DIARY – AINTREE FESTIVAL
GRAND NATIONAL DAY
SATURDAY 09 APRIL 2016
The winner of this year’s Grand National is
Rule The World ridden by David Mullins
Click here to read my Grand National Day Diary Part I
The favourite for the fifth race of the day was the grey Mystifiable, trained by Fergal O’Brien and ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies; price 13-2. James Reveley took over aboard Maggio, substituting for the injured Brian Hughes; the horse was another which had been on the Grand National reserves list but unable to take his chance with no defections before yesterday’s deadline.
With the heavy rain having arrived, the going was now soft on all courses.
With Warden Hill a non-runner, Cloudy Too was the only horse in this 14-runner field which wasn’t sporting any kind of aid; whether it be blinkers, cheek-pieces or tongue strap!
The starting gate for the next race was at the far end of the home straight, with that and two full circuits to travel.
The runners jogged towards the tape in an orderly manner and then they were off, first time. The field was led away by Coologue, Virak and Cloudy Too with, close up, Band Of Blood. There were no noticeable errors as the horses cleared the first fence; at the back of the field were the JP McManus-owned Cernunnos, together with Knock House. The runners headed down towards the next, which was the first open-ditch, where Al Co made an error.
Having completed the long run to the third, Coologue held a clear advantage over Virak, with Cloudy Too in third, followed by Band Of Blood, Mystifiable, the second grey Roc D’Apsis, Racing Pulse, Al Co, No Secrets, Thomas Brown, Cernunnos, Little Jon, and Maggio; Knock House was three lengths detached in rear. Ears pricked, Coologue led the field down past the winning post prior to heading around the bottom bend; the leading four had set up a clear lead over the remainder at this point.
The field had soon reached fence number four; Racing Pulse made a slight error, with Knock House blundering badly. However, being the great horse-woman that she is, Nina Carberry stayed aboard and gave her mount a flick down the shoulder with her whip as they headed towards the next. Coologue got in a little close to the next but remained ahead, and Cloudy Too dragged his hind-legs through the fence having bumped Band Of Blood as they cleared it.
The following fence was an open-ditch, where Al Co jumped it slowly. The runners then headed across the sanded track to reach the final obstacle in the back straight. There was another collision at this one, with Cloudy Too bumping into Al Co; it was now patently clear that the former had a habit of jumping out to his right.
Meanwhile Coologue continued to happily bowl along at the head of affairs, pursued by the diminutive Virak. Band Of Blood got a little close to the cross-fence, but there were no other scares in the jumping department at this sometimes tricky obstacle. Having entered the home straight, the runners had now completed one circuit.
Coologue led the runners over the next where, near the rear of the field, Little Jon skewed awkwardly in mid-air as he cleared it. The following fence was an open-ditch, and Cernunnos was scrubbed along having jumped it. The field headed across the Grand National track to reach the next, which they all cleared without incident; Knock House was continuing to struggle at the rear of the field.
Richard Johnson’s mount still led as they headed down past the winning post with one more circuit to travel. Having entered the back straight, Coologue flew the first fence therein. There were a couple of errors at the following obstacle, from Band Of Blood and Roc D’Apsis respectively; now at the rear of the field, No Secrets and Racing Pulse came close together as they jumped it.
The next fence was the penultimate open-ditch and there were a number of blunders here as the horses began to tire in the rain softened ground; again notably from both Band of Blood and Roc D’Apsis, also Cernunnos. Having jumped the fence, Jonathan Burke decided to pull-up the struggling Racing Pulse.
Coologue continued to lead as they jumped the final obstacle in the back straight, where Band Of Blood blundered for the third fence in a row! At the rear of the field No Secrets made a bad error and Denis O’Regan called it a day as a result. Having travelled in second position since the off, Virak took the lead as the runners headed over the cross-fence for the final time. Having been headed, Coologue soon lost ground, with Cloudy Too and Al Co now in pursuit of the leader; from nowhere it seemed, Maggio had cruised up on the outside of the field and was travelling well in fourth as they entered the home straight.
