky that day.  Another competitor was last year’s victor Whisper, today ridden by Nico de Boinville in the absence of the injured Barry Geraghty.

 

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.

 

Race 3

Stayers’ Hurdle Race (registered as the Liverpool Hurdle) (Grade 1)

Distance

3 miles 110 yards (13 hurdles to negotiate)

No. of Runners

9

Blue Fashion, Brother Brian, Cole Harden, Crack Away Jack, Henryville, Jetson, Un Temps Pour Tout, Whisper, Zarkandar

 

And then they were off.  It was no surprise that Cole Harden led them away; he was followed by Ruby Walsh wearing the luminous orange with black silks aboard Jetson, to his inside the blinkered Zarkandar under Sam Twiston-Davies.  Behind these was Whisper to the inside, upsides the white-faced Blue Fashion and the first-time blinkered Un Temps Per Tout.  Bringing up the rear a couple of lengths adrift, were Crack Away Jack, Brother Brian and the hooded as always, Henryville.  Brother Brian reached slightly for the first flight.

 

The nine competitors headed down the home straight and past the winning post on the first occasion.  The World Hurdle winner continued to lead the way from Jetson; Brother Brian now brought up the rear with around a dozen lengths covering first to last.  Heading into the back straight and over flight number two, the leading group of six had set up a very clear advantage over the trailing three.  Henryville, two from the back, made an error at the next hurdle.  The runners continued their journey across the pathway to reach flight four.  There were no real problems as they cleared it in their stride.

 

Cole Harden had a three length advantage as they headed into the top turn, from Jetson and Un Temps Pour Tout who now disputed second position.  Zarkandar followed these, from Blue Fashion and Whisper; Crack Away Jack, Henryville and Brother Brian still detached in rear.  The leader continued to dictate the pace as they entered the home straight to approach flight number five; they all cleared this without incident.  However, Blue Fashion landed a little awkwardly over the next and was pushed along by jockey David Bass for a few strides. 

 

The leader got in a little close to the seventh flight but he remained ahead, pursued by Un Temps Pour Tout, Zarkandar and Whisper.  There was now a short break in the field to Blue Fashion, Crack Away Jack, the retreating and pushed along Jetson, Henryville and Brother Brian; although the runners were now more closely grouped as a whole.  Gavin Sheehan aboard the leader glanced under his right arm to check upon his rivals as they headed down the straight towards the winning post; just one circuit now to travel.

 

Negotiating the grandstand bend, Ruby Walsh’s mount was now to be found at the rear of the field.  Heading into the back straight, the leading five had extended their lead over their rivals, still led by Cole Harden; the leader put in a lovely leap at the next flight; whereas Henryville way back in the field was less than fluent at this one.  A couple of panels in the middle hurdle in the back straight were trashed by the runners, as Zarkandar hit the inside one, and Blue Fashion clobbered the adjacent but one panel.  Blue Fashion came under pressure as they travelled away from it and Ruby Walsh pulled up Jetson having become tailed off by this point.

 

The remaining eight traversed the pathway to reach four out; Cole Harden got a little close to this one.  The leaders then headed into the final bend, with the Warren Greatrex runner still travelling okay at the head of affairs, from Un Temps Pour Tout and Whisper in close attendance.  Behind these Zarkandar was a couple of lengths adrift with, at the back of the main group, Blue Fashion under pressure.  Although detached, Henryville was travelling okay and within his own comfort zone, as were Crack Away Jack and Brother Brian. 

 

Turning in to the home straight for the final time, Zarkandar began to display distress signals as Sam Twiston-Davies started to bounce him along.  Meanwhile Cole Harden had been sent for home, hoping to outrun his nearest rivals and reach the winning post first.  He continued to lead as they cleared the third last, although Whisper was now mounting a strong challenge.  Zarkandar hit the flight, as did the now struggling Blue Fashion; the latter had soon been relegated to last place.

