DIARY – AINTREE FESTIVAL
GRAND OPENING DAY
THURSDAY 07 APRIL 2016
Fittingly, the Red Rum Handicap Chase was won by
the Donald McCain trained Katachenko,
today ridden by Wayne Hutchinson
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.
The odds-on favourite for this race was the reigning Champion Hurdler Annie Power, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh; price 4-9.
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.
And then they were off. Nicholls Canyon was sent into the lead by jockey Paul Townend; The New One tracked him in second, followed by Annie Power, Camping Ground, My Tent Or Yours, with Court Minstrel held up at the rear. The leader jumped slightly out to his right over the first flight. The six runners continued their journey up the back straight, crossing the sanded pathway on their way to the next. Again the leader jumped out to his right; on this occasion he was ungainly as he took off early and had to reach for it.
The runners then headed into the top turn, where in fifth position and maybe short of room, My Tent Or Yours briefly bumped the running rail. Nicholls Canyon, sporting the beige and black silks of the Wylie’s, continued to lead the small but select field as they entered the home straight on the first occasion. Yet again the leader jumped out to his right as they cleared the next flight. Annie Power, to the inside of the track, travelled in second position, from The New One and My Tent Or Yours disputing third, Camping Ground to the near side in fifth and Court Minstrel remaining at the rear of the field.
The runners continued their journey down the home straight, with the leader jumping straighter at the next. There was a big surprise at the fifth flight, the one in front of the main grandstands, where The New One caught his near-fore on the flight and fell; he hampered Camping Ground, but only marginally. Fortunately both jockey and horse were quickly to their feet; Sam Twiston-Davies was able to catch his mount before he ran off.
Travelling strongly, Annie Power had taken the lead from her stable-mate as they headed down past the winning post with one circuit now to travel. They’d soon entered the back straight, with the mare continuing at the head of affairs. Nicholls Canyon continued to travel well in second, with My Tent Or Yours in third position; Camping Ground was detached slightly from the main group, with Court Minstrel well adrift at the rear.
Annie Power put in long jump at the first flight in the back straight where, travelling in her wake, My Tent Or Yours managed to dislodge the orange plastic protector strip. They continued over the middle flight, where Nicholls Canyon jumped out to his right yet again and forfeited ground. The runners headed across the sanded pathway to reach the final flight in the back straight, at which Ruby’s mount continued to lead, from My Tent Or Yours, Nichols Canyon, Camping Ground and Court Minstrel.
The leading trio were well clear of the others as they headed around the far turn; Camping Ground was struggling by this point and Court Minstrel had soon stayed on past him. They entered the home straight, with Annie Power continuing to hold a narrow advantage from Nicholls Canyon and My Tent Or Yours. With the mare keeping to a straight line to the far side, Barry Geraghty initially seemed hopeful of laying down a challenge aboard the JP McManus runner as they cleared three out; meanwhile Nicholls Canyon began to lose ground due to his continued waywardness when jumping the flights.
However, it soon became apparent that the boys were no match for the girl, with Ruby remaining motionless aboard the mare as they headed towards the penultimate flight; four lengths clear of her nearest rival as she jumped it. Soon her jockey glanced behind to check on their rivals, and Barry Geraghty did the same; the latter had accepted that defeat was inevitable and wanted to check that the runner-up’s prize was in the bag.
Annie Power jumped the last well and Ruby rode her out to win by 18 lengths at the line. Meanwhile, My Tent or Yours had come to the end of his tether, and flattened a panel in the final flight; he was trying 20 furlongs for the first time. However, despite being tired, he beat Nicholls Canyon by 9 lengths. Having never been on terms with his rivals, Court Minstrel claimed £11,132 for 4th place; he completed 21 lengths behind the 3rd. The tailed-off Camping Ground came home in his own time, 42 lengths behind the 4th to claim £5,852.
It’s a worry that there appears to be a shortage of star 2-mile hurdlers in the GB, apart from the novice Altior; but will be latter be sent chasing next season? Today was the same one, two, and three as the Champion Hurdle.
This had not been a good race for Ruby Walsh in the past, having been ‘smashed up’ when falling aboard both Zarkandar and Celestial Halo in previous renewals.
We chose to remain at our chosen vantage point ahead of the next race. With so many horses taking part in the Fox Hunters’ Chase and this requiring them to enter the Parade Ring via the walkway to the rear, the placed horses including Annie Power were led back to the stables via the walkway which leads to the racecourse. This provided us with another photo opportunity as they were led by.
