DIARY – AINTREE FESTIVAL
FRIDAY 10 APRIL 2015
The winner of the Topham Chase,
Rajdhani Express with connections
Click here to read my Ladies’ Day Diary Part I
The two Irish-raiders were joint-favourites for the Grade 1 Melling Chase, namely the Willie Mullins-trained Champagne Fever ridden by Ruby Walsh, and the Gordon Elliott-trained Don Cossack, ridden by AP McCoy; their price today 3-1. Champagne Fever had been unable to run at the Cheltenham Festival because a co-traveller had bitten him on the lip during the journey over to Gloucestershire!
Also in the race was Cue Card, returning from an absence of 105 days following a set-back. Sire De Grugy too, today ridden by Joshua Moore because Jamie Moore was on the sidelines having been injured in a freak accident at Towcester; the chestnut was also stepping up in trip to two and a half miles today.
Another entry was the Alan King-trained Balder Succes, ridden by Wayne Hutchinson; it was hoped that the horse would get back on track following his disappointing run in the Cheltenham Festival’s Ryanair Chase when the he’d made a bad blunder early in the race from which he failed to recover.
Being a Grade 1 race and the feature event of the day, 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.
And then they were off. The runners were led away by Cue Card, followed by Al Ferof and Don Cossack. Wayne Hutchinson had positioned Balder Succes to the outside of the field, and was disputing fourth position with Champagne Fever. Following these raced Wishfull Thinking, Croco Bay, Johns Spirit, Sire De Grugy and Simply Ned.
The runners headed over the first fence without incident and continued their journey up the back straight to the second obstacle, where the Philip Hobbs runner made a blunder. Then at the third fence, which was the first of the open-ditches, disaster struck for Balder Succes; he took off too early, failed to make the distance and ploughed through the birch as a result. Once on the other side of the fence he fell heavily, somersaulting lengthwise before regaining his feet. Once up, he headed towards the Melling Road side of the track and out of TV camera shot, seemingly none the worse for the mishap.
Meanwhile, the remaining nine runners headed over the pathway to reach fence number four; there were no mishaps at this obstacle. Cue Card continued to lead from Al Ferof, Don Cossack, Champagne Fever, Wishfull Thinking, Johns Spirit, Croco Bay, Sire De Grugy and Simply Ned. Having reached the end of the back straight, the runners entered the far bend to reach the cross-fence. Again there were no problems encountered.
Cue Card led the runners into the home straight on the first occasion and they headed to fence number six. It was now time for the popular ex-Champion chaser to depart; Sire De Grugy didn’t get high enough at this one and paid the penalty; he somersaulted lengthwise too. Jockey Josh Moore was thrown to the ground and may have been caught by the horse’s hooves as he fell. Anyway, help was close at hand with stewards quickly in attendance; Josh had broken his collarbone however.
That left just eight runners to head over the next open-ditch, which all the runners took in their stride. Cue Card continued to bowl along at the head of affairs as the competitors crossed the Grand National track to arrive at fence number eight. Croco Bay was a few lengths adrift as they cleared this obstacle but he did close up again as they travelled past the winning post to begin their final circuit.
There was a cheer from the crowd as the loose Sire De Grugy, none the worse from his fall, firstly cleared the Chair with no bother, followed by the water-jump! The horse found his way back to the farthest of the two corrals, where he was promptly caught and led back to the stables unscathed.
Meanwhile, Cue Card led the runners into the back straight and over the first fence therein. Don Cossack got a little too close to this one and lost a bit of momentum as a result; this enabled Al Ferof to re-take second position. At the rear of the field, Croco Bay hit the next. The runners then headed to the penultimate open-ditch, where Wishfull Thinking made a blunder and dropped to the back of the field as a result.
The runners headed over the pathway towards the final fence in the back straight; Don Cossack joined the leader as they cleared it. Johns Spirit had improved into third position as they entered the far turn; he was followed by Al Ferof who was under pressure and being driven along, Champagne Fever and Simply Ned. Both Croco Bay and Wishfull Thinking had lost touch at the rear of the field and were beginning to tail off.