 

Nico de Boinville’s mount was upsides of Cole Harden as they cleared the penultimate flight, with the one-paced Un Temps Pour Tout now losing ground on them but remaining clear of Zarkandar.  Whisper was a length up as they cleared the last but, despite the brave Cole Harden not giving up the fight, last year’s winner was driven out to win by 3½ lengths at the line.   Un Temps Pour Tout completed in 3rd place, 6 lengths adrift of the runner-up and Zarkandar a further 11 lengths away in 4th. 

 

The ‘other’ race was won by Henryville, ahead of Brother Brian and Crack Away Jack; a very tired Blue Fashion had been pulled up before the last.  Henryville had finished 28 lengths behind Zarkandar; the prize for finishing 5th was £2,664 ... not to be sniffed at!  The prize money went down the line to eighth place but, as only seven completed the race, I presume the eighth prize was added to the winner’s total.

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Whisper

Nico de Boinville

Nicky Henderson

2nd

Cole Harden

Gavin Sheehan

Warren Greatrex

3rd

Un Temps Pour Tout

Tom Scudamore

David Pipe

4th

Zarkandar

Sam Twiston-Davies

Paul Nicholls

 

Nicky Henderson was very pleased that his charge; he had been wondering if last year’s tough programme had taken too much out of Whisper, the horse proving very difficult to train since then, with a very poor showing on the gallops.  The plan had been to try him over fences this year but, after a disappointing second place at Exeter over the larger obstacles, that had been shelved.  But his promising fifth place in the World Hurdle on only his second outing of the season had showed a glimmer of light and the suggestion that he was on his way back.  Nicky said he would be tempted, going forward, for the horse to remain running over hurdles with the aim of running at the 2016 Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals.  

 

Race 3 - 2:50pm

THE SILVER CROSS STAYERS' HURDLE RACE (CLASS 1) (Registered as The Liverpool Hurdle Race) (Grade 1)

The Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Nico de Boinville, the rider of the winner, WHISPER (FR), from approaching the second last hurdle. Having heard his evidence and viewed recordings of the race, they found him in breach of Schedule (B)6 Part 2 in that he had used his whip above the permitted level. The Stewards suspended de Boinville for 4 days as follows: Thursday 30 April, Friday 1, Saturday 2 and Monday 4 May 2015.

 

The favourite for the fourth race of the day was Buywise, trained by Evan Williams and ridden by Adam Wedge; price 3-1;  although he is renowned for making jumping errors!  Also in the line-up and joint second favourite was last year’s winner Duke Of Lucca.  Tom Cannon was deputising aboard Vino Griego for the injured Josh Moore.

The starting gate for the next race was at the far end of the home straight, with that and two full circuits to travel.

 

Race 4

Handicap Chase (Listed)

Distance

3 miles 1 furlong (19 fences to negotiate)

No. of Runners

10

Wonderful Charm, Buywise, Edgardo Sol, Raajih, Vino Griego, Duke Of Lucca, Your Busy, Bonowen, Mart Lane, Action Master

 

And then they were off, in rear Bobowen began with a fly jump.  The runners were led away by Mart Lane and the Irish-raider Your Busy; there were no problems encountered at the first fence.  The field then headed to the first of the open-ditches, which they all cleared in their stride, after which they traversed the Grand National course to reach fence number three.  Your Busy joined the leader at the head of affairs as they jumped it; on the leading duo’s tail were Vino Griego to the outside of Edgardo Sol.  They were followed by Buywise and Wonderful Charm, Duke Of Lucca and Action Master; bringing up the rear were Bobowen and the grey Raajih.

 

The ten runners headed down past the winning post and around the turn before beginning their journey up the back straight for the first time.  The leading three, namely Mart Lane, Your Busy and Vino Griego, had now set up a clear advantage over the remainder.  Bobowen hit the fourth fence and dropped two or three lengths off the back of the field as a result.  There were no noticeable errors at the next and the runners then headed towards the second of the open-ditches; Vino Griego had now taken over the lead and there appeared to be no problems as they cleared it.

