DIARY – AINTREE FESTIVAL
FRIDAY 04 APRIL 2014
Boston Bob and a delighted Paul Townend
return having won the Grade 1 Melling Chase
for trainer Willie Mullins and owners Andrea and Graham Wylie
It was a thoroughly restless night; not helped by the fact I was experiencing pains in my neck and shoulders which, in turn, produced a headache up the back of my head. When I awoke at 01:00, I decided to make myself a cup of coffee, just in case the problem was exacerbated by caffeine deficiency. Fortunately by the time I awoke for the final time, at 06:30, the problem had disappeared, apart from the odd twinge every now and then.
I had a shower, washed and dried my hair before applying moisturiser. Dressing in my casual blue jeggings, oversized cardigan and a thermal t-shirt, I went to get breakfast at 07:30; it was a soggy morning, with drizzly rain at the moment. I chose omelette, two rashers of bacon, mushrooms and two hash-browns (although I only ate one of the latter). Whilst I waited for the food to arrive, I went to select additional items from the continental spread – two yoghurts and Weetabix with a sprinkling of fruit – plus a glass of apple juice.
Having been offered one of the small dingy passageway tables as per my meal yesterday evening, I asked if I could sit somewhere less dark; I was directed to a small table in the main dining room, although still not with a window close by! I had finished by 08:00, after which I returned to my room in order to apply my makeup and dress for the day ahead.
My Ladies Day outfit was three thermal t-shirts – violet, pink (cerise shade) and purple – mauve cardigan, bright purple fleece, black gillet, M&S flowered skirt (white background with a sort of lily design in pink and burgundy shades, plus a velvet waistband), bright purple tights (far brighter than usual) black Hotter shoes for comfort, mauve BHS jacket, black and white horse snood, plus white/beige/mauve/purple scarf purchased at the 2011 Lambourn Open Day; only later did I realise I had intended to wear a dark pink and brown M & S scarf with this particular skirt.
M & S skirt
BHS mauve jacket
(described as Bright Purple on label)
BHS mauve cardigan
(described as Light Purple on label)
M & S Snood
Scarf purchased at the
Lambourn Open Day 2011;
second from the right
Black Hotter shoes on left
I departed my hotel at 09:30, having put the notice on the corridor side of the doorknob asking staff not to turn down the bed today; I didn’t want strangers in the room whilst I was away for the day, although there was just my clothes, make-up and hairdryer plus all my chargers within.
I travelled my usual route to the racecourse; westwards along the A580 until I reached the slip-road where I joined the M57 to head north to its terminus. I then took a sharp left, drove past the Asda store to my left, under the railway bridge to join the back of a queue of traffic which had formed at the traffic lights on the Ormskirk Road. A left turn then took me into Aintree Lane; I negotiated the annoying speed bumps and soon arrived at the Melling Road junction where I turned right. Today the ‘Jobs Worth’ steward demanded to see my ticket, along with my Car Park pass, despite the fact that one could still purchase tickets from the kiosk within the Steeplechase car park entrance area as it wasn’t a sell-out crowd today. And you would need to be in possession of a ticket to be allowed through the entrance.
Having been given the all-clear to enter, and driven over the Anchor Bridge, today I drove down the roadway to reach the left-hand queue for my car to be checked by the security staff. Having got out of my car, I told the steward on duty that he’d be unable to open the bonnet and he promptly ignored this instruction; the lever inside the passenger foot-well was pulled by a colleague to release it and, guess what, the bonnet would only open by two inches … surprise, surprise! I did tell them!
The inside and boot having been checked, I drove along the road to park my care upon the grass area to the right. Today my vehicle was in the back row of two, to the far end with no cars between mine and the perimeter fence. Having changed into my mauve jacket and Hotter shoes, I set off across the grass to reach the driveway and walked along to the entrance. My ticket was scanned and my handbag was then checked by the same steward as yesterday – so it was not his lucky day again! Finally my body was scanned to ensure I carried no dangerous weapons; also the same steward as Thursday and we shared a joke as yesterday too. My parking docket number today was 20, my Earl of Derby Terrace badge No.7.
