DIARY – AINTREE FESTIVAL
GRAND NATIONAL DAY
SATURDAY 08 APRIL 2017
This year’s Grand National winner, the Lucinda Russell-trained One For Arthur,
is paraded on course after racing;
he’s accompanied by the winning rider Derek Fox
Click here to read my Grand National Day Diary Part I
The favourite for this race was Yanworth, trained by Alan King and ridden by Barry Geraghty; price 9-4. He was my runner of interest, as was the beautiful Taquin Du Seuil. There was one grey in this race, namely Aux Ptits Soins; the winner of the 2015 Coral Cup.
Walking around the Parade Ring, Cole Harden was swishing his tail and kicking out too; presumably this wasn’t characteristic, as a lady came over and walked around him whilst the lad held the horse. He was, however, going to sport a first-time visor.
There was a Potts’ runner in this one too, Supasundae trained by Jessica Harrington; the horse had won the Coral Cup at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
The start of this race was part way down the home straight, with one flight therein to jump and therefore just over 2 circuits to travel.
Girths having been checked, Cole Harden was the last to join the group; at the front thereof, of course! Having spent 721 days off the racecourse due to injury, Puffin Billy was excited to be racing again; he sidestepped a few times just before they set off.
And then they were away, with Cole Harden, Ballyoptic, the cheek-pieced Three Musketeers and Puffin Billy all prominent as they jumped the first flight. Taquin De Seuil landed a little awkwardly over this one. The 11 runners continued down the straight, past the winning post and passed under the Grand National starting gate for the first time. Bringing up the rear at this very early stage were Supasundae and the Kelvin-Hughes-owned Different Gravey.
Continuing to show much enthusiasm following his long-absence, Puffin Billy now headed the field as they entered the back straight on their journey to the second flight. The leader kicked one of the panels half way to the ground as he cleared it; to the inside, Cole Harden then drew alongside him. Gavin Sheehan’s mount gave the next flight plenty of air, he led narrowly now from Ballyoptic and Puffin Billy.
The runners continued over the sanded track on their journey to the fourth; Yanworth was the least fluent here, having bunny-hopped it. Cole Harden continued to lead, from Ballyoptic and Puffin Billy. Travelling a couple of lengths behind the leading trio were Three Musketeers, Taquin Du Seuil and Aux Ptits Soins. They were followed by Ptit Zig, then Snow Falcon upsides Yanworth, followed by Supasundae and Different Gravey.
As they headed across the top of the racecourse, Gavin Sheehan glanced over his right shoulder to ascertain the positions of his main rivals. Different Gravey was being bumped along as they entered the home straight once more. The leader was quick and sleek jumping the next flight, although he did jump slightly away to his left. In contrast, Supasundae wasn’t particularly fluent and Robbie Power had to urge him along for a few strides afterwards. Nico de Boinville continued to push his mount along at the rear of the field.
The runners had soon cleared the next flight, where Aux Ptits Soins was less than fluent. Cole Harden continued to lead as the field continued to the seventh flight; Ballyoptic flattened the panel one from the inside, Three Musketeers jumped an imaginary one in his wake, and Snow Falcon headed through the gap! There was no change at the head of affairs as they headed down past the winning post with one circuit now to travel. Having become well-detached from the main body of the field, Nico de Boinville decided to pull up Different Gravey at this point.
The remaining ten runners headed under the Grand National starting gate for the final time and into the back straight once more. Ballyoptic narrowly spearheaded the field as they jumped the eighth flight; Cole Harden and Three Musketeers disputed second position, and they were closely followed by Taquin Du Seuil, Yanworth, and Aux Ptits Soins.
Continuing to the next, the leader stepped on the flight with his hind-legs, almost flattening a panel as a result. Puffin Billy now found himself at the rear of the field and he began to lose touch. Meanwhile they headed across the sanded track on the approach to four out; they all cleared this, although Cole Harden had begun to back-peddle and Ptit Zig was being pushed along.
