PART II

DIARY – AINTREE FESTIVAL

LADIES’ DAY

FRIDAY 04 APRIL 2014

 

 

Avispa 2 r.jpg

 

My special star, Choc aboard Avispa

having won the Listed Mares’ NH Flat Race

 

Click here to read my Ladies’ Day Diary Part I

 

It was soon time for the fourth race of the day; the Topham Chase which is run over the Grand National fences.  The start of the race was at the far end of the home straight, with 2 fences to jump before The Chair. 

 

The favourite for this race was Double Ross, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and ridden by son Sam; price 6-1.  Second favourite was the grey mare, Ma Filleule; Holywell having stamped her form, with a win in the second race, although she was running over a shorter distance today than at Cheltenham.  Martin Keighley had a runner in this race, top-weight Champion Court ridden by Ian Popham.

 

The horses reached the starting area, took a look at the first obstacle, and had their girths checked prior to the race.  

 

Race 4

Topham Chase Handicap (Grade 3)

Distance

2 miles 5 furlongs 110 yards (18 fences to negotiate)

No. of Runners

30

Champion Court, Double Ross, Rebel Rebellion, Ma Filleule, Fago, Eastlake, Kauto Stone, Doeslessthanme, He’llberemembered, Poole Master, Viva Colonia, Tanks For That, Cedre Bleu, Big Fella Thanks, You Must Know Me, Tatenen, Mart Lane, Bennys Mist, Tahiti Pearl, King Edmund, Swift Arrow, Giorgio Quercus, Massini’s Maguire, Lucky Landing, Bishopsfurze, Soll, Lost Legend, Donowen Point, Your Busy, Standing Ovation.

 

Then they were off, at the first attempt, and heading towards the first fence.  Doeslessthanme landed marginally ahead, from Double Ross centre, Champion Court to his inner, and Poole Master on the outer.  Between the former and the latter, Lost Legend dived over the fence; Richie McLernon hanging on for dear life, but the partnership survived.  In rear at this stage were King Edmund, Lucky Landing and Tanks For That.  Tahiti Peal was untidy at the second.  Plenty of loose spruce dressing was strewn across the turf as the horses headed away from the fence; the ground crew soon on hand to tidy it up before the runners returned to jump the fence again, it also being the last obstacle.

 

The next fence is the Chair.  It looked like all of the runners would clear it safely, but no.  The last over, King Edmund, stumbled having landed safely and deposited Tom Cannon on the turf.  Heading over the water-jump, Doeslessthanme led from Poole Master.  To their inside, Double Ross, Champion Court and Dunowen Point were just behind this duo; You Must Know Me made an error here, as did Soll at the rear of the field.

 

The field headed down around the turn, over the Melling Road and faced up to the fifth fence.  There was no change at the head of affairs, the entire field having cleared this obstacle safely; Soll was at the back of the field.  Kauto Stone and Swift Arrow were a little slow clearing the next, both near the rear of the runners.  The following obstacle is an open-ditch; on the outside of the runners Bishopsfurze fell, his jockey catapulted over his head as he did so.  The horse was fine, the jockey Mikey Fogarty could be seen moving his legs, but he didn’t attempt to rise.  The medics ran across the course to assist him.

 

Double Ross took the lead as the runners headed over the next fence; Kauto Stone blundered and unseated Paul Carberry.  Again the jockey slow to rise and assistance soon arrived.  Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount continued to lead from Tahiti Pearl and Doeslessthanme as they cleared the ninth obstacle.  Close to the pace Viva Colonia made an error here, Danny Cook lost his right iron as a result and eventually his battle with gravity.  But not before he’d wandered into the path of, and hampered, Giorgio Quercus, Bennys Mist and Tanks For That.  Again the jockey was slow to rise. 

 

The next fence was Becher’s Brook.  A mistake by Tahiti Pearl, and Ryan Mania lost his balance and exited via the off-side door.  He was the only casualty at the fence; although near the rear of the field He’llberemembered stumbled on landing.  There were no casualties at the Fionavon fence and the field headed on towards the Canal Turn; one of the loose horses made a beeline for the pen situated to the outside of the fence. 