I then crossed the Melling Road, the racecourse, and the all-weather gallop to catch the bus which would take me to the grandstand side of the track. At this time of the day the hazard on the all-weather gallop was tractors; before 10:00 it would have been horses out for their morning exercise!
Having arrived on the main concourse in front of the grandstands, I popped to the loo situated behind the Earl of Derby stand before setting off to find the kiosk close to the main entrance in order to purchase a race-card, £4 again today. I then headed to the steppings below the Weighing Room to watch the world go by; the rain having stopped, the concrete had dried out by now enabling me to place my very heavy handbag on the ground. That’s probably what’s causing my headaches!
It also enabled people to sit upon the steps if they wished – in fact trainer Rebecca Curtis met up with a couple thereon, and they sat and chatted for a while. Mick Fitzgerald stopped briefly to pass the time of day with them as he walked past. Richard Pitman also spoke with Rebecca and wished her luck.
By 11:45 the skies had cleared further; there were still clouds but a few patches of blue were showing through. The afternoon’s forecast had been 14 degrees, bright but no direct sunshine. A chilly breeze was getting up by noon.
Ahead of racing RUK’s Stewart Machin ran through his fancied runners for the day; it was broadcast on the big screen overlooking the Winners’ Enclosure. His tips in the first were Josses Hill, possibly Sgt Reckless and Baltimore Rock. He liked Many Clouds and Wonderful Charm is the next race, stating it would be a totally different test for Cheltenham winners O’Faolains Boy and Holywell.
He chose Rajdhani Express and Module for the Melling Chase (the latter was subsequently a non-runner). His picks for the Topham were Tanks For That, Double Ross, Big Fella Thanks, Tahiti Pearl and Massini’s Maguire. For race 5 he liked Capote and Seeyouatmidnight. Mentioned for race 6 were Attaglance, Caid Du Berlais, Clondaw Kaempfer, Cheltenian, Cash And Go and Yesyoucan. Finally in the Mares’ bumper, Oleohneh, Tara Mist and Midnight Jazz.
Oli Bell narrated a brief tribute to the film National Velvet ... I could see myself in the background on the big screen! It was 70 years since the film was released, in 1944. On the following Monday morning it would be announced that one of the film’s star, Mickey Rooney, had died aged 93.
Oli also interviewed 2009 Grand National winning jockey Liam Treadwell; although the jockey would be riding at Chepstow the following day. He mentioned that this was his best ever season. Another interviewee was Sam Twiston-Davies who spoke about the jockeys’ annual visit to the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
There was an Injured Jockeys montage broadcast upon the screen behind Winners’ Enclosure; it included a snippet of Choc displaying the scar on his upper right arm which was the result of an operation to repair a broken bone caused by a fall at Hereford in December 2011.
Whilst loitering on the steppings I noticed Sam Waley-Cohen and his father Robert head out to walk the course; Ian Popham too. Strangely, when Sam returned, I noticed that the feet of his green Wellingtons were clean but the legs very dirty! Others I noticed passing by were Nick Scholfield, Luke Harvey and show-jumper Nick Skelton; father of trainer Dan and jockey Harry. Also RUK’s Claude Charlet, regular presenter at Kempton Park Anthony Kemp, and Dave Yates (Daily Mirror’s Newsboy and RUK pundit). Lydia Hislop and Mark Howard were presenting for RUK today.
Today’s pre-race entertainment in the Parade Ring was two ladies riding their mounts side-saddle – equine management student Morgan Schive aboard the black Irish Draught Stallion Cos Me Is Black, and equine vet Jo Hales riding Cairn Du (aka Jack). Having paraded around the paddock a number of times, they then stopped within the Winners’ Enclosure to be interviewed by RUK’s Gordon Brown. Afterwards the riders headed out to the racecourse to parade.
