DIARY – AINTREE FESTIVAL
GRAND OPENING DAY
THURSDAY 09 APRIL 2015
The Tourard Man, here ridden by Richard Johnson.
My horse to follow in 2015/2016
Click here to read my Grand Opening Day Diary Part I
It was soon time for the fourth race of the day, the Aintree Hurdle. There were just six runners, with the favourite being the Willie Mullins-trained, Ruby Walsh-ridden, Arctic Fire; price 15-8. The horse had finished as runner-up to Faugheen in this season’s Champion Hurdle; a race in which last year’s Champion Hurdler Jezki had finished 4th. Also taking part today was the ever-popular also ex-Champion Hurdler Rock On Ruby who had missed this year’s Festival.
Arctic Fire wore a hood today, but Jezki did not.
As this race was today’s feature event, having exited onto the racecourse, the runners were paraded in front of the stands before they headed to the starting gate, which was a third of the way along the back straight; two of the three flights of hurdles being jumped before the far turn.
Then they were off. Volnay De Thaix led the runners away, from Rock On Ruby and Vaniteux; the trio were four lengths clear of Arctic Fire, Blue Heron and Jezki as they headed over the first flight. The horses then headed across the pathway and over flight number two. There was no change at the head affairs as they runners headed into the far turn, with Volnay De Thaix and Rock On Ruby continuing to set a very good pace; the field was already well strung out.
David Bass’ mount led the runners into the home straight and over the next two flights; Noel Fehily allowed Rock On Ruby to stray towards the centre line, whereas the other five travelled in Indian file. Arctic Fire was slightly less fluent than his rivals as they jumped the fifth flight. Having cleared the first five obstacles without incident, the horses continued their journey down past the grandstands to the winning post; just one circuit now to travel.
Volnay De Thaix and Rock On Ruby disputed the lead, from Vaniteux four lengths back, then Arctic Fire a further seven lengths behind, followed closely by Blue Heron and Jezki. The leading duo, who had form over this distance, were determined to test their rivals’ stamina; the only other horse who’d run over two and a half miles before being Jezki.
Volnay De Thaix was sent on again as they entered the back straight and was now four lengths clear of Rock On Ruby as they cleared the next flight; Vaniteux, in third position, momentarily lost his stride pattern upon landing over it. With David Bass continuing to press on, Noel Fehily and Nico de Boinville decided to close the gap which had opened up between them and the leader. However, the remaining three were still some lengths behind.
All six runners cleared flight number seven without problem before heading across the pathway to reach the next. David Bass saw a good stride as he approached the flight, and rode his horse into it; Volnay De Thaix was quickly away from the flight as a result. However, back in the field, again Arctic Fire was the least fluent of the runners. Heading into the far turn, the leader remained three lengths clear of his nearest rival. Travelling across the far end of the track, Blue Heron was the first to show signs of distress as he dropped to the rear of the field.
The runners entered the home straight for the final time, with Volnay De Thaix being pushed along for the first time. However, he remained narrowly ahead of the challenging Rock On Ruby as they jumped three out; both Jezki and Arctic Fire were much closer now. Vaniteux came under pressure as they headed towards the penultimate flight with AP’s mount sweeping past to his outside, and the Willie Mullins runner doing the same to his inner.
Having battled on gamely, Volnay De Thaix again held the narrow advantage from Rock On Ruby, but the Irish Challengers were snapping at their heels. Time was up for the long-time leader shortly afterwards, as the three at the head of the market swept on by. As they headed to the final flight, both Rock On Ruby and Jezki were being strongly driven, but Arctic Fire was still travelling well and it appeared that he only had to jump it to claim first prize.
But no, he stepped on the flight and took a crashing fall; this left Jezki clear of Rock On Ruby. The latter was very lucky not to be brought down, as the Arctic Fire fell into his path. The Harry Fry-runner displayed extreme nimbleness to firstly jump over the prostrate horse’s legs, and then the jockey also; although he did kick Ruby in the process. As a result of this, Rock On Ruby was almost brought to a stand-still and he now had to battle to remain ahead of Volnay De Thaix.