 

Doeslessthanme and Double Ross still led the field, with Ma Filleule taking the shortest route close to the inside wing.  Further back in the group, Andrew Tinkler’s mount Tanks For That fell here; and Standing Ovation ridden by Conor O’Farrell collided with the loose horse as it rose to its feet and he was unseated.  Andrew was still down as the runners continued their journey to Valentines; Conor was knelt down, but appeared okay.

 

On the wide outside, Doeslessthanme departed at Valentines, Giorgio Quercus fell here too; their jockeys Harry Challoner and David Bass respectively.  Lost Legend made an error and was also lucky to miss the prostrate Doeslessthame; Swift Arrow was hampered by the latter.  Mart Lane jumped the fence very slowly and Wayne Hutchinson pulled him up. 

 

Barry Geraghty’s mount now led, from Bennys Mist, Big Fella Thanks and Double Ross; although she did stumble upon landing over the next.  These were now followed by Eastlake, Rebel Rebellion and Cedre Bleu.  Fargo took a horrible fall at the next, slamming Noel Fehily into the turf.  Massini’s Maguire was hampered as a result and Soll even more so, as he had to step over the prostrate horse; Mark Grant momentarily losing his balance but he clung on and survived.

 

Ma Filleule led over the next from Big Fella Thanks, who made a slight error and dropped back to fourth position behind Double Ross and Bennys Mist as they crossed the Melling Road and headed for home.  These were closely followed by Eastlake, Cedre Bleu, Tatenen and You Must Know Me.  Having negotiated the final turn, the runners headed to and jumped the penultimate fence; the grey mare still led, with Double Ross in second position and Eastlake under AP McCoy in third but under pressure.

 

She jumped the last and began to put daylight between herself and her pursuers.  She forged on, negotiating the elbow and she was not for catching.  Barry Geraghty was able to steal a glance under his right arm on the run to the line, easing down to win by 8 lengths.  Benny’s Mist stayed on best of the rest to claim 2nd from Eastlake; Tatenen charged down the outside to pip Double Ross by a head on the line for 4th.  You Must Know Me the best of the Irish in 6th.  Champion Court completed in 9th; the last finisher was Dunowen Point in 17th; many of the tail-enders cantering over the line.

 

Nicky Henderson had claimed the race for the second year running, having won it with Triolo D’Alene in 2013.

 

All horses were reported to be fine following their mishaps.  The out-riders were shown leading back five of the horses, including Kauto Stone, Viva Colonia and Giorgio Quercus. 

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Ma Filleule

Barry Geraghty

Nicky Henderson

2nd

Bennys Mist

Aidan Coleman

Venetia Williams

3rd

Eastlake

AP McCoy

Jonjo O’Neill

4th

Tatenen

Andrew Thornton

Richard Rowe

5th

Double Ross

Sam Twiston-Davies

Nigel Twiston-Davies

6th

You Must Know Me

Andrew Lynch

Henry de Bromhead

7th

Big Fella Thanks

Paddy Brennan

Tom George

8th

He’llberemembered

Davy Condon

PG Fahey

9th

Champion Court

Ian Popham

Martin Keighley

10th

Cedre Bleu

Nick Scholfield

Paul Nicholls

11th

Soll

Mark Grant

Jo Hughes

12th

Poole Master

Tom Scudamore

David Pipe

13th

Massini’s Maguire

Richard Johnson

Tim Vaughan

14th

Your Busy

David Casey

JA Nash

15th

Rebel Rebellion

Ryan Mahon

Paul Nicholls

16th

Lucky Landing

Dougie Costello

T Coyle

17th

Dunowen Point

Brian Harding

Donald McCain

 

And those which did not finish:

 