Cue Card out-jumped his rival as they cleared the cross-fence, Johns Spirit soon coming under pressure as he chased the leading duo into the home straight. However, Champagne Fever was making progress to the outside of Al Ferof, but he blundered at the third last as did Cue Card. This permitted Don Cossack to take the lead and he held a clear advantage as they all safely negotiated the final open-ditch.
Thus, heading across the Grand National track and down to the final fence, AP’s mount was well clear of his rivals, with Cue Card continuing to battle hard against the challenge of Johns Spirit for second position. Now one paced, Champagne Fever was a clear fourth. The leader flew the final fence and galloped on unchallenged to the line to win by 26 lengths easing down!
Cue Card overcame the prolonged challenge from Johns Spirit to take 2nd by 4½ lengths, and Champagne Fever completed in 4th, a further 1¾ lengths back. Simply Ned completed, as did Wishfull Thinking, although tailed off; Croco Bay was pulled up before jumping the last fence.
As we were worried about Balder Succes, we remained beside the course-side rails following the race.
Race 4 - 3:25pm
THE BETFRED MELLING STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 1) (Grade 1)
It had been an eventful race, with Joshua Moore breaking his collarbone when Sire De Grugy fell at the sixth fence; the horse was absolutely fine and headed back to the enclosures to be caught, but as mentioned earlier not before he’d jumped The Chair and the water-jump too! https://twitter.com/lindsay4ug/status/586585792014897152/photo/1
But it wasn’t such good news for poor Balder Succes who took a heavy fall at the third fence; he’d been travelling to the outside of the mid-field at the time. At first he seemed okay because he got up and moved out of TV camera shot, but I think it had to be a concern that he didn’t follow the field when loose.
I didn’t catch sight of his lad, Steve Ayres, who I presume would have headed out onto the track as soon as Balder had fallen; but we did see Alan King’s Assistant Trainer Ollie Wardle and Travelling Head Lad Matt Howells, exit via the small gate situated beside the horse-walk with the hope of reaching the horse as soon as possible. However, having reached the rail to the outside of the enclosure in front of the Earl Of Derby/Lord Sefton stands, a steward prevented them from crossing the track until the horses had completed the race.
Once given the all clear, they ran over to a vehicle parked to the inside of the track and were driven out into the country to find their horse. A number of minutes later, the horse ambulance drove down the road to the inside of the home straight, light flashing; Balder had been collected. Having reached the bottom bend, they stopped for a few moments before proceeding across the racecourse to the stables.
Ollie Wardle returned via the horse-walk, carrying Wayne’s saddle and Balder’s bridle; he looked very glum. A very worrying sign. However, Steve Ayres kept his followers informed as best he could. Balder would be staying in the stables overnight, and he in Liverpool too, rather than returning home.
On Saturday morning, Steve tweeted a photograph of Balder travelling in a horsebox; it transpired he was being delivered to the Leahurst Equine Hospital. He also mentioned that his pride and joy was reacting strangely to the sounds of the Liverpool traffic, such as sirens. There was no announcement regarding the nature of the injury at this stage.
Then, on Sunday, it was announced that poor Balder had been put to sleep that morning having sustained a shoulder injury which was discovered to be inoperable. It was devastating news for connections and everyone who appreciates talented horses.
Following his fall from Balder Succes, Wayne Hutchinson was stood down for the remainder of Friday and would have to pass the doctor before being able to take the ride aboard Godsmejudge in the Grand National the following day.
It was soon time for the fifth 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.
There were three co-favourites in this year’s renewal, namely Ruben Cotter trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies; Eastlake trained by Jonjo O’Neill and ridden by AP McCoy; also Monetaire trained by David Pipe and ridden by Tom Scudamore. Martin Keighley had a runner in this race; namely Annacotty ridden by Gavin Sheehan.
Paul Townend replaced Wayne Hutchinson aboard Donald McCain’s Witness In Court. Jack Doyle’s mount was led out onto the racecourse first, with the jockey being legged up after he had exited the walkway gate.
The horses reached the starting area, took a look at the first obstacle, and had their girths checked prior to the race. As the runners were sent away from the starting gate ahead of the race, Festive Affair remained away from the others and close to the tape initially; Annacotty and Art Of Logistics hung back a little behind the main group too. As they headed back towards the starting gate, Festive Affair was assimilated into the group. The starter asked the jockeys to take a pull, despite them just walking in, because they were too early ... at this point, Jack Doyle reached forward and tugged the ear-plugs out of his mount’s ears and threw them over the inside rail!