Virak was a length ahead of Al Co and Maggio as they jumped three out. The leader came under pressure as they continued their journey down to the final open-ditch, and James Reveley’s mount was upsides as they cleared it. Al Co was now in third, with Thomas Brown and Cloudy Too currently battling for fourth position; it came as no surprise that the latter two almost collided in mid-air.
Meanwhile the leaders began the long journey down to the final fence, with Maggio being pushed clear of his rivals; Virak battled on gamely but to no avail. James Reveley steadied his mount to jump the obstacle and galloped all the way to the line without recall to the whip; the official winning distance was 12 lengths. Al Co got a little close to the last and, despite gaining on Virak all the way to the line, failed to catch him by half a length. Thomas Brown was a further 12 lengths away in 4th, Band of Blood 5th and Cloudy Too 6th.
All the remaining runners pulled up – Roc D’Apsis and Knock House before 3 out, the long-time leader Coologue before 2 out, and Cernunnos, Mystifiable and Little Jon before the last. There were eight prizes, so the winner would also receive the monies which would have gone to the 7th and 8th.
The winner was 11 years old and owned by two of the three people who owned of the 2013 Grand National winner Auroras Encore. The winner’s Irish trainer James Griffin was well-chuffed at winning a race at the Aintree Festival; this was his ‘Grand National’; he described it as ‘awesome’. James was surprised he’d won so well on soft ground and said his charge had been in ‘savage’ form for the past three days.
Race 5 - 4:20pm
THE BETFRED HANDICAP STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 1) (Listed Race)
No Stewards Enquiry.
Fergal O’Brien, the
trainer of MYSTIFIABLE, which was pulled up, reported that the gelding failed
to get the trip on this occasion.
During the interlude between the fourth race and the Grand National, a group of school children dressed in the silks of previous Grand National winners, performed the National Anthem whilst standing within the corral in front of the Earl of Derby and Lord Sefton stands.
We were also able to defend our position at the corner of the Earl of Derby enclosure next to the walkway.
It was now time for the feature event, the 2016 Grand National. At the off there were two joint favourites – the 2015 winner Many Clouds, trained by Oliver Sherwood and ridden by Leighton Aspell; the jockey having won the race for the past two years. The other was The Last Samurai, ridden by David Bass and now trained by Kim Bailey; the horse had been transferred out of the Donald McCain yard at the time of the mass Rooney exodus the previous October.
O’Faolains Boy was a non-runner, due to lameness; jockey Trevor Whelan was now back aboard his stable-mate The Romford Pele, Brian Hughes having jockeyed him off prior to getting injured earlier in the afternoon.
As in recent years, upon exiting the walk-way, the runners turned left to be immediately paraded in front of the grandstands regardless of their number clothes, rather than be sorted out into their race-card order before doing so. This is one of the steps that had been taken to avoid the horses, and probably jockeys also, getting too excited ahead of the big race. This being the case, it was Holywell which led the parade, followed by Home Farm and Vics Canvas … in fact here are all the competitors exiting onto the racecourse!
Having reached the far end of the parading area, the runners then cantered across the track, through the gap at the elbow before continuing upon the Mildmay chase track around the bottom bend; the jockeys then took their mounts to look at the first fence before returning to the starting gate.
Girths checked, the horses milled around at the start, formed an organised line, and approached the tape at a sensible pace and then they were off, first time. The 2016 Grand National was underway … accompanied by a huge cheer for the gathered spectators. Heading away from the gate, both Ballynagour and Unioniste’s silks could be clearly seen slightly to the rear the massed wall of runners.
Heading over the Melling Road, towards the first fence, Saint Are, Double Ross and Silviniaco Conti were prominent. Those also well up with the pace included The Last Samuri, The Romford Pele, Aachen, First Lieutenant and Rule The World.
Sharing the lead clearing the first were Double Ross and last year’s runner-up Saint Are; the former pecked a little on landing. The Romford Pele made an error too. Further back in the field, towards the outside, Hadrian’s Approach pecked badly and shot jockey Nico de Boinville over his head as a result; the former Bet365 Gold Cup winner had suffered serious jumping issues as a novice and personally I wouldn’t have thought this would be his kind of race!