The pace was lifting all of the time as the runners headed into the far turn, with Ballyoptic and Three Musketeers continuing at the head of affairs. Both Puffin Billy and Cole Harden had been dropped from the main group and would be pulled up before the next.
In the aforementioned group, four horses continued to travel well within themselves and four were showing different degrees of distress. In the former category were Yanworth, Taquin Du Seuil, Snow Falcon and Supasundae. With Three Musketeers taking a half-length advantage as they began the turn into the home straight, Richard Johnson aboard Ballyoptic glanced between his legs to ascertain the progress of his rivals. Both Ptit Zig and Aux Ptits Soins were under heavy pressure as they turned into the home straight for the final time.
Neither member of the leading duo negotiated the third last particularly fluently; in fact Three Musketeers bumped Yanworth having jumped out to his right. The Skelton runner was soon beaten, with Supasundae, Ballyoptic, Yanworth and Snow Falcon now laying down their challenges; the latter four jumped two out in unison. Taquin Du Seuil wasn’t far behind them either.
With Ballyoptic the first to capitulate, it left Supersundae, Yanworth and Snow Falcon to continue their battle as they headed towards the final flight; the Alan King runner was travelling slightly the better of these.
The leading trio jumped the flight in unison, with Taquin Du Seuil laying down a challenge to Ballyoptic for fourth position; the latter flattened yet another panel. With all three jockeys working hard to gain the best out of their mounts, it was Barry Geraghty who successfully galvanised Yanworth and he took the lead despite drifting off to his left.
The Alan King runner was then able to retain his advantage all the way to the line to win by one length from Supasundae; Snow Falcon finished three-quarters of a length behind the runner-up. The beautiful Taquin Du Seuil came home in 4th, a further 1¾ lengths behind Snow Falcon. Ballyoptic was 5th, Ptit Zig 6th, Three Musketeers 7th and Aux Ptits Soins last.
The race had proved what many had felt throughout the season – Yanworth is a 3-miler!
Alan King was very relieved, having not had any Cheltenham Festival winners; this being the final throw of the dice for this Aintree Festival. The plan now is to go novice chasing. The pundits, however, were a little flummoxed that it would be chasing next … I thought there had originally been a plan for him to go chasing this season!
As the Grand National runners were now preparing to enter the Parade Ring, the placed horses from the Liverpool Hurdle were led back to the stable yard via the walkway beside us.
We were also able to defend our position at the corner of the Earl of Derby enclosure next to said walkway ahead of the big event ... although it does get a little scary at times with people trying to muscle in!
Race 5 - 4:20pm
The Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Barry Geraghty, the rider of the winner, YANWORTH, from approaching the 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 and with excessive force. The Stewards suspended Geraghty for 4 days as follows: Saturday 22 to Tuesday 25 April 2017.
The Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Robbie Power, the rider of SUPASUNDAE, placed second, from approaching the 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 Power for 2 days as follows: Saturday 22 April and Sunday 23 April 2017.
The Stewards noted that PUFFIN BILLY (IRE), trained by Oliver Sherwood, would wear earplugs which would be removed at the start.
The Stewards noted that SUPASUNDAE, placed second, trained by Mrs J. Harrington, did not enter the winner’s enclosure on veterinary advice.
Gavin Sheehan, the rider of COLE HARDEN (IRE), which pulled up, reported that the gelding hung left throughout.
It was eventually time for the feature event, the 2017 Grand National.
A 41st entry had been made in today’s Grand National race-card, in honour of young racing fan, the terminally ill Bradley Lowry. The 5-year-old was a keen football fan too, and he’d developed a very strong friendship with Jermain Defoe. Tragically, Bradley passed away during the summer of 2017.
The favourite for this year’s renewal was Blaklion, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies; price 8-1. With son Sam due to ride Saphir Du Rheu for Paul Nicholls and both Ryan Hatch and Willie Twiston-Davies injured, Nigel had secured the services of Noel Fehily aboard his charge. RUK’s Lydia Hislop interviewed the trainer in the Parade Ring ahead of the race; he was nervous.