Pulled Up

Before 2 out

Lost Legend

Richie McLernon

Jonjo O’Neill

Pulled Up

Before 2 out

Swift Arrow

Henry Brooke

Donald McCain

Fell

15th fence

Fago

Noel Fehily

Paul Nicholls

Pulled Up

Before 14th

Mart Lane

Wayne Hutchinson

Dr Richard Newland

Fell

13th fence

Doeslessthanme

Harry Challoner

Richard Ford

Fell

13th fence

Giorgio Quercus

David Bass

Nicky Henderson

Unseated

12th fence

Standing Ovation

Conor O’Farrell

David Pipe

Fell

12th fence

Tanks For That

Andrew Tinkler

Nicky Henderson

Unseated

10th fence

Tahiti Pearl

Ryan Mania

Sue Smith

Unseated

9th fence

Viva Colonia

Danny Cook

Brian Ellison

Unseated

8th fence

Kauto Stone

Paul Carberry

Paul Nicholls

Fell

7th fence

Bishopsfurze

Mikey Fogarty

Willie Mullins

Unseated

3rd fence

King Edmund

Tom Cannon

Chris Gordon

I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure for the first time today to see the placed horses return.  But I had returned to my favourite vantage point prior to the runners leaving the Parade Ring ahead of the next race. 

Davy Condon replaced Paul Carberry aboard Giantofaman; the latter having been limping wounded following the Topham.  Paul went to hospital to be checked out as a precaution ahead of his ride aboard Monbeg Dude in the following day’s Grand National.  

The favourite for this race was Seeyouatmidnight, ridden by Ryan Mania and trained by Sandy Thomson; priced at 7-2.

The start of this race was half way down the home straight, with just over 2 circuits to travel. 

 

Race 5

Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)

Distance

3 miles 110 yards (13 hurdles to negotiate)

No. of Runners

18

Beat That, Capote, Cogry, Cole Harden, Deadly Sting, Flatfoot Boogie, Giantofaman, Killala Quay, Mondo Cane, Port Melon, Racing Pulse, Seeyouatmidnight, The Last Samurai, Themanfrom Minella, Tistory, Walk On Al, Tagrita, Toubeera

 

And then they were off, with one flight to negotiate before the grandstand turn.  The horses were led away by the blinkered Giantofaman with, to his inside, Cole Harden and to his outer, Seeyouatmidnight; Racing Pulse made an error at the first.  Travelling down past the winning post, the tongue-tied Cole Harden had assumed to lead.  Heading around the turn, past the hospitality boxes and out into the country, the pace was good for a 3-mile event; there was no problem with bunching as all the horses had plenty of room to manoeuvre. 

 

Cole Harden put himself right jumping the next flight and continued to bowl along in front; in contrast Mondo Cane disputing fifth position jumped it slowly and lost a place or two.  Tistory near the back to the field hit the flight, damage to the panel resulted.  Having cleared the next flight, Deadly Sting received a reminder.  The field continued along the back straight, jumped one more hurdle and headed into the far turn.  The mare Toubeera was already detached at the rear of the field.  Deadly Sting received yet more reminders; AP’s mount Capote had made a little progress.

 

Cole Harden led the field around the far turn and into the home straight.  He was followed by Giantofaman, Seeyouatmidnight, Mondo Cane, Killala Quay, Flatfoot Boogie, Beat That, Cogry, the other mare Tagrita, Racing Pulse, Port Melon (infamous for the pre-race incident which injured Daryl Jacob at this season’s Cheltenham Festival), Tistory, Themanfrom Minella, Capote, The Last Samurai, Deadly Sting, Walk On Al and Toubeera. 

 

The runners headed over the next two flights without incident; Deadly Sting was still being bustled along disputing second from last with Walk On Al.  They had travelled one complete circuit now and galloped on down towards the next; Tistory had made some progress through the field but he made another error at this flight and was ridden along for a few strides to retain his place.  The struggling Toubeera had been pulled up before the 7th. 

 

Cole Harden led the runners around the grandstand turn once more.  The three runners at the back of the field, namely The Last Samurai, Walk On Al and Deadly Sting had become a little detached from the main body of the field.  The leader kept up the gallop as they set out upon the final circuit and they began to string out in his wake.  Mondo Cane made an error at the next flight and came under pressure. Debris flew as the runners cleared the fifth last. 