Double Ross and Aachen led the field over the second; jumping upsides them to the far outside, First Lieutenant landed far too steeply and fell. The diminutive Holywell, to the outside of mid-division, hit the top of this one and fell too. Jockey Richie McLernon was quickly on his feet and managed to catch hold of his mount’s reins to prevent the Jonjo O’Neill second-string from continuing after the others.
Meanwhile the remaining 36 continued to the first of the open-ditches; the fence is known as ‘Westhead’, a memorial to Steve Westhead, an Aintree fence builder of the 1970s. Aachen led the field over this fence, from The Romford Pele, Double Ross and Saint Are. There were no departures at this obstacle. They continued to the fourth where, in mid-field, The Druids Nephew breasted it but survived. There were no jumping issues at the fifth; although Home Farm was slightly hampered on landing by one of the loose horses (Hadrian’s Approach). Last year’s winner Many Clouds was travelling to the inside of the field, to the fore of mid-field.
The sixth fence is Beecher’s Brook; Aachen led them over this, from Double Ross, The Romford Pele and Saint Are. To the inside, just behind Many Clouds, Vics Canvas made a humungous error. However, despite skidding and almost losing his footing and his jockey, the partnership miraculously survived to race on; as a result, though, he lost many lengths.
The following fence was the Fionavon; I saw the 1967 pile-up on TV as it happened during the live coverage of that race 49 years ago. All the runners seemed to clear it well today, apart from Home Farm at the rear of the field which blundered. Meanwhile they headed to the Canal Turn; the running rail encourages the jockeys to take a wider-angle, before it cuts away and they can head towards the inside. To the outside of the field, and still quite prominent, The Romford Pele caught his hind-legs on the fence and catapulted Trevor Whelan over his head. So then there were 35 to continue on towards Valentine’s Brook. There appeared to be quite a few, back in the field, who were no longer enjoying themselves; this included Rocky Creek who was already been pushed along by his pilot Andrew Thornton.
Double Ross held a narrow advantage jumping the fence; he cleared it okay, despite seeming to put in a small extra stride on take-off. Aachen was less than a length behind him, with The Last Samuri in third, followed by Saint Are and steeplechase maiden Rule The World; in mid-field, Goonyella hit it, and Gallant Oscar blundered badly.
The field continued on to fence number ten, with one of the loose horses (First Lieutenant) now travelling between the two leaders. The leaders cleared it safely; in mid-field the grey Unioniste pecked on landing over it. Aachen led again, as they jumped another open-ditch; last year’s winner Many Clouds continued to travel well, to the inside in around 7th position. At the rear of the field, Kruzhlinin made an error; Richard Johnson was aboard the Rooney-owned second-string. Just behind him was Rocky Creek and he also blundered, possibly due to a knock-on effect. Wisely, Andrew Thornton decided it was time to pull up.
The remaining 34 streamed over the next fence and headed towards the Melling Road. Travelling near the back of the field, the rider-less The Romford Pele had lost his blinkers; they were flapping around under his neck! Having reached the Mildmay course crossing point, Aachen was hampered by one of the loose horses (Hadrian’s Approach) which seemed to be seeking an exit point to the outside of the competitors. As a result, Double Ross now held a narrow lead as they headed around the turn towards fence number thirteen.
There were no casualties at this obstacle. However, having surprisingly dropped to the rear of the field by this point, the very talented and fancied Silviniaco Conti was pulled up by jockey Noel Fehily having jumped it. Unlike his very successful outings over the Mildmay course, the chestnut had not enjoyed his first outing over the unique Grand National course. But there was always another day for the 10-year-old.
Having found no escape, the loose horse (Hadrian’s Approach) remained a possible danger to the remaining runners as they headed down to the next. Aachen and Saint Are led over it from The Last Samuri, Shutthefrontdoor, Rule The World, Gilgamboa and Many Clouds; Double Ross had now lost his place amongst the leaders. The field was still quite compact as they headed towards The Chair, with Sir Des Champs, The Druids Nephew and Home Farm at the rear; it seemed that last year had been The Druids Nephew’s best chance of victory.
The loose horse initially had the idea of going to the inside of The Chair, but changed his mind at the last moment and jumped it just ahead of Saint Are, Aachen and The Last Samuri; scary moment averted, as anything might have happened, including a Fionavon-style pile up. There were two horrible falls near the back of the field, with two of the Willie Mullins runners coming to grief, independently.