Nigel had won the race twice previously, with Earth Summit and Bindaree respectively.
With Ziga’s Boy defection from the race a couple of months ago, my allegiance had been switched to One For Arthur trained by Lucinda Russell … not that I was brave enough to put any money on the 14-1 shot! Why had I chosen him? Because I was impressed by his win in January’s Classic Chase at Warwick although, admittedly, that had been on completely different winter ground.
I suppose I should also have recalled that One For Arthur had successfully negotiated these fences too, during December’s Becher Chase; he finished 5th that day to one of today’s rivals Vieux Lion Rouge over a shorter trip of 3 miles 2 furlongs; but I didn’t! Pre-race, RUK’s Nick Luck pointed out that Peter Scudamore, who is now Lucinda Russell’s partner, was Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Assistant, when both of his Grand National winners triumphed!
There was a jockey-charge, with Aidan Coleman replacing Liam Treadwell aboard Tenor Nivernais. Liam had been injured during yesterday’s Topham Chase. Would it be Aidan’s turn to win the race? It was now the opposite situation to 2009, when Liam had benefited from Aidan being injured, and had gone on to win aboard Mon Mome.
As has happened recently, and to lessen the stress upon the competitors, the horses were paraded in the same order in which they exited onto the racecourse.
However Lord Windermere, which had won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2014, just did not want to exit the gateway; admittedly the horse wore a first-time tongue-strap. I have to say it wasn’t pleasant viewing at close hand as connections tried to cajole him into leaving the walkway. They also fiddled with his tack. Evidently his tail-off in form since his earlier mega-triumph had been a result of frequent bleeding. However, that was now said to be totally under control and he was now trained ‘out of a field’! I take that to mean that they just turn him out to grass when at the yard and go from there.
There were two greys competing this year, namely Saphir Du Rheu and the mare La Vaticane.
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.
The race was due to commence at 17:15 but, in the event, they weren’t underway until 17:22 … and 12 seconds! It didn’t help that there was a false start; the three flag-marshals, who were stood in a triangular formation, waved their flags to ensure that every competitor knew that it was a no-go. None of the horses got as far as the Melling Road and a few even diverted briefly along the all-weather gallop which runs to the inside of the Mildmay park course.
Then as they lined up again and whilst Nick Luck was saying how well behaved everyone was at that point, Raz De Maree plunged forward and broke the line and he was followed by a keen The Young Master. They returned to the starting gate to re-join their rivals. A close-up of Lord Windermere showed that he was awash with sweat by this stage.
A fairly even line had now been formed and with four starting assistants standing in their wake to ensure they all departed as planned, the 2017 Grand National was off at the third attempt. The flag marshals headed for and ducked under the railings as the 40 runners headed across the Melling Road and onwards towards the first of the 30 fences.
Prominent were Gigginstown’s Roi Des Francs, last year’s runner-up The Last Samuri, Ucello Conti, Gigginstown’s Rogue Angel and also Gigginstown’s Thunder And Roses. Michael O’Leary’s Stud had a total of five runners in the race! At the rear of the field were Doctor Harper, Just A Par and Bishops Road. The actual leader over the first fence was Highland Lodge, the prominent Stellar Notion made an error and there were two fallers to the outside of the pack, namely Cocktails At Dawn and Vicente; the latter had recently been purchased by Trevor Hemmings.
The remaining 38 competitors headed across a narrow track on their journey to the second fence; we’d walked along that thoroughfare during our course-walk the previous day. It was a big bold leap from Highland Lodge as they all successfully cleared the fence. The third fence has been named ‘Westhead’, which is the first of the open-ditches. Double Shuffle had joined the leaders as they jumped over this one, Perfect Candidate was prominent too; again there were no departures. Doctor Harper and Just A Par remained at the back of the field.