With Choc having just a single ride today, aboard the Alan King trained mare Avispa in the final race of the day, there was no need for me remain close to the Parade Ring at this point in the day. This being the case, I set off to the Earl of Derby enclosure to reserve my place beside the course-side rails. It took a little while to ease my way into my favourite spot as there was a group of people already there, including a very ‘loud’ bloke. I hate loud people!!! And I also hate it when girls scream at the top of their voices when their favoured runner is in with a chance of winning ... I really don’t need to have my ears abused by groups of screaming banshees!
The off time for the first race was 14:00; the favourite the Nicky Henderson-trained, Josses Hill, ridden by Barry Geraghty. The horse had finished 2nd in two Grade 1 hurdles this year, including the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival where he had been beaten by Vautour. The Supreme Novices’ 4th, Sgt Reckless was also running, as was the Imperial Cup winner Baltimore Rock.
The starting gate for this race was at the top corner of the racecourse, with the runners entering from within the in-field where they had been circling ahead of the race. This meant they would initially travel along the short stretch of track along the top of the course, before turning into the home straight with that and one full circuit to travel.
Then they were off. It was no surprise that Amore Alato led them away; Richard Johnson aboard. He was followed by Irish Cavalier, described as grey or roan ... in my opinion he was the latter, and King Of The Picts. Behind these, from the inside Josses Hill, Art Of Payroll and Gentleman Jon. In rear were The Game Changer, Baltimore Rock, Sgt Reckless and Mijhaar.
Ears pricked the leader headed into the home straight to approach the first hurdle. The runners jumped this and the following flights therein in their stride, Amore Alato continuing to lead the way and with Sgt Reckless and Baltimore Rock bringing up the rear. The field galloped down past the grandstands to excited screams from the viewing spectators; have they never seen a racehorse in action before?
Having passed the winning post, the runners set out upon the final circuit; they headed along the very short section of track beside the hospitality boxes and turned into the back straight. There had been very little change in the order thus far. Irish Cavalier had moved almost upsides as the runners cleared the next hurdle; he continued to dispute the lead as the field jumped the middle flight, traversed the pathway, and then cleared the next without incident; Sgt Reckless and Baltimore Rock continued at the rear of the closely packed field.
They headed into the far bend; Amore Alato holding an advantage due to having the assistance of the inside berth around it. As they entered the home straight, the leader was being pressed by Irish Cavalier and Gentlemen Jon. The runners fanned out to approach the third last flight. At the rear of the field, although close up, Baltimore Rock made an error.
Heading down to two out, Josses Hill took the lead; his closest pursuer now being Sgt Reckless to the nearside just half a length down. The runners cleared the flight and travelled towards the last; in hot pursuit of the leading duo were Baltimore Rock and Mijhaar.
It was nip and tuck as they approached the final flight; Josses Hill was strongly pressed by AP McCoy’s mount but kept his head narrowly in front. The leader put in a quicker jump and, on the run-in, began to assert; he won by 6 lengths at the line. Sgt Reckless finished 2nd, with King of the Picts staying on to claim 3rd a further 3¼ lengths back. Baltimore Rock was the half a length behind in 4th. Having cut out much of the running, Amore Alato had weakened badly in the home straight, was eased and finished last of the ten.
Following the race, Nicky Henderson told RUK’s Tom O’Ryan that the horse would probably be going chasing next season; he’s a big stamp of a horse and a decision will be made over the summer.
Nicky’s horses have plaited manes but not plaited tails. Best turned-out horses invariably have one or both; I, personally, dislike plaited tails and I’m not that keen on plaited manes either! Alan King’s horses have neither. The jockeys will usually undo two or three lower mane plaits just in case they need to hold on to them during a race!!!
The horses having crossed the line, I transferred over to the Lord Sefton side of the walkway before the gates were closed and ahead of the runners returning in order to get a different prospective for my photographs.
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE:
The favourite for the next race was Cheltenham’s RSA winner, O’Faolains Boy, at 3-1. Second favourite was Cheltenham Festival Baylis and Harding handicap chase winner, Holywell. I was taken by the looks of Irish raider, Don Cossack; but I can never support non-British runners!