 

They headed over the pathway and jumped four out.  Deadly Sting had tailed off by this point, and losing touch with the main group were The Last Samurai and Mondo Cane.  Walk On Al accompanied Themanfrom Minella also slightly detached from the main group.  And Cole Harden still pressed on around the top bend.  He led into the home straight pursued by Seeyouatmidnight and the strong travelling Beat That.  Killala Quay was in fourth position from Cogry, the fading Giantofaman and Tagrita.  These were followed by Capote.

 

The leaders headed over the third last; Barry Geraghty’s mount loomed up to the nearside of the leaders.  Capote was staying on and overtook Killala Quay following the flight.  Cogry fell here, hampering Walk On Al; the horse was okay, jockey Ryan Hatch curled up to avoid injury from any of the runners following him. 

 

Cole Harden, Seeyouatmidnight and Beat That approached two out; the former still holding the advantage, the latter two’s progress slightly stemmed by slight errors at this flight.  The long time leader wandered slightly under pressure as Beat That loomed up to the nearside to challenge him; Seeyouatmidnight switching to the far side behind them. 

 

But time was up for the game Cole Harden who had to give best as they jumped the last flight, Gavin Sheehan’s mount wandering out to his left after it.   Having overtaken the long-time leader, Beat That was driven out to the line to win by 4 lengths.  Barry even had time to glance across at the big screen to check on the progress of his pursuers as he headed down to the winning post!  He and the runner-up were miles clear of the third Seeyouatmidnight, who was 25 lengths adrift.  Capote claimed 4th, despite a bad error at the penultimate flight.

 

Three winners so far today for Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty; both had drawn a blank on the first day.

    

Cogry was fine following his fall and cantered away; Ryan Hatch uninjured too.

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Beat That

Barry Geraghty

Nicky Henderson

2nd

Cole Harden

Gavin Sheehan

Warren Greatrex

3rd

Seeyouatmidnight

Ryan Mania

AM Thomson

4th

Capote

AP McCoy

Jonjo O’Neill

 

I crossed over into the Lord Sefton enclosure following this race in order to take photographs, before returning to my favoured vantage point once the gates had been opened again.

NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS ROOM:

The Stewards noted that TISTORY (FR), unplaced, had interfered with FLATFOOT BOOGIE (FR), unplaced, who in turn interfered with PORT MELON (IRE), unplaced, on the bend leaving the back straight but after viewing a recording of the race they were satisfied that it did not involve a riding offence.

The favourite for the next race was the Donald McCain representative Stonebrook, owned by JP McManus and ridden by AP McCoy; the jockey having deserted Alaivan in the same ownership but trained by Jonjo O’Neill.  Wayne Hutchinson also rode for Donald McCain in this race, partnering Clondaw Kaempfer.

There were a number of jockey changes in this race, due to injuries incurred during the Topham Chase.  Tom Scudamore replaced Paul Carberry aboard Cash And Go; Charlie Deutsch replaced Noel Fehily aboard Hazy Tom; Brian O’Connell substituted for Mikey Fogarty aboard Mister Hotelier; and David Bass took over the ride aboard Golden Hoof for Andrew Tinkler. 

 

The starting gate for this event was part way down the back straight, two flights therein to jump before the first bend and with one and three quarter circuits to travel. 

 

Race 6

Handicap Hurdle (Listed)

Distance

2 miles 4 furlongs (11 hurdles to negotiate)

No. of Runners

22

Attaglance, Caid Du Berlais, Grand Vision, Lyvius, Like Minded, Clondaw Kaempfer, Cheltenian, Party Rock, Cash And Go, Yesyoucan, Hazy Tom, Art Professor, Citizenship, Morning Royalty, Alaivan, Little Jon, Zabana, Mister Hotelier, Stonebrook, Pass The Time, Golden Hoof, Aazif

Having looked like the horses would be let go first time, having trotted up in an organised group towards the tape, they were asked to take a turn around the first hurdle in the back straight, despite it being after post time.  In fact they were rather disorganised at the second attempt; with Grand Vision, Attaglance and Aazif joining the group latterly, their jockeys having chosen not to take the extra turn but wait until the main group returned to the gate.  Then they were off.  

The field was led away by the Jennie Candlish runner, Party Rock; jumping the first flight to his outside almost upsides were Golden Hoof and Attaglance.  In the leader’s slipstream travelled Clondaw Kaempfer; pulling strongly in mid-field one of the Irish raiders, Zabana. 

