Haydock Park,Saturday 26th April 2014

As the sun set on the last day of the NH season at Sandown it was the return of the flat here at my local with a marathon eight race card on what was a sunny but also windy and chilly afternoon in the north west.

It’s fair to say that after spending the past seven months or so looking at hurdlers and chasers today was a case of first day back at school syndrome with getting used to working out the quality of unexposed 3yo and seasoned handicappers.

This afternoons card consisted of six handicaps and a couple of maiden events so a nice way to slowly ease into the new season.

1.20 Paul Merson Sportsman’s Dinner 27th May Hcap,Class 5,1m,4yo+ (0-70) (Div 1)

Not the highest quality start to the new season but it began with a well timed ride from top apprentice Oisin Murphy on 5yo Cravat who made good headway to comfortably defeat the running on Docofthebay in second place,favorite Ewell Place was third.

Cravat is back in form and off this run could do with going up in trip,he won well enough and should add to this as the season goes on.

1.50 The 80’s Music Night Here 21st June Hcap,Class 5,1m,4yo+ (0-70) (Div2)

The second division of the first race but under a different title.

A second win of he year for the 4yo Reggie Bond who took over the lead just before the last furlong and kept up to his work,he was two lengths ahead of Prince Of Burma, Kyllachy Star plugged on for third after a poor start.

Reggie Bond is in good heart winning here off 62,he can still improve from this and the blinkers are clearly having the desired effect on him.

2.20 £25 Free Bet At corbettsports.com Hcap,Class 2,7f,4yo+ (0-105)

Some old favourites and popular ones lined up in what looked a competitive contest.

They went a decent clip set by favourite Big Johnny D who rattled up a hat trick last year but approaching 2f out he was headed by the pack and went back through the field.

Glen Moss took over and battled on well under Sean Levey to land the spoils from the staying on Louis The Pious by 0.75 lengths,Newstead Abbey got the third prize while the eyecatching run for me was from Balty Boys who has a race in him,could be worth trying him over 1m at some point.

Glen Moss did well here,winning off his runners up mark of 96 from Kempton last weekend and could come back here at the end of May for the John O’Gaunt over the same CD,Louis The Pious is probably better at 6f, last years Ayr Gold Cup runner up seems to come to form in July.

2.55 Watch Racing UK On Sky Channel 432 Maiden,Class 5,1m4f,3yo+

A bloodless success for the 3yo filly Talmada who travelled well to give second favourite Galuppi a seven length beating.

Holding an Oaks entry it’s possible she could end up at one of the trials at Chester or Lingfield before taking up her entry but she is a nice looking
prospect for trainer Roger Varian who will be looking to get some Black Type with her during the summer.

Galuppi is now qualified for handicaps as is Norab while back in last place Market Storm who is already a gelding will end up over hurdles I expect

3.25 Best Odds Guaranteed At corbettsports.com Hcap,Class 2,1m,4yo+ (0-105)

A real wide open looking contest which was taken by a commentators nightmare in Yourartisonfire who ran on well in the last half furlong under Joey Haynes to get the better of the Jamie Spencer ridden Gabrial’s Kaka who was staying on well in the last furlong to try and follow up his recent win in the Spring Cup at Newbury a fortnight ago.

They were very well stretched out here,Yourartisonfire is a good early type and winning here off 83 he could end up being aimed possibly at the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot, Gabrial’s Kaka like the winner is a 4yo who looks to going the right way and personally I’d send him up to 1m2f in time.

Below,Yourartisonfire

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4.00 Bet At corbettsports.com Maiden Fillies Stakes,Class 5,1m,3yo+

A real shocker hear for the punters but delight for the bookies as 50-1 debutant Belle De Lawers sleuce up to take the scalp of some of the more bigger yards here,making good headway down the straight she led with just over a furlong to go and ran on to beat Isabella Bird by eight lengths,Song Of Norway was plugging on into third and now qualifies for handicaps.

Debutant Elshaadin was fifth and will learn from this and her future will be over trips from 1m2f and over.