Both horses caught their hind-legs in the ditch and, for a moment, it looked like On His Own might be badly injured because of his legs shuddered. His jockey, trainer’s son Patrick, was still on the ground as Nina Carberry got to her feet to run back to Sir Des Champs, who appeared trapped within the spruce on the landing side of the fence. The ground staff immediately ran across the course to help, with the green screens on their way too. Amazingly, On His Own rose before his jockey did and trotted away, seemingly unscathed despite the fearsome signs. The race moved on and, evidently, Sir Des Champs was fine too, once extricated from his position.
The water-jump, although appearing the easiest on the course, caught out Black Thunder; he dragged his hind-legs through the fence, which meant he landed in the water before ‘bellying’ the ground upon exit. The massed crowds were cheering as the runners headed around the bottom bend to set out upon the final circuit. Saint Are led, from Aachen, Many Clouds, The Last Samuri, Shutthefrontdoor, Double Ross, Le Reve, Gilgamboa, Rule The World and, the amazing 13-year-old ‘Houdini’ Vics Canvas.
Having crossed the Melling Road and travelling quite wide, Saint Are led them over the next; although he did make a bit of an error. As did Ballycasey and Buywise, and the latter is very prone to errors! Home Farm and The Druids Nephew were tailing off by this stage and Soll, third from the rear, was struggling badly.
Many Clouds joined the leader as they cleared the next; Goonyella blundered here and one of the four JP McManus runners, Gallant Oscar, unseated his rider. Mark Walsh hung on for ages, around the base of his mount’s neck, before losing his fight with gravity! How on earth he thought he could get back on remains a mystery … and, once on the ground, he got kicked by the horse for his troubles too.
The following fence was ‘Westhead’ again and, to the inside, Many Clouds jumped into the lead. Travelling In midfield, Ballynagour made an error and shot his jockey, Tom Scudamore, over his left shoulder and into the path of the loose Gallant Oscar. Ouch! Fortunately, Sean Bowen aboard Just A Par, and Will Kennedy aboard Katenko, had space and time to steer around the prostrate jockey. To the nearside, Ucello Conti also blundered here, but survived. As the name might suggest, the horse is related to Silviniaco Conti; they are half-brothers, with the Gordon Elliott representative being an 8-year-old at this time.
Many Clouds and The Last Samuri cleared the next in unison, from Saint Are; there were no casualties here, although a number of the backmarkers were struggling. It came as no surprise that five of these called it a day after jumping the fence, namely Home Farm, Black Thunder, The Druids Nephew, Wonderful Charm and Soll; the small ‘herd’ trotted past the fence using the bypass lane as they slowed their pace.
Again Many Clouds and The Last Samuri led the remaining 24 horses over the next fence; there were no departures here. However, having jumped it, two more threw in the towel; Aachen which had dropped to the back of the field, and Boston Bob who was later reported to have been lame.
The following fence was Becher’s Brook, for the second time. David Bass’ mount was a length up on the 2015 winner as they jumped it. Paddy Brennan went to the buckle-end of his reins as Saint Are took a long stride before take-off, and they survived the drop in one piece; but he hadn’t been travelling to the inner anyway. Towards the rear of the field, Katenko hit the fence and capsized on landing; Will Kennedy’s race was over. Onenightinvienna was badly hampered and Tom O’Brien unseated.
The remaining runners headed over the Fionavon fence; Kruzhlinin was now at the back of the field. Many Clouds and The Last Samuri continued to match strides as they headed over the Canal Turn for the final time. They were followed by Le Reve and Vics Canvas, behind these travelled Vieux Lion Rouge, Double Ross and Saint Are, then Rule The World, Shutthefrontdoor, Morning Assembly, Ucello Conti, Gilgamboa, Triolo D’Alene, Goonyella, Pendra, Ballycasey, Buywise, Unioniste, Just A Par and, last but not least, Kruzhlinin.