 

Having successfully negotiated the initial obstacle the runners headed to the second; where the novice Little Jon, under Sam Twiston-Davies jumped into the lead and continued at the head of affairs as the horses entered the far turn.  Golden Hoof travelled a clear second with, from the inside, Party Rock, the grey Grand Vision, Aazif and Attaglance disputing third place, Clondaw Kaempfer a clear seventh; the sole mare in the line-up, Pass The Time, travelled at the back of the field.

 

The field entered the home straight on the first occasion; there must have been a few trailing hooves over the next, as a couple of the panels looked rather the worse for wear as the runners headed towards the fourth flight; the same was true of this obstacle, the 22 runners having jumped it!  Little Jon and Golden Hoof continued to lead the way as they travelled towards flight number five; in behind these were Party Rock and Grand Vision.  There was a small mistake from Little Jon at this hurdle.

 

The horses headed down past the grandstands; the mid-field runners were quite tightly packed and this resulted in Hazy Tom clipping heels, he stumbled and deposited Charlie Deutsch upon the turf.  The jockey didn’t appear to be caught by the hooves of the runners following him and he was seen sitting up as the field galloped away from him; his breeches were rather muddy as he got up and headed under the far-side rail. Little Jon and Golden Hoof led the runners past the winning post and out into the country once more.

 

There was a little bit of argy bargy in mid-field as the loose horse squeezed in to negotiate the short section of rail directing the runners travelling on the hurdles course into the back straight.  Having cleared the first flight therein, Morning Royalty and Yesyoucan now travelled at the rear of the field; there was still no change at the head of affairs.  Aazif was a little bit clumsy at the next.  The runners headed across the pathway and on towards the final flight in the back straight; Art Professor near the rear of the field flattened one of the panels.

 

The horses now headed into the far turn, Little Jon and Golden Hoof still leading the way; the loose horse sandwiched between them; disputing third, from the inside, were Party Rock, Clondaw Kaempfer, Grand Vision and Aazif.  Struggling at the rear of the field around the final bend were Lyvius, Attaglance, Art Professor and Yesyoucan; Morning Royalty was eased and pulled up at this stage. 

 

The field entered the home straight and headed for home, preceded by the loose horse.  There were still many in with a chance as the horses spread out across the track to make their challenges.  Golden Hoof held a very narrow advantage over three out, from Aazif to his outside and Clondaw Kaempfer to his inside; Little Jon began to fade.  Wayne Hutchinson’s mount held a very narrow advantage as they jumped two out.  Caid Du Berlais was challenging to the nearside, to his left Alaivan and Cheltenian.  To the far side, when also almost upsides, Party Rock stepped at the hurdle and fell; he did no favours to Stonebrook and Like Minded travelling in his wake, the former having to jump the neck of the prostrate horse.

 

Caid Du Berlais now took the lead, but he wandered towards the centre of the course to join Cheltenian who was a close second; this forced Wayne Hutchinson to switch his mount to the nearside.  In fourth position was Zabana, with Cash And Go challenging Alaivan for fifth having made progress from well back in the field.  The leaders approached the final hurdle.

 

Harry Derham’s mount was still ahead as they jumped it; Cheltenian, tiring a little, flattened a panel.  Clondaw Kaempfer continued in third position, Cash And Go now fourth.  They began their long run to the line.  It was at this point that Wayne’s mount began to rally under strong pressure and he gained upon Caid Du Berlais as the approached the line; he claimed the lead in the final few strides, winning by a neck.  In 3rd place was Cash And Go; just three quarters of a length back.  Cheltenian beaten by a further 1¼ lengths into 4th.  

 

Although initially struggling to rise, Party Rock walked into the horse ambulance and was taken back to the stables to be assessed, just as a precaution.  Jockey Sean Quinlan was treated by the medics and was taken to hospital to be checked.  He must have been fine though as he rode a winner, Snowed In, at Carlisle the following Tuesday. 

