DIARY – AINTREE FESTIVAL
GRAND NATIONAL DAY
SATURDAY 14 APRIL 2018
The winner of the Maghull Novices Chase,
Diego Du Charmil, trained by Paul Nicholls
and ridden by Harry Cobden
I was awake at 06:00, woken by my alarm. I showered, including washing and drying my hair.
Sandra and I reported for breakfast at 07:15; the same time every day, apart from Sunday, by which time we were chilling out! It was a full-English breakfast again today, having paid in advance – three rashers of bacon, a pork sausage, mushrooms, half a fried tomato and today, just for a change, scrambled egg rather than an omelette. In addition, I ate two yoghurts, and a cold croissant with butter; I also drank a glass of cranberry juice.
Having returned to my room, I applied my war-paint and was soon ready to depart; to fill any free time during my stay, I’d taken my current knitting project with me to the hotel. However, I only managed to complete six rows during my entire stay!
Today’s outfit was two light-weight cream-coloured thermal T-shirts, a lavender-coloured thermal T-shirt, a cream fleece-lined thermal T-shirt, a mauve BHS cardigan, a grey/black dogtooth-check fishtail hem Dottie P skirt, a bright purple fleece, a black fleece gillet, a black BHS coat which cost me just £20 a few years ago, a pair of black jeggings, my black Hotter ‘Danville’ ankle boots, and favourite multi-coloured River Island scarf. Also a purple Kipling Defea-style handbag; the one I’d used all week. But I forgot my ‘horse-design’ snood today.
It was actually a sunny and warm April day ... but I didn’t intend to take any chances with regards to clothes; I’d rather be slightly too hot, than too cold.
After yesterday’s problem with my car bonnet, we decided to travel to Aintree in Sandra’s car. We departed just before 09:30, taking around 35 minutes to reach the racecourse. Being the busiest Festival day of the three, it took some time for us to clear the vehicle security check. However, this worked to our advantage, as we were directed to park within the row of cars immediately adjacent to the entrance; in fact we were the nearest vehicle to said entrance, being just three or four metres away!
Having had our handbags checked, our bodies scanned and tickets scanned too, we walked across the Melling Road and race-track in order to catch a bus to the grandstand side of the course. Having alighted, we headed along the concourse to buy a couple of race-cards; the kiosk backed onto the Queen Mother stand. We then bought two bottles of water and paid a visit to the ladies loo, the one situated to the rear of the Earl of Derby stand. It was already time for us to reserve our space for the remainder of the afternoon, beside the horse-walk exit gateway. I did pop away briefly, to buy a copy of the Racing Post whilst Sandra guarded our spot.
This year, we’d foregone the opportunity to undertake the Grand National course walk; we’d been let in late on Thursday, Friday had been wet, and today it was imperative to reserve our vantage point as early as possible. Besides, I didn’t fancy wearing myself out, having been suffering from a niggling pelvis issue since the beginning of January.
The Parade of Champions took place again today – taking part were Bindaree (2002), Silver Birch (2007), Mon Mome (2009), Neptune Collonges (2012), Pineau De Re (2014), and Rule The World (2016); Don’t Push It (2010) also appeared today, having not been available to take part in the parade on Thursday and Friday – he lives at JP McManus’ stud in Ireland, spending his time with his best friend Sweeps Hill. The horses paraded in the Paddock initially; then out upon the racecourse itself.
For the past two days the grass surface, where the horses exited onto the racecourse, had suffered a lot of wear and tear caused by flying hooves; the ground was described as soft on the Mildmay course and heavy on the Grand National course. Unlike two years ago, when a pretty pathetic attempt had been made to repair the damage, a case of too little too late, this year the ground staff had done an excellent job, with the area immediately outside the horse-walk completely covered by sand.
Grand National winning ex-jockey, now a TV racing presenter, Mick Fitzgerald was inducted into the Hall of Fame today.