Meanwhile, AP had the luxury of being able to ease his horse down close home; although not before he’d checked twice for dangers. The winning margin was 13 lengths at the line. Rock On Ruby claimed second, 1½ lengths ahead of Volnay De Thaix, with Blue Heron collaring the tired Vaniteux to finish 4th.
Ruby was fine ... although he was stood down for the remainder of the afternoon due to a ‘dead leg’. The green screens were erected around Arctic Fire and it looked like, for a long while, he was a goner. However, eventually he rose to his feet accompanied by a cheer from the crowd and was led away unscathed; Ruby had remained with the horse and had assisted those tending him.
In fact, Arctic Fire was able to run again 22 days later, at Punchestown, when he finished as runner-up to Faugheen in their Champion Hurdle.
When interviewed by Channel 4’s Alice Plunkett, AP’s first question was to ask if Ruby and Arctic Fire were okay.
Once again we chose to return to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure to see the runners return.
Trainer Jessica Harrington was obviously delighted that the horse had finally won the prize he had deserved, having been beaten on three occasions by Hurricane Fly and finishing a disappointing fourth in our Champion Hurdle after a very good 2013/2014 season. The plan for AP had been to sit behind Ruby Walsh throughout the race, rather than give the latter a target; mind you, Arctic Fire appeared to have been travelling the better prior to his tumble.
It was soon time for the fifth race of the day; the Fox Hunters’ Chase for amateur riders which is run over the Grand National fences. The favourite for this race was the Cheltenham Fox Hunter winner, On The Fringe, who sported the JP McManus colours, was trained by Enda Bolger and ridden by Nina Carberry; price 5-2.
The second favourite was last year’s winner, Warne, ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen; the amateur was bidding to become the winning-most jockey over the Grand National fences – he was attempting to win for the 6th time. There are five opportunities a season, with one of those races confined to amateurs; two in December (the Becher Chase and the Grand Sefton) and this, the Fox Hunters, plus the Topham and the Grand National itself. Mick Fitzgerald believes that Sam has been so successful because he encourages his mounts to jump the fences, letting them clear the obstacles on their own terms, rather than forcing them to do so and thus running into problems.
The start of the race was at the far end of the home straight, with 2 fences to jump before The Chair; having reached the starting area, the riders took their mounts to look at the first obstacle, before having their girths checked prior to the race. Ockey De Neulliac was led most of the way to the start, with the lad running quickly to reach the far-side rails having released his charge as the remaining 28 runners approach the tape.
However, the starter deemed that the jockeys were heading in too fast and he refused to let them go first time. One of the horses, namely Soleil D’Avril, put his head down and his rider William Easterby (son of Tim and grandson of Peter) promptly fell off over his mount’s shoulder! This would not have caused too much of a delay had it not been for the fact that Soleil D’Avril’s bridle also fell off!
William struggled to replace it, the horse didn’t wish to stand still and was also throwing his head around. The starter’s assistants then came to his aid; one held onto the horse’s martingale, whilst the other and the jockey eventually got the bit back into the horse’s mouth and the headstall over his ears. It didn’t help that the horse wore a cross-noseband! Finally they threw the horse’s reins over his head and legged the rider back into the saddle. It was probably a case of being all thumbs due to the time pressure and the fact that everyone was watching too!
William rode his mount back through the line of horses and lined up behind them. However, the starter still wasn’t particularly happy and was initially indicating for the others to rein-back away from the tape.