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Clondaw Kaempfer

Wayne Hutchinson

Donald McCain

2nd

Caid Du Berlais

Harry Derham

Paul Nicholls

3rd

Cash And Go

Tom Scudamore

Nicky Henderson

4th

Cheltenian

Richard Johnson

Philip Hobbs

I decided to return to the Winners’ Enclosure following this race due to the winning jockey being Wayne Hutchinson ... I’m not bitter!

Donald McCain reported that Clondaw Kaempfer lost both of his hind shoes during the race; the jockey said it was probably due to the loose Hazy Tom ‘climbing all over the back of him’ and Stonebrook during the mid-part of the race.  During his RUK interview, Wayne also said the horse felt like he’d more growing up to do and would therefore have more improvement in him.  He was delighted to ride a Festival winner, and to ride it for Donald too.

NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS ROOM:

The Stewards held an enquiry into the fall of Charlie Deutsch, the rider of HAZY TOM (IRE), approaching the winning post on the first circuit. They interviewed Charlie Deutsch and having heard his evidence and viewed recordings of the incident the Stewards found that the fall was caused by HAZY TOM (IRE) clipping heals with ZABANA (IRE). Being satisfied that the incident was accidental, the Stewards took no further action.

I remained upon the steppings until Choc had entered the Parade Ring ahead of the next race.  Once more he was first out, presumably he sits closest to the Weighing Room door; he accompanied Harry Skelton down the steps from the Weighing Room.  Again I returned to my favoured vantage point prior to the mares leaving the Parade Ring.

The favourite for this race was Molly Cat, ridden by AP McCoy and trained by Alan Swinbank; price 5-1.

Yet again, jockey changes; David Bass deputising for Andrew Tinkler aboard No Pushover and Gavin Sheehan for Noel Fehily aboard Hannah’s Princess. 

The starting gate for this race was in the far corner of the track. 

 

Race 7

MaresStandard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Listed)

Distance

2 miles 1 furlong

No. of Runners

20

The Govaness, Amberkatann, Avispa, Diligent, Ebony Empress, Hannah’s Princess, Kayf Hampshire, Millicent Silver, Miss Sassypants, No Pushover, Oleohneh, Plum Stone, Queen Alphabet, Roll On Ruby, Tara Mac, Tara Mist, Lady Buttons, Midnight Jazz, Molly Cat, Princess Tara

 

Then they were off.  Molly Cat led them away, although she did jink to her left when the running rail ended after a few metres.  To the outside, Millicent Silver under Sam Twiston-Davies travelled ahead of the main field and had taken over at the head of affairs by the time they entered the home straight on the first occasion.  Molly Cat continued in second position, followed by Roll On Ruby, Tara Mac and Princess Tara. Avispa travelled just worse than mid-field, with Oleohneh at the rear.

 

Millicent Silver, who is a very dark grey, continued to lead as the runners headed down the home straight between the wings of the now absent hurdles.  Restrained behind her was the chestnut Roll On Ruby; the runners closely bunched due the sedate pace being set. 

 

Heading down to the winning post with one circuit to go, the order was Millicent Silver and Molly Cat disputing the lead; disputing third, from the inside, were Princess Tara, Midnight Jazz, No Pushover, Roll On Ruby and Tara Mac.  Behind these Diligent, Ebony Princess, Avispa, the lighter grey Tara Mist; the next wave consisted of Miss Sassypants, Queen Alphabet, Plumstone, then Lady Buttons,  Amberkatann, The Govaness and Oleohneh.   

 

Heading around the turn beside the hospitality boxes, Molly Cat had regained a narrow lead by dint of holding the inside line.  Having passed between the next set of hurdle wings, Millicent Silver had assumed a narrow lead once more, flanked to her inside by Molly Cat and to her outside by Roll On Ruby.

Ears pricked, Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount continued to lead as the runners threaded their way through the following set of wings and across the pathway; David Bass aboard No Pushover becoming animated as he encouraged his mare to hold her position as they passed between the final pair of wings and headed to the far turn.