As for Belle De Lawers she is related to former Lincoln winner Hunters Of Brora so 1m races should be where her future lies.

4.35 Follow @HaydockRaces on Twitter Handicap,Class 5,1m,3yo (0-75)

An easy win for Alquimia here who won on her second start for trainer Richard Fahey in the famous colours of Sir Robert Ogden,racing off a rating of 67 she came here off the back of a recent blowout at Redcar and she is much better than this rating so could be turned out again before the handicapper notices her.

Runner up was handicap debutant Ghinia who stayed on well and clearly has ability and third spot went to Frankie on Bridie French who had a tricky old time on this filly who reared in the parade ring then went to the 1m4f start as she came out on to the course before Frankie moved her to the rail and took her down steady.

Below Alquimia coming back in.

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5.10 Bet On Your Mobile At corbettsports.com Handicap,Class 4,1m2f 95yds,4yo+ (0-80)

The sort of race where if you hadn’t backed a winner all the day then this was not going to help you win it back.

It may have been the last day of the jumps season but it was a race which went to the name Carberry, not Paul or Nina but the new kid on the block in Megan who is currently attached to the Brian Ellison stable and having her first year riding in Britain, she got her hat trick on Memory Cloth who made it three from three this season under a real drive to just get the better of Syncopate by a neck in a pulsating finish.

Memory Cloth is in the form of his life at the moment and gets on well with Megan who won on him on the first day of the season at Doncaster,they have an apprentice race over 1m4f next weekend so connections could be tempted to turn him out again.

Megan may have the surname Carberry but boy can she ride a horse,if she is not involved in the race for Champion Apprentice then I will be shocked.

Below,Yours truly with Megan Carberry pre race

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A fair start to the new season then,it’s always tricky changing codes but today was a more than useful transition.

Next week I shall be off Saturday evening racing in Doncaster which should make for a nice night out.

Today’s racing was ok but you can’t peak too soon, May has some quality flat racing at Haydock,this afternoon was a case of dusting off the cobwebs.

Until next weekend thanks for reading.

Haydock Park,Jockey Club Grassroots Series Final Day,Saturday 19th April 2014

Easter Saturday and the last jumps meeting of the season here and for me in all probability as attentions slowly turn towards the flat.

It has been a long old haul since October but a very enjoyable one as usual and today was a chance for some of the big stable lesser lights to have a chance to earn their corn and for others to have their swansong before putting the old hooves up for a well earned summers break.

A competitive seven race card was the order of the day as a traditional Easter holiday crowd turned up with especially a good queue forming for the entrance to the Newton Enclosure below.

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1.30 Marie Turner Easter Bonnet Memorial Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase,Class 3,2m,13 fences,5yo+ (0-140)

A one sided affair here as the Donald McCain trained 7yo Witness In Court trotted in here giving Kitegen a 13 length beating in the process.

British debutant Val D’Arc began well to make the early running then went backwards when overtaken and trailed in last of five,he is worth keeping an eye on next season possibly when upped in distance.

Witness In Court is a useful hard working sort,probably won’t be worrying the big two milers next season but he is a decent horse who does his fair share.

2.05 Bet At corbettsport.com Levy Board Handicap Chase,Class 2,3m,18 fences,5yo+

A quality race on paper and plenty looked to have chances judging by the useful form on offer with a real mix of improvers and experienced chasers all in the mix.

It was over the border into Yorkshire for this with a back to form win for No Planning who in turn I have seen win three times in all when on course this season as he bounced back from a poor run at Kelso last time out to win as he took over after the third last and made a real horlicks of the second last before fighting off the attentions of Shotavodka to see him off by three lengths, Firebird Flyer plugged on through beaten horses to get third.

Another good staying chaser off the Sue Smith production line,he could well be a National horse in a few years and is a real battler, the disappointment was probably Cloudy Too who didn’t seem to like the spring ground.

2.40 £3 Million totescoop6 Today Handicap Hurdle,Class 2,2m4f,10 flights,4yo+ (Jockey Club Grassroots Series Final)

A very competitive affair for the time of year here and in a series designed to support horses that might not be that good enough for the big festivals.