But finally they were off, from a standing start. The runners were led away by Ockey De Neilliac, Pacha Du Polder and On The Fringe; although the latter did duck away to his right as he left the gate. Travelling just behind the leaders, Sergeant Dick fell at the first fence; travelling further back than his rider probably wanted, Warne fell too. Earth Dream was seriously hampered by the latter’s departure, as was Major Malarkey. Quinz had to jump Sergeant Dick’s prostrate body, narrowly avoiding being brought down in the process, and Major Malarkey was interfered with again! However, having been totally unsighted at the rear of the field, Siro Demur turned a somersault following a surprise encounter with Sergeant Dick. But, fortunately, all three casualties rose to their feet and galloped away. The three riders appeared flummoxed by the turn of events but got to their feet also.
Meanwhile the remaining 26 headed to fence number two where to the outside of the runners, having jumped too low and taken out much of the spruce dressing, the 15-year-old veteran Tartan Snow fell; the 2013 winner was out of the race. Major Malarkey, not surprisingly in rear, made a slight error on landing. The runners then headed over the Chair, where Bound For Glory jumped into a narrow lead over Ockey De Neulliac and no competitors departed. There were a few flat-footed jumps as the horses then headed over the water-jump, including from the runner in second position.
Bound For Glory had set up a 4-length lead as they headed around the grandstand turn; he was followed by Ockey De Neulliac, Douglas Julian, Pacha Du Polder, Last Time D’Albain, Out Now, On The Fringe, Shoreacres, Neverownup, Current Event, Big Fella Thanks, Twirling Magnet, the mare Chosen Milan and Illusion Of Time. The leader’s advantage had been narrowed by the time they cleared fence number five; again there were no casualties.
The following fence claimed two victims, firstly when Out Now, who was travelling against the inside rail and in fourth position, lived up to his name; he got too close to the fence and crashed out having dislodged a swathe of spruce dressing. Further back in the field, and towards the outside of runners, Allerford Jack also fell; the horse was quickly to his feet and the rider kept hold of the reins too. So then there were 23.
It was no surprise that there two further casualties at the big open-ditch; fence number seven. Chosen Milan fell, but was up very quickly; Current Event was hampered and unseated. Bobs Law was hampered too, as was Good Egg, but both survived. Meanwhile, Bound For Glory continued to lead from Pacha Du Polder and Ockey De Neulliac.
The remaining twenty-one runners headed over the next two fences without incident; Pacha Du Polder now led and the back marker was the tailed-off Boxer Georg. The following obstacle was Becher’s Brook with just one departure. In mid-field Joe Hill who was riding Quinz, son of Alan and Lawney, became unbalanced having landed over the fence and he began to slip off over his mount’s off-side shoulder. Unfortunately for his friend Harry Bannister who was riding Rouge Et Blanc, Quinz veered severely to his right as Joe struggled unsuccessfully to remain in the plate and almost carried him out of the race!
The Fionavon fence claimed no victims and Pacha Du Polder and Bound For Glory continued to dispute the lead as they headed to the canal turn. All bar two of the runners negotiated the Canal Turn without problem, the exceptions being Nowurhurlin who was travelling towards the rear of the field and unshipped his unbalanced rider out the side-door as he swung around the turn. Tailed off in rear, Boxer Georg also unseated.
When in third position, Ockey De Neuilliac took a crashing fall at Valentines; he somersaulted and caught Neverownup with his flailing legs and Ollie Greenall was unseated as a result. Unlucky, as the Dr Newland charge was travelling okay and disputing fifth place at the time. Both jockeys were fine and walked away. Last Time D’Albain pecked on landing over the next, and Douglas Julian was a little awkward here too.
Pacha Du Polder held a slight advantage from Bound For Glory as the runners headed over four out; they were three lengths clear of On The Fringe and Last Time D’Albain, then Big Fella Thanks and Twirling Magnet, followed by Bobs Law, Shoreacres, Douglas Julian, and Major Malarkey who had performed miracles to remain on his feet when severely hampered at the first fence. After these travelled Brunswick Gold, Soleil D’Avril, Earth Dream ridden by John Ferguson’s son James, Good Egg, Rouge Et Blanc and Illusion Of Time.