Race 4 - 3:25pm
THE DOOM BAR AINTREE HURDLE (CLASS 1) (Grade 1)
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 the event On The Fringe, trained by Enda Bolger, hoping to win the race for the second year running and to also complete the double-double of the Cheltenham/Aintree Foxhunters. Jamie Codd was riding him today, as Nina Carberry was currently serving a whip ban.
Declan Queally, who rode Monkey Kingdom, is Tom Queally’s brother. And Rose Loxton, who used to look after Big Buck’s, was represented by Current Event; she still works at the Paul Nicholls yard.
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.
It was a false start, first time … no surprise there then! This being the case, take two was a standing-start, with the starter being satisfied, eventually, that the amateur jockeys were listening to him. Having lined up against the inside rail, Will Biddick aboard Pacha Du Polder was one of the first away; On The Fringe was prominent too. All 22 runners survived the first jump! Doubledisdoubledat and Monkey Kingdom led the field over the second fence; again there were no casualties, although Fort George made an error and lost a few places as a result.
The third fence in the Foxhunters is The Chair, which they all cleared before heading over the water-jump. Doubledisdoubledat continued to lead the field as they headed around the bottom bend, from Monkey Kingdom; also prominent were Pacha Du Polder, Marasonnien, Bound For Glory, Dineur and Mendip Express. Having crossed the Melling Road, the leaders had soon reached the fifth fence; the field of differing abilities had already begun to string out by this point but there were no casualties at this obstacle.
Bound For Glory had taken the lead as they headed to the next; Marisonnien slipped and pecked on landing over this one but survived. Further back in the field, Sam Cavallero hit the fence and lost his footing on landing, and Need To Know departed too. Forge Valley was so badly hampered by the incidents that it proved impossible for the jockey to remain aboard, despite clinging on for dear life for a number of strides.
Meanwhile the remaining nineteen headed towards and over the open-ditch, where there were no additional departures. Having been trailing the field by this stage, Brodie Hampson decided to pull up Fort George after the fence. Bound For Glory continued to lead the runners over the next two, which they all cleared safely; tracking him were Doubledisdoubledat, Pacha Du Polder and Monkey Kingdom. Clonbanan Lad made an error at the second of these.
The following fence was Becher’s Brook; there were no casualties at the famous fence, although Mendip Express and Clonbanan Lad did bump each other upon landing. A number of the tail-enders struggled to continue. Eighteen runners headed over the Fionavon fence; again without incident. Alex Ferguson, son of John, riding Fredo decided to call it a day at this point; the horse had not enjoyed his experience over the unique fences.
Bound For Glory led the runners over the Canal Turn but, sadly for the jockey, she lost her balance when her saddle slipped during the subsequent turn to the left and she exited out the off-side door as a result! This left Doubledisdoubledat in the lead as they headed to Valentine’s. Having jumped the Canal Turn, Current Exchange was pulled up. Towards the rear of the field, Richmond hit Valentine’s and catapulted his jockey over his head. The struggling Night Alliance was pulled up after the fence.
Doubledisdoubledat led the field over the next, from On The Fringe, Clonbanan Lad, Dineur and Pacha Du Polder. Meanwhile the trailing Swallows Delight fell here and badly hampered Major Malarkey, which unseated Steven Clements as a result. However, heading to the next, Jody Sole pulled Clonbanan Lad to the outside of the course and quickly dismounted.
Meanwhile the chestnut continued to lead over four out, from On The Fringe, Dineur, Pacha Du Polder, Mendip Express, Current Event, Ockey De Neulliac and Monkey Kingdom; also continuing were Marasonnien and Daymar Bay. Doubledisdoubledat blundered at the next, but survived; but it was not what you wanted to happen at this stage of the race.
There were eight runners in with a chance heading back across the Melling Road; Patrick Mullins decided to call it day and pulled up Marasonnien at this point, and the tailed off Daymar Bay was also pulled up before two out. Doubledisdoubledat had begun to tire by the time they reached the penultimate fence, which allowed Dineur and On The Fringe to take the lead, with Mendip Express now taking third position.
Dineur, trained by Peter Bowen’s son Mickey, held a narrow advantage as they jumped the last but it was no surprise that On The Fringe was still travelling sweetly and had yet to play his cards. At the rear of the field Ockey De Neilliac blundered very badly and almost came to a standstill upon landing but the partnership somehow remained intact.