Ryan Hatch was forced to pull up Double Ross having jumped Valentine’s Brook; his saddle had slipped as he negotiated the sharp left turn following the previous fence and he’d now got no irons. There was another error from the tiring Saint Are at this fence. Meanwhile, the leaders continued to match strides as they headed to and jumped the next; surprisingly, Many Clouds got too close and pecked badly on landing. The error seemed to have knocked the stuffing out of him; it was not easy to recover on soft ground carrying top weight. Having been struggling at the rear of the field for some time, Champion jockey-elect, Richard Johnson, decided to pull up Kruzhlinin before the next.
The Last Samuri now had sole ownership of the lead as they headed over the final open-ditch, preceded by one of the loose horses (No.25 Gallant Oscar). Many Clouds, which shared second with Vics Canvas and Gilgamboa, put in a big but slow leap at the fence and was labouring now. David Mullins, nephew of Willie, was fortunate to retain his partnership with Rule The World, at the same fence; he ended up on the horse’s neck and with loose reins following a blunder from his mount.
The Kim Bailey runner continued to lead as the remaining 18 competitors cleared three out. Still prominent were Vics Canvas, Many Clouds, Gilgamboa and, to the outside, Morning Assembly. Behind these, Vieux Lion Rouge, Rule The World, Ucello Conti and Ballycasey; the Brits were wildly outnumbered, especially at the head of affairs! Having been prominent early, Saint Are was now struggling to keep up his momentum and to jump the fences too; the only runners behind him as they re-crossed the Melling Road were Triolo D’Alene, Just A Par and Unioniste.
The leader narrowly avoided becoming the meat in the sandwich as they headed around the long sweeping turn ahead of two out; his two nearest rivals being Morning Assembly and Vics Canvas. How on earth the latter continued to travel so well having made such a bad error at Becher’s first time, is amazing. The only other similar feat which springs to mind being Rhyme ‘n’ Reason’s victory in 1988, again following a similar incident at Becher’s; the horse that day was later also discovered to have suffered a fracture at that point but he still won!
Having looked dangerous, Morning Assembly began to run out of stamina and had thus relinquished his challenge by the time they reached the fence. Vic’s Canvas was now in second position, with Gigginstown’s second-string Rule The World staying on strongly in third. Having cleared this, they headed to the final fence, with the veteran upsides The Last Samuri as they jumped it. However, they were being stalked by the Grand National maiden jockey, David Mullins, as they headed towards the elbow.
Vics Canvas had just enough room to the inside of the long-time leader in order to negotiate the commencement of the running rail but, having soon overcome Robert Dunne’s mount, The Last Samuri had one final challenger in the form of Rule The World and it didn’t take long for the latter to gain the upper hand as they headed down the long run-in to the line. The Mouse Morris-trained representative thus galloped on to win by an impressive 6 lengths at the winning post.
The Last Samuri finished second, very gallant in defeat, with Vics Canvas tiring to complete a further 8 lengths back in 3rd. Finishing just two lengths behind him was Gilgamboa. It was a long distance back to the 5th, namely Goonyella; never nearer. With Ucello Conti in 6th, Vieux Lion Rouge 7th and Morning Assembly 8th.
The soft ground conditions had definitely played to the strengths of the Irish – with the British runners only able to claim 2nd and 7th from the first 8 home. Many Clouds finished last of the 16 finishers, having walked home from the elbow. The final casualties, reducing the field to this number had been Ballycasey unseating Katie Walsh two out, and Saint Are being pulled up before the last. In fact Katie led the noticeably muddy grey Ballycasey back, shaking the hand of the winning rider as she passed by on the way back to the stables.
Here is the full result for all those runners which finished the race:
And those which did not finish:
We didn’t return to the Winners’ Enclosure following the race; it’s always chock-a-block following the feature; besides, it had been an Irish winner, my first in eight attendances.
Race 6 - 5:15pm
THE CRABBIE'S GRAND NATIONAL STEEPLE CHASE (HANDICAP) (CLASS 1) (Grade 3)
We were plagued by a drunk ahead of the next race; he wanted to know what we’d put our money on in this event!
There were two joint-favourites for this final race of the day and the Festival; namely, Dell’ Arca trained by Martin Pipe and ridden by David Noonan and Frodon trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Harry Cobden. Grand National winning jockey David Mullins was riding the Willie Mullins-trained, Wylie-owned, Ivan Grozny. There were 5 non-runners.