As usual, ahead of the races, we spent time people-watching. Today we saw ITV Racing’s Oli Bell, jockey Harry Cobden, ex-jockey Carl Llewellyn, jockey Tom Bellamy, veteran jockey Andrew Thornton, BBC racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaught, amateur jockey Katie Walsh, journalist and former amateur jockey Brough Scott, jockeys James and Sean Bowen, the lovely Tom Stanley representing RUK, Grand National winning amateur jockey and now journalist Marcus Armytage, racing commentator Richard Hoiles, trainer Evan Williams along with stable jockey Adam Wedge, Robert Waley-Cohen without his sons today, trainer Fergal O’Brien and his partner Sally Randell, trainer Philip Hobbs and his wife Diana, along with injury sidelined jockey Ian Popham; also Grand National winning ex-jockey Jimmy Frost, father of jockey Bryony. Jockeys Tom Scudamore and Barry Geraghty went to walk the course. Sandra was disappointed that Oli Bell is a smoker!
My work colleague, Toni, had texted me whilst I was preparing to depart for the racecourse; she was also in the Earl of Derby enclosure today. However, she didn’t manage to locate me, despite the fact I told her what I was wearing and the fact that I never moved from my position throughout the afternoon! Needless to say, I wasn’t going to go in search of her, just in case I lost my place!
Anyway, the off time of the first race was 13:45.
The favourite for the first race of the day was Mr Big Shot, trained by David Pipe and ridden by Tom Scudamore; price 7-1. My non-betting selection was Debece. Just one grey in this race, Fixe Le Kap.
The starting gate for this event was part way down the home straight, with one flight then two full circuits to travel.
And then they were off, with Knight Of Noir, Ah Littleluck, Debece and the urged into stride Connetable leading the way to the first flight; Tikkenbar brought up the rear as the runners negotiated this obstacle safely. The twenty runners continued down towards the winning post with two circuits to travel; the keen running Debece took a narrow advantage as they headed around the bottom bend.
Having entered the back straight the field was already quite strung out; the competitors cleared the second flight without incident. Connetable and Tikkanbar were far from fluent at the third. The runners continued along the back straight, crossing the sanded track-way on their approach to the fourth flight. Debece remained at the head of affairs, from Ah Littleluck; Tikkanbar was slightly detached at the back of the field having not performed well in the jumping stakes thus far. It was the latter’s first run in a handicap event.
Having his first run for 372 days, the Tim Vaughan-trained runner continued to spearhead the field as they headed around the top bend. He was followed by Ah Littleluck, Connetable and Knight Of Noir. Behind these travelled Sykes, The Mighty Don, Now McGinty, Golan Fortune, Red Indian, Sir Mangan, Fixe Le Kap, Fortunate George, Shannon Bridge, Mr Big Shot, Jeannot De Nonant, Prime Venture, Jaleo, No Hassle Hoff, Louis’ Vac Pouch and Tikkanbar.
The runners entered the home straight and continued their journey to the fifth flight; Debece made an error at this one but he remained ahead of his rivals and, with ears pricked, led them down towards and over the next. Having completed one circuit, all twenty runners were still standing as they headed towards the seventh flight; Ah Littleluck jumped the obstacle upsides Debece. Jeannot De Nonant was less than fluent at this one which, in turn, caused Richard Johnson to take evasive action aboard Louis’ Vac Pouch in order to avoid the former’s hindquarters upon landing.
Debece continued to bowl along at the head of affairs as they headed down past the winning post, with one circuit now to travel. In contrast, against the inside rail, Connetable was already being ridden along; also, on one occasion, his jockey Harry Cobden administered encouragement with his whip. It was no avail however, as his mount began to lose his position as they entered the back straight; Connetable made an error at the next, as did Tikkanbar.
The long-time leader had stepped up a gear as they continued to the ninth flight; The Mighty Don dislodged the orange strip as he crossed the flight, leaving it lying on the ground some distance from the obstacle. A number of the runners were beginning to lose touch as they headed across the sanded track-way once more; namely Louis’ Vac Pouch, Connetable and Tikkanbar. The fourth last was subsequently cleared without incident and Debece led the field into the top bend, from Ah Littleluck, Sykes and Now McGinty; now struggling to remain in touch with the back of the main group was Jeannot De Nonant.