The field headed to the fourth fence. Sam Twiston-Davies continued upon his chosen route to the outside of runners aboard Saphir Du Rheu; despite having finished 5th in this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, I would never trust his mount’s jumping skills. Again there were no departures at this one with, from the inside of the track, Roi Des Francs sporting burgundy blinkers, Highland Lodge, the giant Stellar Notion and Double Shuffle setting the pace.
It was the same story at the fifth, with no issues here. It was Beecher’s Brook next and, travelling just behind the leaders, towards the inside of the track, The Young Master fell; Mr Waley-Cohen seems to have lost his magic touch when riding around the Grand National course for the present. He hampered Saint Are and also, more severely, Definitly Red. Further back, Ger Fox who was riding Raz De Maree, was caught unawares as his mount side-stepped to avoid the prostrate horse and he flew out the off-side side door!
The following fence was Fionavon where, back in the field, Pleasant Company made an error; Ruby Walsh ‘called a cab’ as a result. There were no departures here however, at the smallest fence on the course, and a Gigginstown triumvirate led the field towards the Canal Turn; namely Rogue Angel, Thunder And Roses and Roi Des Francs. Having taken an inside line to Beecher’s Brook, the latter was now to the outside of runners.
It soon became apparent that Danny Cook was in trouble aboard Definitly Red; his saddle had slipped as a result of the earlier incident and the jockey had lost his stirrups. There was no way he could continue for much longer and he steered his mount to the outside, whilst constantly checking behind to avoid interference to his rivals.
Having gone wide on the approach to the next, Jack Kennedy steered his mount across to the left on the approach to the Canal Turn in order to minimise the angle; Roi Des Francs and Rogue Angel jumped it together, followed by a loose horse, then Thunder And Roses, The Last Samuri, Highland Lodge, Saint Are, Double Shuffle and Goodtoknow, followed by the main bulk of the field. Having jumped the Canal Turn too, Definitly Red was pulled up. The 10-1 second favourite was out of the race.
The remaining runners continued to Valentines Brook where the loose Cocktails At Dawn, which was now travelling between the leading duo, breasted the fence and as good as fell for a second time. It wouldn’t have been such a problem had Thunder And Roses not been travelling so close to him, for he collided with the loose horse’s backside as the Nicky Henderson horse regained its feet and Mark Enright was shot over his mount’s right shoulder!
The two Gigginstown horses continued with an advantage over their rivals as the remaining runners negotiated the following fence, a plain one. The eleventh fence was another open-ditch and, still travelling to the outside of the field, in mid-field, Saphir Du Rheu ploughed through this one and fell. There was an audible note of disappointment from the spectators; he’d been a 16-1 shot. Fortunately the horse capsized to its right, so didn’t interfere with any of his rivals.
The remaining 33 runners headed to the next, with Roi Des Francs and Rogue Angel remaining at the head of affairs as they jumped it. Behind them, as they headed back across the Melling Road, were Highland Lodge, Goodtoknow, Double Shuffle, Pleasant Company, Saint Are, Vieux Lion Rouge, Blaklion, The Last Samuri, Perfect Candidate, Shantou Flyer, More Of That, Gas Line Boy, O’Faolains Boy, Cause Of Causes, Ucello Conti, Gigginstown’s Wounded Warrior, Tenor Nivernais, La Vaticane, Houblon Des Obeaux, Le Mercurey, Drop Out Joe, Giggintown’s Measureofmydreams, Lord Windermere, One For Arthur, Regal Encore, Wonderful Charm, Bishops Road, Ballynagour, Doctor Harper, Just A Par and the now struggling Stellar Notion.
Swinging back towards the grandstands on their run to the next fence, Roi Des Francs continued to lead the way. Having completely lost touch at the rear of the field, Stellar Notion was pulled up before this one. The remaining 32 cleared this without incident. They headed to the next, where to the outside of runners close to the rear of the field, Doctor Harper blundered badly; Conor O’Farrell appeared to reach down to replace his left iron. The jockey would need to be balanced for the next; it was The Chair.