The starting gate for this race was at the far end of the home straight, with that and two full circuits to travel.
Then they were off and heading to the first; the order was three by three. Many Clouds to the inside with Just A Par centre and Holywell; behind the leaders travelled O’Faolains Boy, Wonderful Charm and Don Cossack. There were no problems at the first, and they skipped over the open-ditch too; Many Clouds a little slow to the inside. Just A Par disputed the lead with Holywell as they jumped the third.
The runners headed down past the winning post and out onto the first full circuit. Just A Par held the advantage travelling towards the fourth, where AP’s mount put in the better leap and drew alongside the leader once more. This duo had set up a three length advantage as they headed to the next. All six runners cleared that and the open-ditch without incident; they then crossed the pathway and galloped towards the final fence in the back straight. Again, no jumping errors here.
Just A Par, holding the inside line, led the runners into the far bend; having jumped the cross-fence, AP McCoy permitted his mount to rejoin the leader as they headed into the home straight and approached the first fence therein. The runners fanned out over this, now four in a line; Just A Par, Many Clouds, Holywell and Don Cossack. Holywell went on again as they crossed the open-ditch, from Just A Par and Many Clouds; Wonderful Charm travelled at the rear of the field, but only a length behind the others.
Just A Par travelled up to the inside of the leader as they headed to the next, but then AP’s mount soared over the fence and went on again. The runners galloped down past the winning post with one circuit to go; Just A Par and Holywell now neck and neck as they headed around the grandstand turn and out into the country for the final time. Just A Par lost his place as they jumped the next fence; O’Faolains Boy leapt into second place at this point. Barry Geraghty’s mount got a little low at the next; dust flying from the birch fence.
Holywell retained his advantage over the field as they jumped the open-ditch. O’Faolains Boy was now in second position, from Just A Par and Don Cossack disputing third. Many Clouds and Wonderful Charm brought up the rear. The leader got a little close to the final fence in the back straight but remained ahead and held a two lengths advantage heading into the final turn. Just A Par had now lost touch with the field.
Having cleared the cross-fence, Don Cossack loomed up at Holywell’s quarters but the leader ‘hung tough’! The Irish raider got a little close to the first fence in the home straight, which stemmed his momentum somewhat and he was soon fighting it out for second position with O’Faolains Boy, Wonderful Charm and Many Clouds; the latter the first to crack as the horses jumped the final open-ditch, two out.
And still Holywell continued his relentless pursuit of the prize. Don Cossack got the better of the RSA winner as they headed on down to the last. AP McCoy gave his mount a couple of cracks with his whip to keep him up to the task and he flew the final fence; one more crack and a glance behind and his jockey realised there would be no challengers. Holywell won by 10 lengths at the line. Don Cossack claimed runner-up position, with Wonderful Charm 7 lengths away in 3rd. Many Clouds completed in 4th, with O’Faolains Boy in 5th. Just A Par finished a tailed-off last.
It was a pity that O’Faolains Boy didn’t have an off-day at Cheltenham too; having beaten Choc aboard Smad Place by a neck!
Another excellent round of jumping from the winner who, earlier in the season, had got his jumping career off to a rather unpromising error strewn start. Following the race, AP described him as having a great little heart and a will to win.
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE:
WHY THEY RAN BADLY
The Stewards considered the running of O’FAOLAINS BOY (IRE), ridden by Barry Geraghty and trained by Rebecca Curtis, which finished fifth. The Stewards noted the explanation of the trainer’s representative that the gelding ran flat. They ordered O’FAOLAINS BOY (IRE) to be routine tested.
The favourite for the next race was Rajdhani Express, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Mr Sam Waley-Cohen; priced 7-2. Module was a late withdrawal, having succumbed to a last minute bout of mild colic. He was expected to have started as the favourite for this race, having won the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury and finished third in this season’s Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
It was a Grade 1 race and the feature event of the day. Therefore, having exited onto the racecourse, the runners were paraded in front of the stands before they headed to the starting gate, which was at the beginning of the back straight.