Then they were off. The runners had soon headed over the first fence, which they all cleared, although Annacotty lost his hind-legs on landing and thus found himself at the back of the field. At the head affairs, from the outside in, were Witness In Court, Granville Island, Fairy Rath, Sew On Target and Art Of Logistics. To the inside of the runners in mid-field, the chestnut Montoya’s Son made an mistake at the second fence; his jockey Brian Harding wavering around in the saddle for a few strides as he regained his balance. Having made an error at the first, Martin Keighley’s runner jumped the second fence warily.
Having cleared the first two fences without casualties, the thirty-strong field headed to the Chair. The white-faced Fairy Rath, who is owned by Jeremy Kyle’s wife, was disputing the lead with Sew On Target; both horses love to front-run. Towards the rear of mid-field AP’s mount, Eastlake, jumped and landed over it a little awkwardly. Annacotty continued to jump a little slowly and deliberately in rear.
The field then headed over the water-jump, the leading duo almost joined by the white-faced, nose-banded, Witness In Court. Behind these were Granville Island, Art Of Logistics, Some Tikket, and the McManus second-string Festive Affair. Towards the outside of the runners, near the rear, Kings Grey stumbled after the fence, having perhaps clipped heels with one of his rivals. In mid-division, Hunt Ball was a little bit short of room as they negotiated the grandstand turn, his jockey Andrew Tinkler bouncing the horse along for a few strides.
Following the earlier incident, Kings Grey was taken wide as they headed over the Melling Road to approach fence number five. There were two greys in the race, the other being Wings Of Smoke; he also travelled towards the rear of the field but to the inside of the track. Fairy Rath led the runners over the fence; the first two casualties occurred here, with Standing Ovation ridden by Conor O’Farrell falling when tracking the leaders and Ballygarvey unseating Tom O’Brien when his mount took evasive action.
There were no problems at the next obstacle, but Deciding Moment departed at the big open-ditch; he unseated Jack Doyle when travelling near the back of the field. Meanwhile Fairy Rath continued to lead to the inside of the track; disputing second position were Festive Affair, Some Tikket and Witness In Court. Some Tikket decided to take a swathe of the spruce covering with him when he blundered at the eighth fence. Annacotty was no longer last, he had overtaken both Splash Of Ginge and Poole Master.
Festive Affair hit the next one, also dislodging some of the spruce as a result. The runners then headed to Becher’s Brook, with Tom Cannon aboard Fairy Rath taking the brave man’s route along the inside. There were no casualties here, although Bless The Wings made an error and lost ground near the back of the field. Amazingly, Annacotty had now made up considerable ground having got over his earlier fright and actually flew the fence, making up several places in the air and now had ten horses behind him!
The Fionavon fence claimed a victim when Some Tikket crashed out, sideways, throwing Jonathan Burke into the path of Monetaire and Granville Island; Ruby had to steer Turban wide to avoid hitting the horse or jockey, and Eastlake bumped Some Tikket as the horse rose to its feet. Meanwhile, Fairy Rath was being harried by a loose horse as he headed to and jumped the canal turn. A couple of lengths behind him, Festive Affair and Witness In Court disputed second position. Rajdhani Express cleared the fence next, followed by Sew On Target and Hunt Ball.
However, having made up ground to this point, Annacotty was baulked by a loose horse to his inside as he took off to jump the canal turn, and he fell. Darna endeavoured to jump the prostrate Annacotty but got tangled up and brought down; Kings Grey was also knocked over. Then, as the Martin Keighley runner rose to his feet, he bumped into Granville Island who unseated, Monetaire too! In addition, Splash Of Ginge was severely hampered and almost unseated Ryan Hatch but he continued. The same happened to Montoya’s Son but Brian Harding decided to pull up before the next. AP decided to pull up Eastlake at this point too.
Witness In Court when disputing second position, unseated his rider at the next fence, which was Valentines. There were a number of stragglers still going at this point, namely Maggio, Bless The Wings, Up To Something and Poole Master. It was Festive Affairs turn to fall at the following fence, also Wings Of Smoke independently, having crashed through the top of the spruce. One of the loose horses, it looked like Deciding Moment, niftily sidestepped to avoid both! The struggling Splash Of Ginge and Up To Something were pulled up before the next fence.