There were no incidents at the third last and the remaining sixteen runners headed back across the Melling Road led by Pacha Du Polder; the Paul Nicholls-representative was four lengths clear of his nearest rival as he turned for home. Bound For Glory was being pushed along as they approached two out, with On The Fringe staying on to take second position as the horses jumped it; although Nina’s mount did bump the former as they headed away from the fence.
Pacha Du Polder and On The Fringe jumped the final fence almost in unison. Heading for the elbow Will Biddick was now riding his mount along, and gave his partner a couple of cracks with his whip too, whereas Nina hadn’t moved a muscle as yet. Then, having reached the run-in, the lady amateur coaxed her horse into the lead just hands and heels and rode him out to the line to win by 3¾ lengths.
Having resigned himself to the loss, Will checked behind to see if there was any further opposition and, seeing none, was able to just ride his mount home without further aids. The third-place finisher was Last Time D’Albain 13 lengths away, with the unlucky Major Malarkey claiming 4th position 5 lengths behind him and Bound For Glory a neck a away in 5th. Sixteen horses completed the course and no jockeys or equines were hurt. Good Egg finished last.
And those which did not finish:
Once again we chose to return to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure to see the runners return.
Having won the race, On The Fringe had completed the 2015 Fox Hunters Aintree and Cheltenham Festival double.
I can’t help but thinking that it’s unfair that trainers such as Paul Nicholls are permitted to have entries in a race like this.
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS ROOM:
Race 5 - 4:05pm
THE CRABBIE'S FOX HUNTERS' STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 2)
The favourite for the next race was Next Sensation, trained by Michael Scudamore and ridden by brother Tom; price 7-1. AP McCoy was re-united with his Cheltenham Grand Annual mount, Ned Buntline, for this race. Also taking part was last year’s winner Parsnip Pete.
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. The field was led away by Next Sensation, Pearls Legend and one of the five Irish-raiders, Enjoy Responsibly; three from rear, Karinga Dancer jumped the first fence a little awkwardly and at the back of the field was Ted Veale. Having cleared the cross-fence, the runners headed around the bend and into the home straight on the first occasion.
Having cleared the second obstacle, where Karinga Dancer was a little slow and subsequently pushed away from the fence, they galloped towards the first of the open-ditches; in mid-field Parsnip Pete made an error here. The runners then traversed the Grand National course to reach the next fence, which the leader Next Sensation flew over.
They then headed past the lollipop with one circuit now to race. Next Sensation led from Pearls Legend, Enjoy Responsibly, the grey Baby Mix who was returning to racecourse action after 474 days, Darwins Fox, Bellenos, Astracad, Parsnip Pete, Surf And Turf, Claret Cloak, Ned Buntline, Dresden, Arnaud, Royal Regatta, Karinga Dancer, Definite Dream and Ted Veale.
Having negotiated the near turn, the runners then began their journey up the back straight. The pace was a good one and the field began to stretch out as it headed over fence number five; Darwins Fox hit the fence with a bit of a jolt and shot Andrew Lynch forward momentarily. Near the rear of the field, Karinga Dancer was slow at this one.
Next Sensation continued to hold the narrow advantage as the runners jumped the next fence; Enjoy Responsibly now his closest pursuer. Once again Karinga Dancer was very slow, solely Definite Dream now behind him; both struggling. They headed on towards the next, an open-ditch. Second favourite Royal Regatta ploughed through it and left his mark; just two now behind him, namely Karinga Dancer who dived to his left over it, whilst Definite Dream jumped out to his right.
All seventeen runners headed across the pathway, which traverses the course at the point, to reach the final fence in the back straight. It was almost three in a line up front as they jumped it; Next Sensation, Enjoy Responsibly and Bellenos. Confidence shaky, Royal Regatta hit this one too; he would be pulled up before the next, as would both Karinga Dancer and Definite Dream.