Meanwhile Jamie Codd had pressed the button aboard the favourite, and with the horse’s tongue hanging out, he surged into the lead and continued to extend his advantage over his rivals all the way to the line to win impressively by 8 lengths. The ex-Alan King-trained Dineur gallantly fought off the challenge of Mendip Express to take the runner-up prize by 1¼ lengths, with Current Event coming home 16 lengths back in 4th.
Doubledisdoubledat finished 5th, Pacha Du Polder 6th, Monkey Kingdom 7th and coming home in his own time following his final last fence blunder was Ockey De Neulliac.
There were two sad postscripts to the race, with both Clonbanan Lad and Marasonnien losing their lives having been pulled up during the race. It was clear to us, waiting by the main gate, that there may be a serious problem with both, as their jockeys returned without their horses but carrying their saddles.
And those which did not finish:
Once again we chose to remain in our vantage point beside the exit walkway.
Race 5 - 4:05pm
THE CRABBIE'S FOX HUNTERS' STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 2)
The favourite for the next race was Minella Present, trained by Neil Mulholland and ridden by Noel Fehily; price 4-1. One of my favourites, Pearls Legend, was running in this race.
The JP McManus-owned Fayette County, trained by Tim Vaughan, was particularly unruly heading to the start; the almost unfortunate jockey being the retained Barry Geraghty. He had jogged out of the walkway onto the racecourse, the jockey not the horse that is, with the trainer and lad attempting to retain control of their charge. Barry having been legged aboard at the bottom bend, but without his feet in the irons, the lad had tried to lead the reluctant participant onto the all-weather track so that the partnership could canter to the start. However, the horse planted himself before rearing up and falling over backwards; he collided with the plastic rails on the way down but, fortunately, Barry was thrown clear. This left Tim to grab the horse’s reins whilst also offering to help Barry to his feet.
The Vaughan team was not put off by these antics and the lad led the horse along the all-weather track, followed at a safe distance by the trainer and jockey. After jogging along behind the horse, Barry was soon legged-up by Tim and the horse and pilot cantered off to join the other 11 who were waiting patiently at the start. Once more settled, Barry put his feet back into the irons and had soon trotted onto the racecourse proper; he also took the opportunity to take a look at the final fence in the back straight, briefly doubling back to do so and adjusting the length of his irons also. He then cantered his mount to one of the Starter’s Assistants in order to have the girth checked, before trotting to the top bend to join the others.
The starting gate for this event was in the far corner of the track; the cross fence being the first obstacle.
And finally they were off, first time. Pearls Legend led the runners to the cross fence, with Katachenko close up to his inside; in third was the grey Viconte Du Noyer sporting the well-known silks of Ann and Alan Potts, with Aye Well in fourth. There were no bad errors at this fence, although Minella Present was a little slow. Bright New Dawn brought up the rear.
Having entered the home straight on the first occasion, Pearls Legend disputed the lead with Katachenko heading over the next. Croco Bay now travelled in third, from Viconte Du Noyer, and Going Concern; behind these were Aye Well to the outside of Dandridge, then Fayette County, last year’s winner Surf And Turf, Workbench, Minella Present and Bright New Dawn. The following fence was an open-ditch, which they all cleared safely.
The runners then headed across the Grand National track to reach the fourth fence; it was quite a long run and the Donald McCain representative Katachenko soon held a one length advantage. There were no problems encountered as they cleared this obstacle and headed down past the winning post, one circuit now to travel.
Katachenko, with Wayne Hutchinson aboard, continued to hold the advantage as the runners headed around the bottom bend and into the back straight; they all safely negotiated the first fence therein. Pearls Legend continued to press the leader as they travelled to the next, with Dandridge having now improved into third to the outside of the runners; Aye Well had drifted noticeably back through the field by this point and would soon be in rear.
The following fence was an open-ditch, which Katachenko cleared particularly well. The runners then headed across the sanded pathway which leads to the steeplechase car park, before reaching the final fence in the back straight. They all cleared this without problem, with Aye Well now well detached in rear.
The leader was travelling well as they entered the far bend; Pearls Legend slightly less so, with his jockey Nico de Boinville more animated, Dandridge was less than a length away in third. All twelve cleared the sometimes tricky cross fence without incident. Katachenko was travelling well within himself as they entered the home straight, and he was three lengths clear of the admirable Pearls Legend, with Dandridge the same away in third, and Croco Bay at his girth in fourth.