It was a race for conditional jockeys and amateurs riders; there were three of the latter, Mr Alex Ferguson, son of trainer John, plus Ms Nina Carberry and Ms Katie Walsh. With this race being the final Festival race this year, there was none of the usual issue of having to find replacement professional jockeys to ride in a Bumper race at the end of the card! In other words, replacements for jockeys injured during the Grand National.
Having had their girths checked, the riders began to congregate in the chute at the far corner of the track; there were a few stragglers. How weird, I noticed on the TV replay that vehicles were leaving via the Anchor Bridge exit … I recall reading a notice stating their no-one would be permitted to leave from the Steeplechase car park until after the final race. Perhaps it was just the racecourse crossing which would be closed and the punters had walked the long way around to get to the car park? Umm.
Anyway, having formed one large group, with Master Jake the final one to join it, the runners circled at the start. They steadily approached the tape and then they were off, at the first time of asking. The runners were led away by Frodon, with Allee Bleue to his inside, and Boite, Nabucco and Chieftain’s Choice to his outside. Having reached the turn into the home straight, the latter came through to lead; bringing up the rear were Mr Boss Man and Sgt Reckless.
The runners had soon arrived at the first flight, which they all cleared without incident. Boite hit the second hurdle but retained his prominent position. The seventeen runners continued their journey down the home straight to the next, with Chieftain’s Choice and Allee Bleue now disputing the lead. Near the rear of the field, Master Jake was pushed along for the few strides having cleared it.
The runners headed down past the winning post, with one circuit now to travel. Allee Bleue and Chieftain’s Choice led, from Boite, Nesterenko, Frodon, Nabucco, Sir Ector, Dell’ Arca, Madfuninthewest, Bigmartre, My Manekineko, Automated, Ivan Grozny, Mr Boss Man, Master Jake, Sgt Reckless and Sir Chauvelin. They turned left-handed and headed around the bottom bend and into the back straight for the one and only time.
It was three in a line up front, Allee Bleue, Chieftain’s Choice and Boite, as they jumped over flight number four. Travelling to the inside at the rear, Master Jake was pushed along having cleared it; to the outer, the hooded Sir Chauvelin jumped out to his right. Jerry McGrath administered a reminder to his mount, Nesterenko, as they headed to the next. Near the rear of the field, Mr Boss Man, landed awkwardly over this one. The blinkered Sir Ector, in rear, was being driven and received a couple of backhanders too.
The runners headed across the sanded track-way before reaching the final flight in the back straight. Chieftain’s Choice, which still disputed the lead with Allee Bleue to his inside and Boite to his outer, struck one of the orange protector strips as he jumped the hurdle, dislodging it. The runners had soon reached the far turn, with Sir Ector struggling to the rear of the field and losing ground.
Chieftain’s Choice began to lose ground as they headed towards the home turn. This left Allee Bleue and Boite narrowly ahead of Nesterenko, Frodon, Madfuninthewest and Nabucco. The latter was the first to challenge for the lead, and jumped the third last upsides Boite; Allee Bleue made an error to the inside. Behind him, Dell’ Arca was clumsy, and Ivan Grozny flattened one of the panels. With Boite winning the battle between himself and Nabucco, suddenly David Mullins’ mount burst through the gap between them as they jumped two out.
Travelling well, Ivan Grozny began to pull away from his rivals as they headed down towards the final flight; to the nearside, Automated was now his nearest challenger. The leader cleared the last obstacle safely and began the long run to the line; it was déjà vu and he won by 8 lengths easing down. It’s amazing what race-riding confidence can achieve! The Gordon Elliott-trained Automated completed in 2nd, 6 lengths ahead of Bigmartre which pipped Boite by a neck at the line for 3rd. The favourite, Frodon, finished 5th.
All seventeen finished, many in their own time; Chieftain’s Choice was last across the line.
Racing over, we finally returned to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure.