The horses streamed over this one, all putting in successful leaps apart from Measureofmydreams which left a hind-leg and catapulted Donagh Meyler over his left shoulder as he skewed upon landing over it. The remaining horses headed over the water-jump without incident. Sensibly, the loose Cocktails At Dawn decided he’d like to return to the stables and peeled off to his right as they turned the bend; fortunately he was clear of the participating runners so caused no interference.
However, the rider-less Thunder And Roses decided to do the same thing upon the crown of the bend and almost carried out the currently second-placed Roi Des Francs in the process; how many times have we seen that happen at this point during this race? Oh well, it had been Gigginstown vs Gigginstown! Despite this diversion, Roi Des Francs had regained the lost ground by the time they’d crossed back over the Melling Road. The loose Saphir Du Rheu continued to follow the field; he appeared to be having too much fun to call it a day.
There were no departures at the first fence on the second circuit and the field continued to the next still led by the Gigginstown pair. Interference was caused in mid-field when one of the two loose horses travelling in mid-field, jumped the fence awkwardly and barged into Shantou Flyer as a result. The competing partnership survived, but it wouldn’t have helped their cause.
The runners then continued to the ‘Westhead’ fence once more. Rogue Angel and Roi Des Francs remained at the head of affairs as they all successfully negotiated this one; their closest pursuers being Goodtoknow, Vieux Lion Rouge and Blaklion. The remaining competitors continued down the line of fences, getting ever closer to Beecher’s Brook. There were no departures at the twentieth fence, with Just A Par, Houblon Des Obeaux, Bishops Road and Regal Encore the backmarkers.
There was no change at the head of affairs as the horses headed over the following fence; again no incidents to report. Beecher’s Brook was next and Ucello Conti, which was travelling to the inside in mid-field, hit this one; the horse was okay and found a leg or four, but his jockey Daryl Jacob became unbalanced. As a result, the pilot was hanging onto the full length of rein, with the horse shaking his head due to the discomfort caused. A few strides later and probably to Ucello Conti’s relief, Daryl fell out the side-door!
The race survivors continued over the Fionavon fence without incident and onwards towards the Canal Turn. Rogue Angel led from Roi Des Francs, Blaklion, Goodtoknow, Vieux Lion Rouge, Pleasant Company, Saint Are, Double Shuffle, Cause Of Causes, Lord Windermere and Gas Line Boy. Goodtoknow pecked on landing over this one and, further back in the field, Gas Line Boy stumbled slightly.
The competitors continued to Valentines. Pleasant Company got a little bit close to this one and stumbled on landing; Ruby became unbalanced for a few strides but survived. Well he would, wouldn’t he! Meanwhile Blaklion cruised up between the long-time leading duo and he jumped to the front of the field as they cleared the next. Perfect Candidate made an error at this fence and was pulled up; also pulled up was Shantou Flyer as he’d dropped to the back of the field by this point.
The following fence was the final open-ditch; named ‘Booth’ evidently. Rogue Angel had drawn back alongside the Nigel Twiston-Davies runner as they cleared the next, although the former did peck on landing over this one. Bryan Cooper switched his mount behind Blaklion as they headed away from the fence.
Blaklion led over the twenty-eighth fence, from Rogue Angel, Roi Des Francs, Vieux Lion Rouge, Cause Of Causes, Pleasant Company, Gas Line Boy, Saint Are, Goodtoknow and One For Arthur; the latter was picking off his rivals one by one. Returning across the Melling Road once more, Blaklion held a five length advantage over his nearest rival.
Blaklion continued to lead as they turned in, heading for the penultimate fence. Sweeping around the outside of his rivals, One For Arthur had soon overtaken all of them apart from the leader and was less than a length down as they jumped it, although he did bump the Blaklion in the process; possibly demonstrating a slight preference to jump to his left. To their inside, Cause Of Causes appeared to bump Gas Line Boy too. Blaklion was swallowed up on the run to the final fence, with One For Arthur holding a narrow advantage over Causes Of Causes as they jumped it. Gas Line Boy and Blaklion were not very far behind them.