The runners fanned out across the track as they headed to three out; nearer last than first, the favourite Minella Present made a mistake at the fence. Meanwhile the long-time leader continued at a pace, towards the final open-ditch, with Dandridge beginning his challenge to the outside of Pearls Legend; behind these was the grey Viconte Du Noyer.
Having cleared the fence without problem, the leaders began the long journey to the final obstacle. At this point, Katachenko began to demonstrate the first signs of tiredness as he began to wander about; Dandridge had closed to within a couple of lengths, with Pearls Legend gamely battling on in third, and Viconte Du Noyer hanging on to their coattails. The remaining runners were unable to bridge the gap to join this leading group.
The two Irish raiders continued to close upon their quarry as they approached the last, with Viconte Du Noyer soon appearing the main danger. It didn’t help when the leader hit the last but Jonathan Burke had decided to make his challenge against the rail and this proved to be his undoing. This was because Katachenko drifted to his left under a strong drive and he had no option but to snatch up his mount to avoid a collision. Meanwhile, Dandridge was renewing his challenge to the outside of the leader and it was neck and neck to the line. However, Katachenko proved the strongest and gamest and held on to win by half a length at the post. Unable to renew his run, Viconte Du Noyer finished 1¼ lengths away in 3rd. Pearls Legend completed 7 lengths back in 4th.
It came as no surprise that there was a stewards’ enquiry, but the result stood. I gather that was because it was the third-placed horse which had been disadvantaged, not the second, so Viconte Du Noyer would never have been declared the winner anyway.
In his post-race interview, Wayne Hutchinson eluded to the fact that his mount had a tendency to hang to his left; it probably didn’t help that there was a brief cut-away of the running rail following the fence, which also would have given Jonathan Burke the idea that he’d got plenty of room to sneak up the inside of the Donald McCain runner.
It was fitting that Donald had won the race named in honour of the great Red Rum, trained by his father ‘Ginger’. Also a fillip following the removal of over 50 horses from his yard in October 2015; horses owned by Paul and Clare Rooney. Today’s winner was owned by Aintree stalwart, Trevor Hemmings, owner of Grand National winners Many Clouds (2015), Hedgehunter (2005) and Ballabriggs (2011). Despite this major setback, Donald still managed to train over 50 winners during this, the 2015 / 2016 season. http://www.ownerbreeder.co.uk/2015/12/the-fightback-starts-now/
On this occasion, we chose to return to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure to see the runners return.
THE BETFRED RED RUM HANDICAP STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 1) (Grade 3)
The favourite for the Mares’ bumper was Augusta Kate, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh; price 15-8. The mare is part-owned by golfer Lee Westwood (also Ant and Dec, and Alan Shearer I gather).
And then they were off, with a number of the mares and fillies keen to get on with the race. Kayf Grace was keen to the inside, but Nico de Boinville eased her back as they headed along the top of the racecourse. Beyond Measure and Lastbutnotleast had settled at the head of affairs as they rounded the first turn and they led the tightly packed field between the empty wings of the first hurdle. Just behind the leaders were Little Miss Poet, Augusta Kate, La Bague Au Roi and Kayf Grace; bringing up the rear was Alan King’s second-string, Cajun Fiddle.
The seventeen runners continued their journey down the home straight in front of the packed grandstands, passing through two further sets of empty wings. Ruby Walsh had reined back Augusta Kate by the time they reached the winning post with one circuit still to travel; his mount was now to the fore of midfield. Alan King’s other runner, My Khaleesi, travelled to the outside of the runners, close to the rear of the field. Heading around the bottom bend, Miss Spent was travelling at the rear of the field.
Beyond Measure and Lastbutnotleast continued at the head of affairs as they entered the back straight; Kayf Grace and Little Miss Poet disputed third position, with La Bague Au Roi behind these and the Waley-Cohen mare Theatre Territory soon improving its position to the outside of the runners.
There were no significant changes in the order as they continued their journey along the back straight; the field remained tightly packed. The first to crack was the hooded long-time leader Beyondmeasure; as they entered the far turn she was swallowed up and quickly dropped back through the pack. This left Lastbutnotleast to now dispute the lead with La Bague Au Roi and Little Miss Poet. Soon the three runners at the back of the field, namely Lilian, Storm Patrol and Bells On Sunday, were being pushed along in an attempt to keep up with their rivals.