 

The competitors crossed over the pathway to reach fence number seven, which they all negotiated without difficulty before heading into the far turn led by the Gary Moore runner, from Mart Lane and Your Busy.  They were followed by Duke Of Lucca and Wonderful Charm, after which travelled Edgardo Sol, Buywise and Action Master; Raajih and Bobowen continued to bring up the rear.  The next obstacle was the cross-fence, where Bobowen made another error and sent the birch flying. 

 

The runners had now completed one circuit and Vino Griego was rejoined by Mart Lane as they turned into the home straight to approach fence number nine.  Bobowen was less than fluent at this one too and Will Kennedy had begun to nudge him along as he headed away from the fence.  Vino Griego jumped into the lead once more as they cleared the open-ditch.  The runners then traversed the Grand National course once again to reach fence number eleven.  Duke Of Lucca had noticeably improved his position by this point and was now travelling in fourth place.  Wonderful Charm, in mid-field, took off too early over this one and dragged his hind-legs through the fence; he lost momentum as a result and dropped back two positions.  Buywise was less than fluent at this fence too. 

 

Meanwhile, up front, Vino Griego continued to lead as the runners headed down past the winning post with just one circuit to travel; Action Master was now at the rear of the field.  By the time they entered the back straight, Buywise had joined Duke Of Lucca to dispute fourth position.  Having clobbered the first fence in the back straight on the previous circuit, Bobowen hit it once again and dropped to the back of the field; both he and Action Master had lost touch by this stage of the race.  Mart Lane, who had begun to drift back through the field, blundered at the next fence and was soon being ridden along; Buywise made an error here too. 

 

Vino Griego continued to lead as they jumped the open-ditch; there was another error from Buywise at this obstacle.  By the time the runners had reached five out, Mart Lane had joined the stragglers who were now well detached from the field.  The leader was two or three lengths clear as they headed into the final turn, from Your Busy, Duke Of Lucca, Wonderful Charm, Edgardo Sol, Raajih and Buywise.  There were still ten runners continuing as they jumped the cross-fence; there were no noticeable errors here, although Bobowen was pulled up having cleared it.

 

Tom Cannon’s mount held a very slight advantage as the runners cleared the third last, but both Your Busy and Duke Of Lucca were at his shoulder.  The Irish raider took the lead as they headed towards the final open-ditch, with Richard Johnson’s mount soon mounting a challenge and they jumped the next in unison.  Meanwhile, Edgardo Sol and Wonderful Charm were in hot pursuit as the long-time leader faded and the grey began to make headway too. 

 

Duke Of Lucca took the lead as the runners headed down to the last fence, with Your Busy continuing to battle and Wonderful Charm gaining on him too.  The meat in the sandwich, the Philip Hobbs representative led narrowly over the last, where the Paul Nicholls runner lacked fluency, and the former kept on tenaciously to deny the Irish raider to his inside by a neck at the line.  Wonderful Charm to his outside finished a further neck away in 3rd.  Raajih completed 1½ lengths back in 4th.  

 

Buywise finished 5th, with Edgardo Sol 6th and Vino Griego 7th.  Mart Lane had been pulled up before two out, and Action Master before the last.      

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Duke Of Lucca

Richard Johnson

Philip Hobbs

2nd

Your Busy

David Casey

J A Nash

3rd

Wonderful Charm

Sam Twiston-Davies

Paul Nicholls

4th

Raajih

Daryl Jacob

R Woollacott

 

Philip Hobbs admitted that the horse sometimes has his off days but his charge enjoys good ground and conditions were exactly right for him today.  Duke Of Lucca had been first reserve for the Grand National but his trainer was pleased that he’d run in this instead and won. 

 

It was noted by me that Wonderful Charm has a pretty head!

 

That’s it for this section of the diary ...

Click here to read my Grand National Day Diary Part II

 

 

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