The race to be the first to reach the elbow now commenced, with One For Arthur staying on the strongest before continuing down the run-in to win by 4½ lengths at the line. OMG, why didn’t I put £5 each way on him? Damn. It was only the second-ever Scottish winner of this historic race, the previous one being Rubstic in 1979. And the first ride in the race for jockey Derek Fox. He’d made a speedy recovery from a broken wrist and right collarbone sustained on 09 March in order to ride in today’s race, with just two prior rides before today following his return to action. One For Arthur was the trainer’s fourth runner in the race.
The very versatile and admirable Cause Of Causes finished 2nd, with Saint Are staying on the claim 3rd close home, the favourite completed just half a length behind him in 4th. Gas Line Boy was 5th, Vieux Lion Rouge 6th, Lord Windermere 7th, Regal Encore 8th, Pleasant Company 9th and Houblon Des Obeaux 10th. Nineteen horses completed, with the last across the line being Wonderful Charm.
Here is the full result for all those runners which finished the race:
And those which did not finish:
No horses or jockeys were injured during the course of this year’s Grand National.
It was a hot day, for April, and all of the competing horses were taken directly to the cooling-down area following the race, to be hosed down. The winning jockey had to return on foot to the Winners’ Enclosure to weigh in; Derek had been greeted on course by the winning trainer and her partner Peter Scudamore and they accompanied him back in along the walkway. A temporary podium had been set up in the Parade Ring in preparation for presentations to be made to connections. ITV Racing’s Matt Chapman acted as the compѐre for this.
We didn’t return to the Winners’ Enclosure/Parade Ring following the feature race either!
Ruby Walsh’s analysis of modern day Grand Nationals is that, since the fences have been modified and corrals introduced to catch loose horses, the race has become more of a stamina test because they travel faster for longer. Gone are the days when a 2½ miler would often win, because the jockeys no longer speed up or slow down at intervals in order to avoid loose horses.
Race 6 - 5:15pm
THE RANDOX HEALTH GRAND NATIONAL STEEPLE CHASE (HANDICAP) (CLASS 1) (Grade 3)
Due to the warm weather conditions, the Stewards gave permission for the first four finishers in the Grand National to be dismounted and unsaddled so that they could be cooled off before reaching the Winners Enclosure.
The Stewards noted that THE YOUNG MASTER, trained by Neil Mulholland, would wear a hood in the Parade Ring, and LA VATICANE (FR), trained by David Pipe, would wear earplugs.
The Stewards heard a report from the Starter that David Bass, Barry Geraghty, Jonathan Moore, Paddy Brennan, Jack Kennedy, Sean Flanagan, Ms K. Walsh, Noel Fehily, Sean Bowen, Mr S. Waley-Cohen, Mr J.J. Codd, Robbie Power, Danny Cook, Daryl Jacob, A.P. Heskin, Charlie Deutsch, R. Walsh, Derek Fox, David Noonan, P. Townend, Henry Brooke, Davy Russell, Harry Cobden, Donagh Meyler, G.N. Fox, David Mullins, B.J. Cooper, Mark Enright, Robert Dunne, Jake Greenall, and Richie McLernon had approached the tape before the flag was raised. The Stewards forwarded the matter to the Head Office of the British Horseracing Authority for it to be considered at a later date.
The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of DOCTOR HARPER (IRE), which pulled up, trained by David Pipe found it to have bled from the nose.
The favourite for the final event of this year’s Festival was So Celebre, trained by Ian Williams and ridden by David Noonan; price 6-1. There was one grey participant, namely The Grey Taylor.
Having had their girths checked, the riders began to congregate in the chute at the far corner of the track.