There was no change at the head of affairs as the runners entered the home straight for the final time. The Tim Vaughan-trained runner led them over the third last; not far off the pace and to the inside of the track, Fixe Le Kap made an error at this one and Mr Big Shot was less than fluent too. The horses continued down the straight to the second last, with Debece refusing to relinquish the lead; his nearest challengers were Ah Littleluck, Mr Big Shot and Now McGinty as they jumped it. Also in the leading group were Sykes, The Mighty Don, Prime Venture and Red Indian.
The long-time leader finally succumbed as they continued down towards the final flight; Mr Big Shot had taken the narrow advantage as they cleared this obstacle, with Now McGinty subsequently heading the David Pipe-trained runner shortly afterwards. However, although Now McGinty stayed on well as they continued down the run-in, Mr Big Shot rallied, proving the stronger and went on to win by three quarters of a length at the line.
Although having made a mistake two out when outpaced, Ah Littleluck plugged on to claim 3rd; a distance of 10¾ lengths behind the runner-up and beating the very game Debece into 4th by a neck. The Mighty Don was 5th, Prime Venture 6th, Red Indian 7th and Fixe Le Kap 8th. All twenty completed the course, with Fortunate George crossing the line in last place.
The winner was stepping up in trip today, having run in the extended 2 mile 4 furlongs Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival – in other words, the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ race! He’d finished 10th of 23 that day. Mr Big Shot is by Flemensfirth, this was his fifth run today, having not started off pointing like many others; he’s owned by Professor Caroline Tisdall. Jockey Tom Scudamore described his mount as still ‘green’ and said he hasn’t got a ‘nasty bone’ in his body.
We remained beside the walkway exit gate following completion of the race.
Race 1 - 1:45pm
THE GASKELLS HANDICAP HURDLE RACE (CLASS 1) (Grade 3)
The performance of GOLAN FORTUNE (IRE), which
finished unplaced, was considered. Phil Middleton explained that the gelding
weakened quickly from the third last hurdle. The Veterinary Officer reported
that a post-race examination of GOLAN FORTUNE (IRE) during routine testing
failed to reveal any abnormalities.
The favourite for the next race was the Nicky Henderson-trained, Nico de Boinville-ridden, On The Blind Side; price 11-8. He’d missed Cheltenham due to a minor set-back.
Alan King had a runner in this race, namely Chosen Path ridden by Wayne Hutchinson.
Another competitor was Black Op, trained by Tom George; he’d finished 2nd to Samcro in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
There were no greys in this race.
The starting gate for this event was located in the back straight, between the first and second flights therein.
And then they were off, with Brianstorm leading the way to the first flight of hurdles; Chosen Path wasn’t fluent at this one. The runners continued their journey down the back straight, crossing the sanded track-way before reaching the second obstacle. At this flight it was Better Getalong’s turn to make an error.
Heading into the top bend, Brianstorm led the field by around three lengths, from the favourite On The Blind Side, Silver Concorde, Black Op, Western Ryder, Momella, Kildisart, Better Getalong, Lostintranslation, Chosen Path, Euxton Lane and Aye Aye Charlie.
There was no change at the head of affairs as the runners entered the home straight for the first time, with the hooded Brianstorm leading the way. Once again, Chosen Path wasn’t fluent at the first flight therein. The horses continued to the fourth flight, which the Munir/Souede-owned Kildisart hit. The twelve-strong field subsequently journeyed to the next, which would be the final flight after another circuit of the track. Chosen Path received a slap down his neck having jumped it.
Heading down towards the winning post the order was Brianstorm, from On The Blind Side and Silver Concorde. These were followed by Black Op alongside Western Ryder, after which travelled the sole mare Momella, then Better Getalong, Lostintranslation, Chosen Path, Kildisart, Aye Aye Charlie and, finally, Euxton Lane.
Just beyond the post, the runners swung left-handed to travel around the bottom bend and into the back straight for the final time. The main body of the field had closed upon the long-time leader by the time they reached the sixth flight, with Black Op now in second position; Better Getalong made an error here and dropped back through the field. Surprisingly Kildisart, which had won the Kempton Park Festival consolation race in March, had soon been relegated to last place.
The runners cleared the middle flight in the back straight without incident; subsequently heading across the sanded track-way before reaching four out. Western Ryder made a mistake at this one whilst travelling in mid-field; Better Getalong was now at the rear of the field and Silver Concorde would join him as they headed around the top turn.