Lastbutnotleast had relinquished her share of the lead prior to the horses entering the home straight. This left La Baque Au Roi and Little Miss Poet to spearhead the runners as they headed down through the first set of empty hurdle wings. Ruby Walsh was in hot pursuit and closing them down aboard Augusta Kate, with Kayf Grace also unleashing her challenge. Also not far behind were Gigginstown’s Shattered Love, the grey Snow Leopardess and Copper Kay.
Heading down through the penultimate set of empty wings, Augusta Kate and Kayf Grace joined battle as they took up the running, with Shattered Love staying on behind them as firstly La Bague Au Roi and then Little Miss Poet succumbed to fatigue. The leading duo continued to fight for supremacy as they headed between the final set of wings and commenced the final furlong of the race.
However, despite Ruby’s determination aboard Augusta Kate, his mount could not repel the prolonged challenge from the Nicky Henderson-trained mare, and Kayf Grace triumphed by half a length at the line. Shattered Love finished a further 5 lengths away in 3rd, with Copper Kay plugging on for 4th a further 7 lengths away.
Cajun Fiddle finished 10th and My Khaleesi an extremely disappointing 16th; Alan King’s runners had not been firing this Spring.
Kayf Grace was a winner for the owner/breeders James and Jean Potter. According to Channel 4’s Emma Spencer, the winner is from the family of Denman.
Once again we chose to return to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure to see the runners return.
Race 7 - 5:15pm
THE GOFFS NICKEL COIN MARES' STANDARD OPEN NATIONAL HUNT FLAT RACE (CLASS 1) (Grade 2)
No Stewards Enquiry.
The Stewards noted that
LA BAGUE AU ROI (FR), trained by Warren Greatrex,
would wear earplugs which would be removed at the start.
Towards the end of the afternoon we’d seen Alice Plunkett and her young daughters; from the conversation we gathered that grandma had been given the task of looking after them whilst their mum was working for Channel 4.
It had been a very similar day to the first day at the Cheltenham Festival, with GB just ahead of Ireland in terms of winners; in other words, 4-3.
Sandra had reserved a table at the pub adjacent to our hotel for 19:30, but we overstayed our time at the racecourse itself, having remained to watch the beginning of the Goffs HIT (Horses in Training) sale. Notably, Sam Waley-Cohen’s father Robert, along with three friends, decided to purchase the Paul Nicholls-trained Black Thunder; the horse had an entry in the Grand National and would thus provide conveyance for Sam in this year’s event. Another horse, a youngster, was sold for more than £200,000!
When we arrived at the racecourse crossing, on our way back to the Steeplechase car park, we had to wait a few minutes while one of the green carpets was rolled up. We took a ride on the shuttle bus back to the Melling Road entrance, before walking down the driveway to the field where our cars were parked. Sandra was quicker ‘out of the blocks’ than me and reached Aintree Lane first. I took my usual route to the hotel, via the M57 and A580; Sandra went via the M58 and M6 and arrived some time before me. She waved from her hotel window as I pulled into the rear car park.
As mentioned, I was running late, so wasn’t quite ready to go to the pub at 19:30. It didn’t help that I made two or three additional trips back to my car to collect my belongings! Kitchen-sink springs to mind! With the recent back problems I’d been experiencing, I took the lift to the first floor with my main suitcase on this occasion, instead of using the stairs.
The rooms at the Premier Inn had been refurbished since my last visit; including new bathroom suites and installation of large wall-mounted TVs. I was assigned to room 33, which is one of the slightly larger ones, south-facing and the same room I stayed in during the 2014 Festival! Sandra was staying in room 28.
I set off for the pub at 17:40, stopping at the bar to enquire which table Sandra was sitting at; I was shown to a table close to the large bay window and overlooking the front car park. I ordered macaroni cheese with cauliflower and asparagus; although it wasn’t as good as Marks and Sparks’ macaroni cheese! Dessert was an After Eight Mint Sundae; I had one of those last year. It was a little bit messy though, the ice cream had a habit of dripping down the side of the tall sundae glass and onto the table.
We turned in before 22:00. And there was no repeat of last year’s incident when I left the key in the door of my hotel room, only for the night manager to take it back to reception following his/her security check. Keys have been replaced by credit card-sized swipe cards; these also permitted the occupier to switch on the lights within the room. It saves on electricity as, when removed from the ‘socket’ upon exiting the room, the lights then switch themselves off!
I recall switching on the TV to watch the Really channel; Thursday is their paranormal night! But I did doze off to sleep, only to wake up in the early hours of the morning; I switched off the TV at that point. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
PHOTOS – Aintree Festival Day 1