 

Travelling across the top of the course and there was still no change in the front three; No Pushover had responded to her jockey’s urgings for the time being, and Avispa still travelled in mid-field.  Having negotiated the home turn, the runners spread out wide across the track to get a clear run for home.  Heading through the wings of the absent third last, to the near side Tara Mist and The Govaness appeared to now have the lead.  Avispa had burst through in the centre of the field, at her quarters to her outside Queen Alphabet and Hannah’s Princess; Davy Russell’s mount did become a little short of room as Avispa drifted slightly across her path. 

 

The battle was joined as the horses approached the one furlong post.  Tara Mist still held a narrow advantage over Avispa to her far side and the Govaness to the nearside; Lady Buttons was staying on towards the centre of the track and had joined the leading group.  Choc’s mount had got the better of Tara Mist by the time they had reached the half furlong marker; his main danger now being Lady Buttons.  It was nip and tuck within that final 110 yards.  Photograph! 

 

Having pulled up his mount, the result of the photograph was announced.  Avispa had won, by a neck.  Phew!!!  Finally a close finish had gone Choc’s way.  Tara Mist finished 3rd and The Govaness 4th. 

 

A 25-1 winner too!  When interviewed, Alan King said the mare always works well at home; they had thought she’d win the listed bumper race at Sandown on Imperial Cup day in early March but she’d got stuck in the holding ground that day.  He wasn’t exactly shocked by today’s win, because it wasn’t totally unexpected.  He said this would be it for Avispa for the season, as she was running light now; holiday time.  Alan also admitted to being so bored all day, having to wait until the last race of the day to saddle his one and only runner.  It had been well worth it now.

 

Choc said she travelled superbly throughout the race; which you need in this type of event. He thought that his mount might not like a rough race with too much bumping and barging, being only a small mare, but she was very professional and coped well.  He was worried when Lady Buttons began to bear down upon him in the final run to the line, he thought he was beat, but she stuck her head out and tried.  The ground suited her well today, unlike Sandown when she travelled well but got bogged down and didn’t get home.  It’s lovely, it’s nice to get one on the board, he said.  

 

The lucky last is fine for me; I’d rather wait through all the races and finish off the day by seeing Choc, than see him ride in the first race only and have no special treat to look forward to for the remainder of the day!  The only downside would be darkness falling during the deep mid-winter, which is not conducive to photography.        

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Avispa

Choc Thornton

Alan King

2nd

Lady Buttons

Adam Nicol

Philip Kirby

3rd

Tara Mist

Richard Johnson

Henry Daly

4th

The Govaness

Paddy Brennan

Fergal O’Brien

As I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to see the winning jockey arrive back in the Winners’ Enclosure, I set off on my usual ‘power walk’, heading through the Lord Sefton enclosure to reach the steppings below the Weighing Room; if I head back through the entrance to the Earl of Derby enclosure there’s always a risk the walkway gates will be closed and prevent me from reaching the steppings before the horses arrive back.

Anyway, I was there in plenty of time to see Choc and Avispa return.  Not surprisingly, Alan King was delighted for Choc; my favourite jockey having had a number of ‘near misses’ as regards winning at both this and the recent Cheltenham Festival.  Having debriefed the also delighted connections, which included Alan’s landlord at Barbury Castle, Nigel Bunter, Choc headed over to weigh out upon the scales located on the podium. 

Task completed, he handed his saddle to one of the assistants in order for it to be returned to the Weighing Room, following which Choc was interviewed by RUK’s Tom O’Ryan before he went to chat with friends and colleagues; these included Wayne Hutchinson who was now suited and booted having won the previous race aboard Clondaw Kaempfer.  Choc also took a sip from the drink which Wayne had been holding; to keep any dehydration at bay!

It was then time for the presentation of the mementos; a Marilyn Monroe impersonator doing the honours for this race, although I think she needed better foundation garments with the dress she chose to wear!  Meeow!!!  Alan and Choc also posed for a photograph taken by Choc’s mum Sally, his arm around the jockey’s shoulder.  On his way back to the Weighing Room he was accosted by a number of punters wishing to have their photos taken with him, he then posed for a photo with his mum, taken by her companions.  As I was standing nearby, I was also able to capture this moment in a photograph ... it turned out to be my best and favourite photo of my entire trip to Aintree!