Heading into the final turn, the leading trio held a three lengths advantage over Pearls Legend, Baby Mix and Darwins Fox. The first few runners cleared the cross-fence without incident. However, Darwins Fox made an error and, having made headway to closely pursue the former, Ned Buntline fell. The horse was okay but AP was rather annoyed; he threw his helmet to the ground in disgust! AP was now nought from five aboard the horse and, as he was due to retire a fortnight later, that was the way it would remain!
Meanwhile, up front, Bellenos had taken the lead and was a length up as the runners cleared the next fence; the tiring Next Sensation pecked on landing at this one. Pursuing him down to the final open-ditch and over it were Surf And Turf, Enjoy Responsibly, Pearls Legend, and Darwins Fox; behind these and under pressure were Baby Mix and Claret Cloak.
The leaders began their long run to the last, with Surf And Turf taking over at the head of affairs as Bellenos came under pressure. Darwins Fox continued his pursuit, as did Pearls Legend. The Kevin Frost runner was around a length up at the last, which he flew; jockey Brian Hughes then driving his mount out to the line to win by 1½ lengths. Darwins Fox completed in 2nd, with Pearls Legend just three quarters of a length away in 3rd. The 4th placed horse was Bellenos, 6 lengths further away.
Once again we chose to return to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure to see the runners return.
The winner had been bought for just £3,000 at Ascot sales by owner/trainer Kevin Frost; he’d previously been trained by Jonjo O’Neill. The trainer explained that his horse is a ‘summer horse’ which needs quick ground to thrive; this had been the plan, at the suggestion of Brian Hughes, since winning over course and distance in June 2014. Following the win, the horse was sold to Carl Hinchy who owns a number of racehorses.
The trainer’s and jockey’s association goes back a long way, as Brian was Champion Conditional jockey when Kevin was Head Lad at Alan Swinbank’s yard. Following that, Kevin was Assistant to Ian Williams for six years.
The trainer was congratulated by Harry Skelton; he was local to Dan Skelton’s yard, until moving to Market Drayton a few weeks later. Also JP McManus shook the winning trainer’s hand and congratulated him. “What a gentleman”, said Kevin.
THE BETFRED RED RUM HANDICAP STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 1) (Grade 3)
No Stewards Enquiry.
Richard Johnson, the rider of ROYAL REGATTA
(IRE), unplaced, reported that the gelding was never travelling. The
Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of ROYAL REGATTA
(IRE) during routine testing failed to reveal any abnormalities.
Alan King had two runners in the final race of the day, Wayne Hutchinson chose Ulzana’s Raid; with Richard Johnson aboard The Tourard Man. I also had my one and only bet of the Festival on The Tourard Man; £5 each way.
The race favourite was Call The Cops, for trainer Nicky Henderson and ridden by Andrew Tinkler; the winning combination in the Cheltenham Festival’s Pertemps Final; price 4-1.
Jonathan Burke substituted for the stood-down Ruby Walsh aboard Apache Jack; the latter jockey having reported a ‘dead leg’ following his fall from Arctic Fire earlier in the afternoon.
Then they were off. The runners were led away by the appropriately named Spirit Of Shankly, together with Serienschock. The field cleared the first flight without incident before continuing their journey down the home straight and past the winning post; two circuits now to travel. As they did so, to the outside of runners, Land Of Vic pulled her way past to take the lead.
Heading around the grandstand bend, the leading trio were followed by Call The Cops, Kaysersberg, Apache Jack and Bear’s Affair, behind these Katgary, The Tourard Man, Marinero, Dawalan, Dawn Commander and Join The Clan. They were followed by Taglietelle, Ulzana’s Raid, Bygones Sovereign, Unique De Cotte, Master Malt, La Fontana, Regal Encore and Clondaw Kaempfer.
Having entered the back straight, and a good pace being set, all twenty one runners negotiated the second flight in their stride. Land Of Vic was the clear leader as the field headed over the next obstacle, where the dark grey Dawalan was driven on landing over it. Bygones Sovereign, having improved around the outside of the field, came to join the leaders as they cleared flight number three.