Meanwhile, up front, Fairy Rath continued to lead from Rajdhani Express, Hunt Ball, Rathlin, Sew On Target, Turban, Reuben Cotter, Art Of Logistics, Bobcatbilly, Bennys Mist and Theatre Guide. There were no problems, jumping or traffic wise, at the fourth last. However, it was a different story three out! Having bypassed the previous fence, the loose Ballygarvey (identified not because I could clearly see his number, but from his dark bay colour and lack of blinkers or noseband; he has a small faint star on his forehead but this was not discernible) decided to put on his brakes at the next before turning to his left. This took him across in front of the approaching field!
Fortunately Tom had time to avoid both Ballygarvey and the loose Witness In Court who jumped the fence in front of him at an angle; the partnership thus landed safely on the other side with no harm done. Having reached the inside rail, Ballygarvey then turned to his left and then left again, taking him back into the line of fire. Fortunately, Radjhani Express, Hunt Ball, Rathlin, Sew On Target and Reuben Cotter slipped through the gap prior to this happening; although Rathlin did make a jumping error. Ruby Walsh had steered Turban wide as a precaution but, as a result, he met the fence wrong and fell.
Paul Carberry also took evasive action aboard Art Of Logistics and jumped the fence, although he needed to side-step Ruby and his mount upon landing. But, having encountered the horse, Ballygarvey took fright once more and turned again ... right into the paths of Bennys Mist and Theatre Guide; Bobcatbilly escaped just in time. The two runners affected had nowhere to go and, without momentum, refused; Aidan Coleman ended up on the ground to the far side of the fence, and Daryl Jacob was just sitting on top of it! With a number of loose horses following, a swathe of spruce was dragged from the top of the fence and Aidan was soon completely covered.
Aidan was one of the jockeys wearing a helmet-cam during this race and, later, footage was shown of him shouting out to ask if it was all clear for him to come out from his hidey-hole. Actually he had to wait for the tailed-off Poole Master to jump the fence, which he did at the exact point where Aidan had come to grief. A number of the loose horses had entered the corral located to the outside of this fence, and Aidan was very pleased to see that Bennys Mist was one of them and greeted him warmly.
Meanwhile the remaining ten, as Poole Master had now been pulled up, traversed the Melling Road led by Fairy Rath; they were preceded by a couple of loose horses, namely Witness In Court and Granville Island. Rajdhani Express was travelling comfortably in second position, from the pushed-along Rathlin. Sam Waley-Cohen’s mount was almost upsides the long-time leader as they jumped the penultimate fence; moments later his amateur jockey glanced over his left shoulder to ascertain if there were likely to be any challenges mounted by those behind him for he knew that he had Fairy Rath covered.
Having jumped the final fence, Sam drove his mount into the lead prior to the elbow and he stayed on to win by 10 lengths at the line from the very gallant Nick Gifford runner. Rathlin completed in 3rd position a further 11 lengths away. Hunt Ball held off the challenge of Ruben Cotter and Art Of Logistics as they finished in that order, 4th, 5th and 6th respectively. Bobcatbilly claimed 7th, with Sew On Target 8th, Bless The Wings 9th and Maggio last.
All of the horses were fine, but Jack Doyle was stood down for the day.
And those which did not finish:
As we headed out of the Lord Sefton enclosure, having switched to that side of the horse-walk when the gates were opened, we got caught up in a photographers’ frenzy relating to someone who had been spotted in our vicinity ... but we had absolutely no idea who the celebrity might have been, besides we were intent on reaching the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure before they became too full.
We also passed Liz Prowting’s Racing Manager, Hannah Bishop, who was on her way to collect Annacotty who had arrived, rider-less, in one of the corrals in front of the Lord Sefton/Earl of Derby grandstands.
The horse had sustained a couple of cuts on his lower off-hind which soon scabbed up and had to be treated once he returned home for his summer break in Buckinghamshire; Annacotty would not return to the Martin Keighley yard following his holiday, instead he was transferred to Alan King.