Meanwhile Black Op, who’d been lobbing happily along behind the leader for a while, took the advantage as the runners entered the home straight; although he did make an error three out. He retained a narrow lead on the journey towards two out, with Momella and Western Ryder laying down their challenges to the near-side. Lostintranslation moved into fourth position as they cleared the penultimate flight, the favourite having blundered here when under pressure.
The leading group of seven, which also included Euxton Lane and Aye Aye Charlie, had pulled well clear of their rivals on the run to the final obstacle. Western Ryder’s challenge began to falter at this point, with Momella and Lostintranslation continuing to press the Tom George-trained runner for the lead. Neither Black Op nor Lostintranslation jumped the last flight well, although they’d seen off the mare by this stage.
The battle was joined after the last with Noel Fehily and Robbie Power offering their mounts every encouragement as they headed down towards the winning post, neither wishing to lose. And it wasn’t until the last 100 yards that Black Op finally proved the stronger, winning by just half a length at the line.
Momella claimed 3rd place, 3 lengths further back, with Aye Aye Charlie one length behind her in 4th. Western Ryder completed in 5th, On The Blind Side 6th, Euxton Lane 7th, Chosen Path 8th; the last to finish was Kildisart, as the remaining three had been pulled up.
The winning jockey Noel Fehily said his mount jumps well during the race when amongst runners but may have been distracted by the crowds when making errors late on; also that Black Op is ‘crying out for a fence’. Lostintranslation did briefly get his head in front just after the last, with Black Op battling back to win. Noel described it as dead ground today, very tiring for the horses – hard work in fact.
Tom George was hoping that Black Op would go chasing next season with, in the same ownership, the Supreme Novices’ winner Summerville Boy remaining over hurdles.
Again we remained beside the course-side rails following the second race.
Race 2 - 2:25pm
THE BETWAY MERSEY NOVICES' HURDLE RACE (CLASS 1) (Grade 1)
Following the race, Nico de Boinville reported that ON THE BLIND SIDE (IRE), placed sixth, weakened quickly from the second last hurdle and the Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of the gelding failed to reveal any abnormalities. The Veterinary Officer also reported that BETTER GETALONG (IRE), which was pulled up, lost its left hind shoe.
The odds-on favourite for the next race was the highly-strung Petit Mouchoir, ridden by Davy Russell; price 4-5. Trained by Henry de Bromhead, the grey played up when coming through the tunnel onto the racecourse. He had bumped into and dislodged the guard rails when he exited the Parade Ring and Davy was unable to get aboard until he’d reached the ‘corral’ in front of the stands ... and, even then, it was with difficulty. Petit Mouchoir travelled to the starting gate okay though.
My fancy was Lady Buttons.
The starting gate for this event was in the far corner of the track; the cross fence being the first obstacle.
And then they were off, with Shantou Rock bounding into the lead as they headed towards the first obstacle; the cross-fence. Petit Mouchoir jumped the fence in second position and Davy Russell had to restrain his overexcited mount as they headed around the bend and into the home straight on the first occasion. Lady Buttons tracked the leading duo, from Diego Du Charmil, Delegate and the restrained Kauto Riko well in rear.
The runners continued to the second fence, where Delegate dived over it slightly. The next fence was the first of three open-ditches to be jumped during the race; they all cleared this well, although Kauto Riko was rather slow in rear and already in danger of losing touch with his rivals. The horses subsequently journeyed across the Grand National track to reach the fourth fence, which they cleared without incident.
Shantou Rock continued to lead the way as the runners headed down past the packed grandstands and around the bottom bend. There was no change in the order as they entered the back straight, although the backmarker had closed the gap upon his rivals slightly. The first four cleared the fifth fence without issue, but Delegate clobbered it and skewed in the air before landing safely; jockey Brian Hughes glanced beneath his left arm to check upon the whereabouts of Kauto Riko as they headed towards the next fence. His rival remained a few lengths adrift.