The runners headed around the far turn, led by Land Of Vic, Serienschock and Bygones Sovereign; bringing up the rear were Clondaw Kaempfer, Dawalan and Regal Encore. Having turned into the home straight, there were no mishaps at flight number five, although The Tourard Man was driven away from it, momentarily. Spirit of Shankly trod on the inside panel of the next flight, leaving it flat upon the turf; this caused a little consternation for the runners following him, namely Kaysersberg and Katgary, as they were not expecting the misplacement. As the runners galloped away from the flight, a group of grounds-men ran across to repair the damage before the horses returned to jump it once more.
The field continued its journey down the home straight to arrive at flight number seven; the light grey Dawn Commander made an error here and jockey Joshua Moore began to push his mount along as they headed down past the winning post with one circuit to go. The sole mare Land Of Vic continued to lead from Serienschock; Bygones Sovereign was being pushed along now and, as a result, now shared third position with Kaysersberg and Call The Cops.
Having entered the back straight, Spirit of Shankly began to lose ground upon the leaders and dropped back through the field; Bygones Sovereign also. As they headed over the first flight therein, Dawn Commander was now at the back of the field. Meanwhile, Land Of Vic and Serienschock continued to lead from Call The Cops as they headed over the next without incident. Tom Scudamore’s mount took over at the head of affairs as the runners jumped the final flight in the back straight.
Thus, heading into the top turn, Serienschock led the way from Land Of Vic, Call The Cops, Marinero and Bear’s Affair. They were followed by The Tourard Man and Unique De Cotte, Katgary and Ulzana’s Raid. Kaysersberg was in retreat behind these but, still in the main group were Master Malt, Join The Clan, Lac Fontana, Regal Encore and Taglietelle. Dawalan, Spirit Of Shankly and Clondaw Kaempfer were detached but still going; Dawn Commander and Apache Jack had called it a day. However, having been travelling behind these, Bygones Sovereign was still in the race!
Serienschock held a narrow advantage over Land Of Vic as they turned into the home straight. When the mare began to fade, it left the David Pipe runner with a one length advantage as they jumped three out, from Call The Cops and Bear’s Affair. Just behind these were Marinero, Unique De Cotte, Master Malt to the nearside, and The Tourard Man being steered around the retreating Land Of Vic to the far side. Meanwhile Kaysersberg and Spirit of Shankly were pulled up, passing to the inside of the flight.
The remaining runners headed down towards the penultimate flight; it soon apparent that Marinero’s saddle had slipped, severely; David Mullins’ feet were out of his irons and the saddle and number cloths were flapping. Call The Cops led over the obstacle; the tiring Serienschock made an error here. This left Call The Cops with a narrow led from Master Malt, Taglietelle and Marinero; the latter still continuing to challenge despite his tack problems. Bear’s Affair and The Tourard Man were just behind these, with Regal Encore keeping on also.
Andrew Tinkler’s mount retained a very narrow advantage as they jumped the last; but his nearest pursuer, Marinero took off too early, stepped on the flight and fell, slightly hampering The Tourard Man as the loose horse rose to its feet. Meanwhile, up front and under a strong drive from Paul Carberry, Taglietelle gradually wore down Call The Cops to get his head in front and, despite the latter fighting back again towards the line, the Gordon Elliott runner won by a head.
Not very far behind, it was a ding dong battle for 3rd between two of the JP McManus runners, with Master Malt just holding on to 3rd from the keeping on Regal Encore. The distance between 2nd and 3rd being half a length, between 3rd and 4th a neck.
And, just outside the paying out places in 5th, 13 lengths back, was The Tourard Man. So near but yet so far for my only bet of the Festival. Mind you, he would have finished 6th had Marinero not departed at the last; my sole consolation! But The Tourard Man is going to be my horse to follow next season ...
So, with this win, trainer Gordon Elliott had trained a double on the day; Clarcam having won the first.
Also, Call The Cops was sold the following month at the Goffs/DBS sales for £220,000!