It was now my opportunity to accost Choc, I congratulated him with a kiss on the right cheek and a mini-hug; unlike yesterday, he wasn’t stubbly!  He then returned to the Weighing Room.

NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS ROOM:

The Stewards considered the apparent improvement in form of the winner, AVISPA, ridden by Robert Thornton and trained by Alan King, compared with her previous run at Sandown on 8 March 2014 where the mare finished fourth of nine beaten 14¾ lengths. They noted the trainer’s explanation that the mare was suited by the better ground. They ordered AVISPA to be routine tested.

It was now time for me to depart.  I quickly popped to the loo, again the one to the rear of the Earl of Derby stand; and it was surprisingly neat and tidy considering this was post-Ladies Day!  It was actually on a par with the state of the Cheltenham loos at the end of each day at the Festival ... or at least the one which I visit!!! 

I headed along the concourse to the crossing point, walked across the green carpet which presumably had already been cleaned as there was no sign of the usual rubbish discarded by the spectators, before catching the bus back to the car park.  Unfortunately the bus journey was disturbed by a group of drunken, loud, foul-mouthed young females, one of whom was f’ing and blinding and talking about photographers taking photos of her fanny when she’d fallen over earlier in the day.  Pure class ... I don’t think so!!!

Teams of workmen were already on course, dismantling the plastic rails in order to move the racing lines for Saturday.  Having alighted from the bus, I walked over the back straight, across the Melling Road, through the entrance marquee before turning right and walking along the driveway to find my car.  I set back to my hotel off at 18:20.

Once again the exit route had seemed quieter than usual; today Katy B was performing in the Equestrian Centre from 18:00 and perhaps had encouraged younger race-goers to remain at the racecourse until later in the evening.  Not that I mind in the least!!!

The roads were fairly quiet, there was no queue to exit into Aintree Lane, and just two changes of lights needed to enter the Ormskirk Lane.  As previously, I headed southwards down the M57 before leaving to join the A580 and head eastwards to reach my hotel, which I did just before 19:00.  I took my black coat into the hotel with me this evening, just in case tomorrow turned out to be wet and I needed it on my walk to the car in the morning.

I’d enjoyed my meal on Thursday evening, but not the service time of 90 minutes.  This being the case, I requested a further supply of coffee, sugar and milk sachets from the hotel Receptionist when I passed through on my way back to my room; I’d foregone room service this morning so these would not have been replenished.  I had plenty of emergency supplies of food which I’d brought with me from home, so for my evening meal I ate two hot-cross buns, a number of cheese straws and a Yorkie Bar!   

This gave me time to check teletext to find out the news regarding injured jockeys, ie. those which had needed to give up their rides later in the day following the Topham Chase – Andrew Tinkler, Paul Carberry, Noel Fehily and Mikey Fogarty.  It transpired that the latter had fractured his spine so would remain in hospital and miss his National ride; the other three just needed to pass the Aintree doctor before being given the all-clear to compete in the big race ... which they did. 

It seems to me that since the Grand National fences have been modified, it’s now the jockeys who take the brunt of the injuries, not the horses.  Okay, so the jockeys mend in most instances, but as Ruby Walsh said, human life is more valuable than that of an animal so surely the modifications shouldn’t be to the detriment of the jockeys.

I recall watching Question Of Sport and, somewhat later, the beginning of Alan Carr’s Chatty Man show but was soon fitfully dosing ... I can sleep anywhere, any time if not occupied by tasks!  At some point either before midnight or after, having woken, I finally switched off the TV and went to sleep looking ahead to Grand National Day.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Click here for photos – Grand National Festival Ladies Day – Side-saddle riding display

Click here for photos – Grand National Festival Ladies Day – Race 1

Click here for photos – Grand National Festival Ladies Day – Race 2

Click here for photos – Grand National Festival Ladies Day – Race 3

Click here for photos – Grand National Festival Ladies Day – Race 4

Click here for photos – Grand National Festival Ladies Day – Race 5

Click here for photos – Grand National Festival Ladies Day – Race 6

Click here for photos – Grand National Festival Ladies Day – Race 7

Click here for photos – Grand National Festival Ladies Day – Race 7 – Winners Enclosure

 

 

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