The two side-saddle mounted ladies followed the winner back to the Winners’ Enclosure. And with this triumph, Sam Waley-Cohen had broken the record for riding the most winners ever over the Grand National fences with six victories to his name. Although he does get an extra opportunity each year because he is able to ride in the amateur Fox Hunter race too! The course is now used five times each season, twice in December and three times at the Aintree Festival which includes the Grand National.
Race 5 - 4:05pm
THE CRABBIE'S TOPHAM STEEPLE CHASE (HANDICAP) (CLASS 1) (Grade 3)
No Stewards Enquiry.
The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of EASTLAKE (IRE), which was pulled up, trained by Jonjo O’Neill, found that the gelding had bled from the nose.
The favourite for the next race was Roi Des Francs, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh; price 3-1. The horse had finished 3rd in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle race at the Cheltenham Festival.
Alan King had a runner in this race, namely Ordo Ab Chao, ridden by Denis O’Regan who was deputising for Wayne Hutchinson who had been stood-down following his earlier fall. Also taking part was Flintham; full-brother of Carruthers and half-brother to Coneygree.
We had returned to our favoured position beside the horse-walk in plenty of time to see the runners exit onto the racecourse.
The start of this race was half way down the home straight, with just over 2 circuits to travel.
And then they were off. The runners were led away by Flintham; obviously carrying on the family’s preference for front-running. Prominent were Blaklion and Zeroeshadesofgrey and, bringing up the rear, two nose-banded runners, namely King’s Tempest and Our Kaempfer. Having cleared the first flight without incident, the field headed down past the winning post with two full circuits now to travel.
The cheek-pieced Flintham led the runners around the grandstand turn, from Blaklion; the leading duo were followed by Parish Business, Thomas Brown, Zeroeshadesofgrey and Alpha Des Obeaux to the outside under Richard Johnson. Behind these travelled Monbeg Theatre, Final Nudge and One For Arthur, to the latter’s outside Roi Des Francs. Vyta Du Roc came next, to his outside Ordo Ab Chao, Foryourinformation, Thistlecrack and, finally Our Kaempfer and King’s Tempest.
The sixteen runners then began their journey up the back straight; where Final Nudge was the least fluent when jumping the first flight therein. Flintham continued to take the runners along at a good pace; they all cleared flight number three without incident. The horses then cantered across the pathway to reach the next obstacle; in rear King’s Tempest was less than fluent at this one.
Having reached the end of the back straight, Flintham led the runners into the far bend, from Parish Business and Blaklion; they were followed by Zeroeshadesofgrey and Alpha Des Obeaux. Upon entering the home straight, the runners headed down to flight number five; Monbeg Theatre hit this one, and Foryourinformation was a little less than fluent towards the rear of the field.
Final Nudge hit the next flight, and there was a little bit of argy bargy between Thistlecrack and One For Arthur who were travelling in his slipstream. They continued down the home straight, with Flintham just rising ahead of Parish Business as they cleared the next flight; it was Zeroeshadesofgrey’s turn to make an error at this one. There was no change at the head of affairs as they headed down to the winning post with one circuit now to travel; however, Our Kaempfer had begun to improve his position upon the inside of the runners.
Surprisingly as they headed into the back straight, the favourite Roi Des Francs was now at the rear of the field. Then having jumped flight number eight, Ruby began to push his mount along; the signs were that it would be a disappointing race for favourite backers. Zeroeshadesofgrey had been less than fluent at this one too and needed encouragement as they headed to the middle flight in the back straight.
All of the runners cleared this one without problem before heading across the pathway on their journey to the fourth last. The leader under Nico de Boinville was now being pushed along and he would lose the lead having jumped the flight; Parish Business landed a little awkwardly and there was yet another error from Zeroeshadesofgrey. One For Arthur had now been relegated to last place.
Meanwhile, the Gigginstown second-string, Alpha Des Obeaux, took the lead. Heading into the final turn, there were four horses detached at the rear of the field; namely Thomas Brown, King’s Tempest, Roi Des Francs and the tailed-off One For Arthur. Soon to join these would be Flintham, Zeroeshadesofgrey and Final Nudge.
This left Alpha Des Obeaux to lead the runners into the home straight, from Thistlecrack who’d been making steady progress through the field, Blaklion, Vyta Du Roc, Foryourinformation, Our Kaempfer, the now tiring Parish Business, Ordo Ab Chao and Monbeg Theatre; the latter made a bad error at the third last and it was game over for him also.