Having been wheeling around at the start, the runners were requested by the Assistant Starter to take another turn because Chesterfield was late in joining them. Having done this, they approached the tape, with Remiluc shaking his head, showing eagerness to get on with the race.
And then they were off, first time. The runners headed across the top of the track before entering the first turn which would take them into the home straight on the first occasion. The field was led by Wakea, Remiluc and Cousin Oscar. Also prominent were The Grey Taylor to the outside, Darebin, and John Constable.
The pace was quick and the runners were already quite strung out by the time they reached the first flight; all nineteen runners handled it safely, with Vosne Romanee and Robinshill bringing up the rear. They continued to the next and, once again, there appeared to be no jumping issues. The hooded Wakea spearheaded the runners as they journeyed down to the third flight; his wingmen were Remiluc and John Constable. In midfield, So Celebre made an error and flattened a panel as a result; also, for good measure, and travelling close to the rear of the field, Chieftain’s Choice flattened the adjacent one. They’d created a task for the fence marshals as it would be the final flight on the next circuit!
The runners continued down towards the grandstand bend led by the hooded Wakea, from Remiluc, John Constable, the visored Darebin, Highland Fling, Born Survivor, The Grey Taylor, Cousin Oscar, the blinkered Master Of Finance, the visored Jacks Last Hope, So Celebre, Chesterfield, cheek-pieced Zalvados, the hooded Raise A Spark, Aminabad, the hooded Curious Carlos, the cheek-pieced Vosne Romanee, Robinshill and Chieftain’s Choice.
Heading around the bottom turn, Vosne Romanee was being niggled along. Having entered the back straight there were a few untidy jumps at the fourth flight, including by the leader; the obstacle definitely looked the worse for wear as they headed away from it and towards the next. Wakea jumped this one well, but again there were a few trailing legs because the two inside panels were flattened!
The runners then headed across the sanded track before reaching the final flight in the back straight, which they all cleared without incident. The Grey Taylor was now being pushed along, as was Vosne Romanee, and Cousin Oscar had dropped to the rear of the field and lost touch.
There was no change at the head of affairs as they headed into the far turn; shortly afterwards Jacks Last Hope and Aminabad joined the list of those struggling and tailing off. However, only The Grey Taylor, Cousin Oscar and Jacks Last Hope were pulled up at this point.
Having entered the home straight, the remaining runners fanned out across the course as they headed to three out. Remiluc, Wakea and John Constable jumped this one in unison, with Master Of Finance almost upsides too, and a number of rivals hot on their heels also. With so many runners in contention heading towards two out, both Chieftain’s Choice and So Celebre had to be switched to the outside due to lack of room to make their challenges.
It was John Constable which rose first over the flight, closely pursued by Chesterfield, with Born Survivor, Highland Fling, Wakea, Remiluc, Chieftain’s Choice and Raise A Spark close on their tails and jumping it on unison. However, Born Survivor blundered and Wakea took an awful looking fall with his jockey Donagh Meyler thrown clear.
Meanwhile John Constable held the lead as they continued down the home straight to the final hurdle, but Chesterfield was gaining with every stride and was upsides as they jumped it. Or rather Chesterfield did, but John Constable didn’t because he fell. It was one of those falls where the horse rolls over and ends up on its feet once more due to the momentum; he just carried on as if nothing had happened.
This left Chesterfield well clear of his rivals, with Chieftain’s Choice successfully taking evasive action to avoid the faller and his jockey, likewise Highland Fling. In fact the former Bloomsfield’s horse had so much in hand on the run-in that Daniel Sansom was able to ease down close home and still won by 5 lengths at the line. The jockey had lost his 10lb claim having won the race too.
Chieftain’s Choice claimed the runner-up spot, three quarters of a length ahead of Zalvados. Raise A Spark completed in 4th, So Celebre 5th, Highland Fling weakened on the run-in to finish 6th, with Vosne Romanee 7th. Fourteen of the 19 runners completed the course.