Race 7 - 6:10pm
THE PINSENT MASONS HANDICAP HURDLE RACE (CLASS 2)
(For Conditional Jockeys and Amateur Riders)
The Stewards held an
enquiry into the use of the whip by Thomas Garner, the rider of SIR ECTOR
(USA), unplaced, from turning into the home straight. Having heard his
evidence and viewed recordings of the race, they found him in breach of
Schedule (B)6 Part 2 in that he used his whip when
out of contention. The Stewards suspended Garner for 5 days as follows:
Saturday 23, Thursday 28, Friday 29, Saturday 30 April and Monday 2 May 2016.
Following the race, I decided to ask Grand National winning jockey David Mullins for his autograph and he obliged. Although sadly, my formerly pristine race-card had now become damp and soggy; I’d placed it under my arm whilst taking photographs but had forgotten that my coat was still wet. Whoops … I hate it when that happens. Once dry, it became apparent that the cover was in danger of falling off, but the inside pages are fine. What I need to do on a wet day is buy two copies, just in case of accidents!
Anyway, we also headed back to the course-side rails latterly, because the Grand National winner was being paraded in front of the grandstands.
We popped to the ladies’ loos situated at the back of the Earl of Derby stand before we left; better safe than sorry as I had a long journey home this evening. Having walked back down the concourse, we headed beneath the awnings which marked the entrance to the course-side enclosures, before turning left to head through the betting-ring.
We then headed across the home straight to catch the bus in order to return to my vehicle. As always on Grand National day, there were long delays to exit from the car park. Cars were exiting from the camping site area to the right, and numerous coaches were leaving too. All of these had to merge into the queue ahead of us. We also had problems with vehicles switching lanes, trying to gain an advantage. I think it was also today that a drunken woman and her companion were weaving their way along the roadway, oblivious to the traffic; dimwits.
Everything could have gone pear-shaped, time wise, if we’d turned left upon reaching Aintree Lane, signed as ‘All routes’; traffic using our usual route was tailing back almost to the Melling Road exit point. However, I decided to turn right instead ... I don’t have a satnav but just how lost can one get? I had a map book and a navigator if required!
So we headed in a south-easterly direction, along the B5194, with just a brief delay prior to crossing another canal bridge. The locals knew their route home as, having arrived at traffic lights denoting a cross-roads junction they headed westwards, back into Liverpool. In contrast, I turned left and headed along the dual carriageway of the A506; it’s the road signposted for use by owners and trainers. It wasn’t far to Junction 6 of the M57, so we joined the motorway for a brief period before leaving it again at Junction 5 and heading back along the A580 to our hotel.
Having dropped Sandra back at the hotel, I began my drive home at 19:55. Tiredness during the drive wasn’t an issue, but there were three occasions when the heavens opened – possibly shortly after crossing the Mersey, definitely just prior to the Stoke exit, then again maybe at Stafford; on one occasion there was hail too. It was cold, hence the hail, 5 degrees in Golborne, 4 degrees as I headed south, and only 1 degree in Hertfordshire – there was a frost the following morning.
There were two holdups on the motorways – I was worried about the possibility of late evening motorway closures – but in the event these turned out to be just lane closures being put in place ahead of works commencing. I was delayed by 25 minutes on the M6 in Birmingham, due to 3 lanes of traffic merging into one; the main issue being inconsiderate and overbearing drivers who continued to overtake despite knowing that they will run out of road very shortly; they then push in, forcing everyone who has been patiently waiting, to wait even longer. Selfish pigs!
The same happened on the M1, just before Junction 12; information signs were instructing drivers that the southbound carriageway was closed between that exit point and Junction 11. However, after 20 minutes of queuing, it transpired that the majority of drivers had decided to continue on the motorway regardless of the signage, so I followed them and there was not a problem. So, instead of reaching home at 23:30 as might be expected, I was delayed until 00:15. But, actually, it was like taking two rest breaks, without having to visit the Services! And I was even able to consume a number of Jaffa Cakes whilst I waited in the Birmingham queue.
However, I was a bit disappointed that there were no lights on the M1 carriageway, apart from at junctions; there always used to be lighting. Is that part of the improvement process to become a ‘smart’ motorway? I’ll give them ‘smart’ ... I hate driving in the dark, as it becomes more and more difficult to see as one gets older.
PHOTOS – Aintree Festival Day 3