To the nearside, Thistlecrack came to join the Gigginstown runner as they cleared the penultimate flight, the grey Vyta Du Roc soon took third place as Blaklion, Our Kaempfer and Foryourinformation fought it out for the fourth place. The Colin Tizzard runner edged a little left as they headed down to the final hurdle, with Alpha Des Obeaux continuing to respond to his jockey’s urgings and he was just a length down as they arrived at the obstacle.
However, it hadn’t been Richard Johnson’s day ... and it still wasn’t, as his mount clipped the top and failed to find his feet on landing; he rolled over, fortunately throwing his jockey clear. The horse was fine and trotted away, although he did head towards the Chair but didn’t attempt to jump it. Meanwhile this left Thistlecrack miles clear of his nearest rivals and he galloped on to win by 13 lengths at the line, easing down.
Vyta Du Roc and Our Kaempfer continued their battle all the way to the line for second, with the former prevailing by half a length. Blaklion completed in 4th place, 9 lengths behind the 3rd. There were just two other finishers; Foryourinformation and Thomas Brown. There were actually prizes up to 8th place for this particular race but, presumably, the two unclaimed ones were added to the winner’s prize.
It was strange to see so many cantering back in their own time – those which had pulled up before the last fence were Final Nudge, Monbeg Theatre, Ordo Ab Chao, Parish Business and Zeroeshadesofgrey. Before two out – Flintham. And before three out – King’s Tempest, One For Arthur and Roi Des Francs. Personally I’m not a fan of three-mile novice hurdle races.
It was the third time today that Richard Johnson had ended up on the turf! The winner had returned at a price of 25-1. The horse had won a two-mile race at Ascot in February; Ruby Walsh had ridden him that day. He also finished 5th in the Imperial Cup over a shorter distance too.
We stayed within the Earl of Derby Enclosure, beside the horse-walk entry/exit point following the race.
Race 6 - 4:40pm
THE DOOM BAR SEFTON NOVICES' HURDLE RACE (CLASS 1) (Grade 1)
No Stewards Enquiry.
R. Walsh, the rider of
ROI DES FRANCS (FR), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding ran too
free to post. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of
ROI DES FRANCS (FR), during routine testing failed to reveal any
In previous years this race had been run as the final event of the festival; this time around it was swapped with the Mares’ bumper race.
The favourite for the event was Persian Delight, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies; price 7-2. With Jack Doyle having been injured during the Topham Chase, Ruby Walsh deputised aboard 20-1 shot Potters Corner. Also taking part was Bellshill, who had been first home of the Willie Mullins entries in Cheltenham’s Champion Bumper but, even so, had finished a poor 10th that day.
The starting gate for this event was in the far corner of the track, close to the Anchor Bridge canal crossing.
And then they were off. The runners were led away from the white-faced Barters Hill; bringing up the rear Chitu. The field had soon reached the bend and turned into the home straight on the first occasion. The leader was two or three lengths clear of his rivals, from the hooded Rushvale in second position; he, in turn, was clear of Bellshill and Archive who led the main pack. At the back of the field was Chitu and, just ahead of him, Wabanaki and Buveur D’Air. Interestingly, the latter sports the Potensis/Chris Giles colours usually associated with the Paul Nicholls yard but, on this occasion, the horse is trained by Nicky Henderson and is a half-brother to Punchestowns and Tistory.
The field continued its journey down the home straight with Barters Hill enjoying himself at the head of affairs, ears pricked. He was followed by Rushvale, the Wylie’s Bellshill, Gigginstown’s Archive, Roger Brookhouse’s Davy Doubt, and the grey Justanothermuddle; the latter with Mattie Batchelor aboard. Behind these travelled Persian Delight, Michael Buckley’s Brain Power, Virnon, Western Rules, Trevor Hemmings’ Jurby, Double W’s, Armchair Theatre, Potters Corner, Duncomplaining, Wabanaki, Buveur D’Air, Sakhee’s City and Chitu.