Chesterfield had been off the racecourse for two years, having taken a fall at Kempton’s Christmas fixture in 2014 prior to the down-time; it had been a tendon injury. He’d changed ownership and yards towards the end of last year, as John Ferguson no longer trained, and the horse had been regaining his pre-injury form ever since. In fact he went on to finish off the 2016/2017 season by winning the Scottish Champion Hurdle later in the month.
Race 7 - 6:10pm
THE PINSENT MASONS HANDICAP HURDLE RACE (CLASS 2)
(For Conditional Jockeys and Amateur Riders)
No Stewards’ Enquiry.
With no equine fatalities thus far during this year’s Aintree Festival, initially it had looked like Wakea might be the sole one, as it had the hallmarks of a neck-crunching fall. However, although the green-screens had been required initially, the horse did recover and got to its feet before being hosed-down on course. Therefore no horses had been injured this year. J
In fact there’d been barely any fallers, apart from over the Grand National fences. I cannot recall any falls, excluding the final race, apart from Doitforthevillage clipping heels and Politologue’s stumble. Although I obviously don’t like to see falls, it does make writing my race notes more difficult when not a lot happens within a race!
It transpired that Toni had gone home by the time I was available to meet up with her. Oops! However, she’d placed a bet on the Grand National and had won nearly £200! It’s just a shame that I didn’t follow through by placing a bet on my tip too. L
We waited until One For Arthur had been paraded on course before commencing our journey back to Golborne. It was 19:30 by the time we were walking along the driveway within the Steeplechase car park to reach my car, which was parked near the back thereof.
I put off for as long as possible the moment when I would discover if the car bonnet would close … and, guess what? It closed at the first time of asking. I know exactly what the problem is despite the fact that everyone who services my car doesn’t believe any such thing is possible. Heat expansion. It’s heat expansion. It has to be. The sole time during the past five years that I’ve not experienced a problem with the bonnet at Aintree, is last year when the weather was cold and wet. Although I had no issues in 2009 to 2012 when the car was fairly new.
Whilst we sat in the car and waited for the traffic to clear a little, we looked up the details of the Table Table restaurant in order for me to phone them to rebook our table for 21:00; the original booking was for 20:00.
With the prospect of a long wait ahead of us, to exit the car park via the usual route over Anchor Bridge, after a handful of minutes I decided to follow the example of the locals! This meant heading in the opposite direction, and out onto the Melling Road. I missed the opportunity to head down Seeds Lane; I followed the diversion signs instead. This meant driving down Greenwich Road, which ran along the western edge of the local cemetery. At the far end, cones ensured all traffic turned left. However, I was now on the A506, so we headed straight along to the M57 and followed our usual route back to our hotel.
We arrived back pretty frazzled, or at least I was. My face was quite red, and my pendant had created a strange tan upon my décolletage. As it happened, due to our diverted route back, we had plenty of time in hand before our evening meal, so much so that we headed to the restaurant at 20:45.
Tonight I ordered a gammon, chicken and pea pie, plus a salted toffee apple crumble for dessert; also an apple and mango J2O.
It made so much more sense to stay for the additional night, as I was totally chilled out by the following morning and ahead of my journey back to Hertfordshire. Although I’d be eating lunch at home, I decided to have a final full English breakfast on Sunday morning. It was the same again, but with an omelette instead of fried eggs, but no croissants.
As Sandra didn’t partake in breakfast on Sunday, I dropped by her hotel room to bid farewell before setting off at 08:20 on my homeward journey. It was to be the hottest day of the year so far and the drive went smoothly. There were road-works currently between junctions 19 and 16 on the M6 and southwards for quite a distance on the M1 from its junction with the former. Strangely, the only time my neck issues caused me grief was when I was pottering along at 50 mph within both sets of road-works!
I made very good time and, following a trip to the local petrol station and the adjacent supermarket to buy a copy of the Racing Post, I arrived home at 11:45.