Meanwhile the horses continued to the next obstacle, with Shantou Rock remaining at the head of affairs; there were no noticeable errors at this one. The following fence was the second of the open-ditches. The leader jumped this one a little slowly and Delegate made another error but remained in fifth position despite this.
The runners continued along the back straight, heading over the sanded track-way as they journeyed to the eighth fence. The leading four cleared this well, with their two rivals fencing more slowly and well adrift. There was no change at the head of affairs as the horses headed into the top bend; one circuit now completed and with four fences still to negotiate.
The leading group jumped the cross-fence well, with the remaining two some distance behind them but, presumably, with an eye on the prizes for 5th and 6th place of £2,210 and £1,100 respectively! The runners entered the home straight, still led by Shantou Rock and he was half a length up upon Petit Mouchoir as they cleared three out; the latter having got a little close to the fence too. Meanwhile Kauto Riko had relegated Delegate to last position.
The penultimate fence was the final open-ditch and the grey narrowly headed the long-time leader as they successfully cleared it. However, having appeared to master Shantou Flyer, a new rival appeared on the scene in the shape of Diego Du Charmil and the two travelled neck and neck as they headed across the Grand National course on their way to the final obstacle.
The Paul Nicholls-trained runner began to assert as the fence approached, although he did drift to his left which meant that Davy Russell had to switch behind him. Meanwhile, Lady Buttons had moved into third position ahead of Shantou Flyer. The leader flew over the final fence, where Petit Mouchoir was less fluent. Harry Cobden then drove out his mount all the way to the line; the winning margin was 2½ lengths over the Irish raider.
Having been outpaced by the leading duo, Lady Buttons and Shantou Flyer were involved in a protracted duel after the last, with the latter claiming third prize, 6 lengths behind the runner-up and a neck in front of the mare. Kauto Riko cantered across the line in 5th, 24 lengths further back, with Delegate last, another 24 lengths behind him.
It was trainer Paul Nicholls’ 7th winner of this particular race.
Yet again, Sandra and I remained at our ‘post’ following the race!
Race 3 - 3:00pm
THE DOOM BAR MAGHULL NOVICES' STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 1) (Grade 1)
MOUCHOIR (FR) and SHANTOU ROCK (IRE) wore earplugs which were removed at the
The favourite for the next was Thomas Patrick, trained by Tom Lacey and ridden by Richard Johnson; price 3-1.
My non-bet upon selection was Ibis Du Rheu. There were no greys in this race but there were three Irish raiders, namely Heist, Paper Lantern and Bearly Legal.
The starting gate for this race was located at the far end of the home straight, with the aforementioned straight and two full circuits to travel.
It was a standing start but then they were off, with Thomas Patrick leading the way as they cleared the first fence. Trailing the field was Bells of Ailsworth having been slowly away; a standing start doesn’t suit some horses! The 16 competitors cleared the fence safely and continued on their journey to the second, which was the first of the open-ditches.
The favourite continued to lead, from Very First Time, Pearl Swan, Rocklander, Holly Bush Henry, Casse Tete, Wakanda, Paper Lantern, Oldgrangewood, Bearly Legal, Ibis Du Rheu, Clondaw Cian, Heist, On Tour, Hammersly Lake and Bells Of Ailsworth. There were no casualties at this fence, after which the runners crossed the Grand National course as they headed to fence number three.
Thomas Patrick and Pearl Swan continued to lead the way as they jumped this, before heading down past the crowded grandstands and winning post with two complete circuits now to travel. Having entered the back straight, Bells Of Ailsworth had finally made up the ground he lost at the start of the race and was now tagged onto the back of the field.
The favourite continued to lead the way narrowly as they jumped the next fence; one of the Irish raiders, Heist, made an error at this obstacle. The runners continued on their journey along the back straight to reach the fifth fence; Thomas Patrick blundered here. Richard Johnson had seen a stride but the horse didn’t listen and got too close to the obstacle as a result; the partnership survived this difference of opinion! Heist made another mistake here.
The following fence was the second of the open-ditches; the leader jumped this one well, having listened to his jockey on this occasion! The horses continued to the seventh fence, crossing the sanded track-way en route. Travelling to the fore, Very First Time blundered at this one, with jockey Danny Cook having to re-gather his knitting afterwards!