Sakhee’s City, who was already being bumped along, pushed Buveur D’Air out quite wide as they took the grandstand turn. In fact the former had dropped to the rear of the field as they began their journey up the back straight; he also received a few reminders for his trouble. In fact, before they’d gone much further, his jockey Adam Nicol pulled him up. This left Chitu at the rear of the field once more.
Meanwhile Barters Hill continued to take the field along, from Rushvale, Bellshill, Archive and Justanothermuddle. The runners soon traversed the pathway and had reached the far turn, one circuit now complete. Travelling five from the rear of the field, Virnon didn’t take the corner too well, and bumped into Potters Corner; as a result, Buveur D’Air was also pushed wide.
The Ben Pauling representative remained at the head of affairs as the runners entered the home straight, although jockey David Bass was bouncing him along by this stage. Having passed between the vacant wings of the third last hurdle, Archive began to lay down a challenge to the long-time leader; Bellshill was just to the far side of them and looked to be travelling the best. Meanwhile a gap had opened up for Buveur D’Air and he continued to make progress.
Having passed between the next set of wings, David Bass had to resort to his whip to keep his mount going ... but Barters Hill was answering his jockey’s every call as he kept his head in front of the persistent Bellshill; Archive had begun to weaken by this stage and was soon overtaken by Noel Fehily’s mount.
The leading duo continued their fight as they headed down the home straight to the line; but Barters Hill proved far too difficult to pass and triumphed by 1¼ lengths. Finishing 12 lengths back in 3rd position was Potters Corner, who had stayed on down the home straight under Ruby Walsh. Buveur D’Air was one length behind him in 4th, with Archive 2¼ lengths back in 5th.
It was four wins on the trot for Barters Hill, who is a son of Kalanisi; as was Katchit ... although this one is a far bigger stronger horse than the Champion Hurdler. And The Pirate’s Queen has been sent to Kalanisi to produce her first foal.
When interviewed, David Bass said that in the beginning when they first started to work the horse they thought he had very limited ability … until he won a bumper and now three more too.
We decided to return to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure following this race, the final one of the day.
Race 7 - 5:15pm
THE WEATHERBYS WEALTH MANAGEMENT CHAMPION STANDARD OPEN NATIONAL HUNT
FLAT RACE (CLASS 1) (Grade 2)
We waited for a brief time upon the steppings after racing; Choc’s mum and companions were there but, again, Choc was nowhere to be seen. I was still hopeful though, and kept a lookout whilst waiting outside the loos to the back of the Earl Of Derby stand. Nope; still no sign of Choc. How disappointing.
We headed back across the racecourse to catch a bus to take us around to the Melling Road exit point. Having returned to collect Sandra’s car, as usual our return journey took us back to the Ormskirk Road, onto the M57, followed by the eastbound carriageway of the A580. As had been the case on the westbound carriageway this morning, traffic was diverted via the ‘roundabout route’ at the M6 junction this evening too.
Having arrived back at our hotel, we returned to our respective rooms to meet up again for supper at 19:30.
I had what I shall describe as a strong ‘inkling’ that Choc would be at Aintree on Saturday, and had been there today too ... I relayed my hopes to Sandra when we went to supper in the restaurant adjacent to our hotel later that evening; it makes one’s trip so much more exciting if there’s a prospect of seeing Choc. J
Our table tonight was just around the corner from the bar, to the left; I’ve sat there before too, a couple of years ago! I chose fish and chips tonight, with garden peas; I try to avoid my favourite restaurant meal whenever I can but, after the previous evening’s disappointment, there was no other choice for me today. Dessert was lemon meringue pie, as recommended by the waitress; I liked it. We were chatting so much that we forgot to ask for the bill; so, in the end, the waitress asked us if we’d like it. We took this as a hint that it was time to return to our rooms.
Having rubbed my hands along the tops of my thighs during the evening, I also ended up with blue-tinged palms, as the dye in my jeggings appeared not to be colour-fast! But it could have been worse; I might have had blue-tinged knickers instead!
Bedtime was at approximately 22:45; and I double-checked that I’d not left the key in the door tonight too!
Click here for photos – Course-walk etc.
Click here for photos – Race 1
Click here for photos – Races 2 & 3
Click here for photos – Race 4 - Melling Chase
Click here for photos – Race 5 - Topham Handicap Chase
Click here for photos – Race 6
Click here for photos – Race 7