There was a little bit of confusion as the horses finished circling and headed towards the starting gate; Aidan Coleman, Andrew Lynch and Nick Scholfield not quite sure which side of the short length of corner rail they should proceed; Brian O’Connell didn’t worry, he remained to the outside of it, rather than be re-directed to the inside like the others!
Then they were off. One of the four Irish raiders, Days Hotel rising first at the initial fence. Rolling Aces, Rathlin and Pepite Rose disputed second position with Ballynagour at the rear of the field; the latter rather slow through the air. Rolling Aces had pulled himself upsides Days Hotel as they jumped the second fence. The third fence is an open-ditch which they all cleared well. The runners then headed over the pathway and approached the fourth; Boston Bob brought up the rear, Ballynagour having improved one place, although he was slightly less than fluent at this fence.
Heading into the far turn the runners were led by Rolling Aces and Rathlin. They were pursued by Days Hotel in a clear third; Wishful Thinking, French Opera and Pepite Rose disputed fourth, with Rajdhani Express and Toner D’Oudaires behind these, followed by Ballynagour and Boston Bob. All ten horses negotiated the cross-fence without incident and headed around the turn and into the home straight on the first occasion.
Rathlin was marginally ahead jumping the next fence and held a length of so advantage heading over the open-ditch. He then extended his lead as they travelled towards the next. Rolling Aces now led the main group, from Days Hotel, Wishful Thinking, French Opera and Pepite Rose; Boston Bob still brought up the rear. Having cleared this fence without problem, the runners headed down past the winning post and around the grandstand bend.
Rathlin held a reduced margin as they headed out onto the final circuit; he got a little close to the first obstacle in the back straight. Rajdhani Express had improved noticeably through the field by this point; now disputing fourth place with Days Hotel. Boston Bob remained in rear as they cleared the next and headed towards the open-ditch. Ballynagour had also moved up through the field, whereas French Opera was moving in the opposite direction. All ten runners cleared the fence without incident.
The field then traversed the pathway and jumped the final fence in the back straight before heading into the final turn; Rathlin continued to lead the field and Wishfull Thinking received a back hander in encouragement as he came under pressure near the rear. Brian O’Connell’s mount jumped the cross-fence ahead of Pepite Rose, from Rolling Aces, Rajdhani Express, Ballynagour and Days Hotel; Wishfull Thinking caused the spruce dressing to fly!
The field was queuing up to challenge as the long-time leader headed towards and cleared the third last. Rathlin finally lost the lead at the open-ditch two out, when Pepite Rose got her nose narrowly in front. Rolling Aces now mounted a challenge to the inside, Ballynagour to their outside. However it was Boston Bob who scythed past Rajdhani Express, Toner D’Oudairies, the weakening Rathlin and Pepite Rose, to join Rolling Aces and Ballynagour at the head of affairs as they approached the last.
The Irish challenger put in a slightly slower leap than his rivals at the final fence which enabled Rolling Aces to take the lead but, as the winning line approached, Boston Bob began to assert and went on to win by 3¼ lengths. Rolling Aces completed in 2nd, with Ballynagour 3rd and Toner D’Oudaires in 4th.
No need for me to return to the Winners’ Enclosure following the race, so I was able to retain my favoured spot ahead of the Topham Chase.
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE:
Stewards noted that ROLLING ACES (IRE), placed second, had interfered with
RATHLIN, placed fifth, who then interfered with PEPITE ROSE (FR), placed
sixth, approaching the last, but after viewing a recording of the incident
they were satisfied that it neither involved a riding offence nor improved
ROLLING ACES (IRE)’s placing.
WHY THEY RAN BADLY
Richard Johnson, the rider of WISHFULL THINKING, unplaced, reported that the gelding ran flat. They ordered WISHFULL THINKING to be routine tested.
That’s it for Part One of my Ladies Day diary ...