Race 7 - 5:15pm
THE INJURED JOCKEYS FUND HANDICAP HURDLE RACE
(CLASS 1) (Grade 3)
Non-Race related incidents
Racing over, and following a comfort break to the loo, we headed back to the racecourse crossing point in order to catch a bus back to the Steeplechase car park; fortunately it wasn’t standing room only, as my feet were pretty tired by this point. I think my circulation may have been restricted by the fact I wore a pair of non-slip footsies inside my tights to prevent making holes in the toes of the latter. It didn’t do me much good though, as there were two small holes in the right thigh of my tights by this stage!
Normally I’d spend a few minutes at this point eating the remaining cheese rolls I’d brought with me but, as Sandra would be following me back to the hotel in her own car, I set off almost immediately. My route took me back over Anchor Bridge, with a left turn at the T-junction shortly afterwards; the tail back from the traffic lights was short today, so I’d soon joined the Ormskirk Road having turned right. I remained in the outside lane, and was briefly held up at the Asda junction.
I had been travelling a few cars ahead of Sandra initially, but now she was right behind me. Hopefully this helped her negotiate the really weird M57 / M58 junction; it’s the strangest road layout I’ve ever encountered! There were signs of a road-works though, although what had or was due to be changed, I really don’t know.
Having taken the M57 southbound carriageway, I left the motorway at the second junction, heading down the slip-road to join the A580. I drove along the dual carriageway, heading east towards the M6. The speed limit for much of the way has been increased to 60mph. With Sandra following close behind me, I was a little paranoid that I’d make a fool of myself when driving, because I was being watched!
The A580 passes through several sets of traffic lights and one roundabout before the M6 junction is reached. There were extensive road-works at the junction, which is sited below the motorway. Today the inside lane of the A580 was closed at this point, forcing all traffic which continued in an easterly direction into the outside lane. On the far side of the junction, vehicles exiting the motorway in order to head towards Manchester, merged from the left by utilising the inside lane; I moved across into that lane as soon as I could.
We’d soon reached a small roundabout, with the Golborne Premier Inn shortly in sight on the left-hand side. A left turn at the next set of traffic lights, via slip-road, takes one into an industrial estate, then a left at the roundabout and left again to enter the car park of the hotel. We had arrived at 18:35, with Sandra helping me to carry a couple of bags of my luggage too. I’d not taken advantage of the early online check-in process so, after waiting for a group of people ahead of me, it took a few minutes.
Coincidently, my room this year was number 23; the same as in 2010! The room is on the first floor, almost overlooking the restaurant; the first door on the left having exited the stairwell. And the receptionist asked me if I’d been there before because she thought she recognised me ... yes, a number of times, but only for the Grand National. I didn’t realise I was that memorable! Having delivered my trolley suitcase and a couple of bags to my room, I returned to my car for the remaining items, including the kitchen sink!
Sandra’s room was number 24, overlooking the rear car park and only a very short distance along the corridor. So, having changed into my dark blue jeggings, a thermal t-shirt and oversized bright blue cardigan, I called for her en-route to dinner in the Table Table restaurant; Sandra had made our reservation for 19:30. We were shown to a table beside the window overlooking the front car park and today I ordered chicken and leak pie with mash potato and peas; although I wasn’t overly keen on it and didn’t actually finish my first course. However, I still found space for dessert ... well you have to, don’t you? It was new to the menu, an ‘After-eight’ concoction which I can highly recommend.
We spent ages chatting after our meal; the staff had even begun to re-arrange the tables around us in preparation for the following morning’s breakfast sitting before we left! We turned in at around 22:35, looking forward to Day 2 and the opportunity to walk the course; it would be my third time from seven Festival trips, but my first time accompanied.
Click here for photos – Retraining of Racehorses Parade & Race 1
Click here for photos – Race 2 & 3
Click here for photos – Race 4
Click here for photos – Race 5
Click here for photos – Race 6
Click here for photos – Race 7