There was no change at the head of affairs as the field headed into the far turn on their journey towards the sometimes tricky cross-fence. The leaders jumped this well but, in midfield, Very First Time and Paper Lantern bumped in mid-air. This left Rocklander, who was travelling in their wake, unsighted with nowhere to go; he fell as a result. Hammersly Lake, although hampered, managed to side-step the prostrate horse and jockey.
Meanwhile, Thomas Patrick led the remaining runners into the home straight, one circuit having now been completed. Pearl Swan and Holly Bush Henry disputed second position, from Paper Lantern, Very First Time and Ibis Du Rheu. Following the bumping incident, Paper Lantern’s jockey Donagh Meyler reached down to adjust his right iron.
The favourite led the horses over the ninth fence; at the back of the field travelled Heist, which jumped this one very big, and Clowdaw Cian who was ridden away from the fence. The runners continued on their journey to the third of the open-ditches and there were no noticeable errors at this one. The competitors continued down the home straight, crossing the route of the Grand National course on their way to fence number eleven.
There were no departures at this obstacle, and with fifteen still standing, they headed down towards the winning post with one circuit still to complete. Thomas Patrick continued to lead, from Holly Bush Henry, Pearl Swan, Paper Lantern, Bearly Legal, Oldgrangewood, Very First Time, Ibis Du Rheu, Casse Tete, Hammersly Lake, Wakanda, On Tour, Bells Of Ailsworth, Heist and the detached Clondaw Cian. The latter was pulled up at this point, having struggled for a while.
The now field of fourteen entered the back straight for the final time, with Thomas Patrick leading them safely over the first fence therein. The runners continued their journey to the thirteenth fence, another plain one, which they also all negotiated successfully. The following fence was the penultimate open-ditch where there were no departures, although Heist did make another small error.
The runners headed across the sanded track-way for the final time as they journeyed to the fifth last. Richard Johnson saw another stride as he rode the leader towards take-off over this one and cleared it well. Towards the rear of the field Wakanda made an error. Thomas Patrick spearheaded the runners as they headed into the far turn, from Holly Bush Henry, Paper Lantern, Bearly Legal, Oldgrangewood, Very First Time, Pearl Swan, Ibis Du Rheu, On Tour, Casse Tete, Wakanda, Hammersly Lake, Bells Of Ailsworth and Heist.
Having cleared the cross-fence without incident, Tom Lacey’s charge remained at the head of affairs as the field entered the home straight; he remained ahead as the jumped three out, but Paper Lantern and Holly Bush Henry were both within a length of him. Meanwhile, On Tour continued to make progress from behind and had now moved into fifth position.
The leading five, which also included Oldgrangewood, began to pull away from their rivals as they headed towards the final open-ditch. However, instead of being swallowed up by his challengers, having landed over the fence, Thomas Patrick began to stretch his advantage once more. On Tour progressed into second position as they approached the final obstacle; it’s his style of running to lay down a late challenge.
The leader flew the last fence and, despite On Tour’s best efforts on the run-in he was unable to catch the favourite who went on to win by 4 lengths at the line. Paper Lantern completed in 3rd position, a further 4½ lengths behind the runner-up. Oldgrangewood claimed 4th position, by a neck from Ibis Du Rheu, with Holly Bush Henry 6th and, very surprisingly, Heist completed in 7th! There were 12 finishers in total; Hammersly Lake was pulled up before the last and Bells Of Ailsworth before 3 out.
Richard Johnson said the winner needs soft ground and stays very well; carrying 10-10 today was also a great advantage. Jockey and trainer thought, possibly, the Ladbrokes Trophy (ex-Hennessy) and Welsh National would suit the following season if the going was soft.
Rocklander appeared fine following the incident; he rose to his feet and cantered off. Not so jockey Adrian Heskin; he broke his arm in the fall and missed the ride aboard Saint Are in the Grand National. Paddy Brennan took the ride aboard Worlds End in the next race.
Again we remained beside the course-side rails following the race.
4 - 3:40pm
Having reviewed recordings of the false start,
the Starters were satisfied that no riders should be reported for
contravening the starting procedures.
Click here to read my Grand National Day Diary Part II