Four horses were left fighting it out coming down to the last flight of hurdles and Carlton Jack driven out under Maurice Linehan (5) bounced back to his best,taking over from long time leader Generous Ransom after the last he fended off the attentions of Heath Hunter to give the favourite a 1.5 length beating, they in turn were four lengths clear from Generous Ransom who lost nothing in defeat and chasing him up to the line was Songsmith.

A lot to like here in this race,Carlton Jack could come back here in May for a 3m event on Swinton day unless he goes for his summer holidays, Heath Hunter is a model of consistency and chasing probably beckons for him next season.

It’s been a good season for Jonjo O’Neill with stable starts Holywell and More Of That being the two flag bearers and Carlton Jack looks another one going that way too.

3.15 totescoop6 The Millionaire Maker Handicap Chase,Class 2,2m6f,18 fences,5yo+ (Jockey Club Grassroots Series Final)

A wide open contest here and like at Ayr last week it was Penrith trainer Nicky Richards who is finishing the season off in some style here as Streams Of Whiskey who was always prominent and flew through on the run in and he just got the better of Forest Walker as the line approached under a hard drive from Brian Hughes.

The race was not without incident though as to begin with Tom Scudamore lost an iron after the first but managed to regain it,Wood Yer took a tumble at the fifth and approaching the third last Tiptoeaway crashed out as did Vik Argent,all got up ok.

This was much better from Streams Of Whiskey whose jumping was a lot better today and can only go onwards from here,he will get three miles in time and is one to watch next season.

Hollow Blue Sky was back in third and ran a cracker in defeat.

Below,Streams Of Whiskey

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3.50 The Follow totescoop6 At totepoolliveinfo.com Tim Molony Handicap Chase,Class 3,3m4f,22 fences,5yo+ (0-130)

Only the six in this long distance event but it had a mix of a great finish and sadness in it too.

The sat part was early leader Red Rocco breaking down in front of the stands after the first circuit,sadly he had to be euthanised, my condolences to all those involved at Nigel Twiston Davies stable.

For the record it was the continuation of a big day for trainer Lucinda Russell who at Carlisle broke the record for training the most winners based in Scotland set by Len Lungo of 63 and Blenheim Brook added to that tally as he flew downs after jumping the last when he was around four or five lengths down behind eventual second Woodford County and the mare Fentara who both had a real ding dong battle up the straight here at Haydock.

Blenheim Brook came into this race with a real mixed bag of form this season,it looks like these marathon trips suit him.

Woodford County is only seven,he will probably go for some of the various satellite Nationals next season and Fentara will be much happier back down to three miles.

4.20 Bet On Your Mobile At corbettsports.com “Fixed Brush” Novices’ Handicap Hurdle,Class 3,2m4f,10 flights,4-8yo,(0-135)

An unlucky day turned into a better one for the Philip Hobbs team as Richard Johnson got Horizontal Speed to keep up to his work after a disappointing run in the EBF Final at Sandown last month with a hard fought but ultimately rewarding victory here with Horatio Hornblower chasing him home back in second by two lengths.

Horizontal Flyer will be a good chaser should he go down that route next season although it would be worth chancing him in the 3m Fixed Brush here in November as he jumped them pretty well today.

4.50 Follow Us On Twitter @HaydockParkRaces Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race,Class 5,2m,4-6yo

Experience showed here with Blaklion under Sam Twiston Davies who set a steady pace when they eventually decided to set off after the tape got released, Degoch challenged and led briefly in the last furlong but Blaklion rallied in the last half furlong to give him a 1.25 lengths win.

Allbarnone kept on in third and as for the best of the newcomers,Allysson Monterg and Howwrongcanyoube looked as if they will learn from this run and can do better in time.

Blaklion is a nice looking sort for next season as is the runner up,he could end up Cheltenham bound in one of the big novice hurdles,he likes to battle and isn’t afraid to fight when challenged,Degoch has a good future ahead of him too and will be worth following in novice hurdles too.

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A good days sport then as my 2013-14 NH season comes to it’s conclusion,it’s been a long but enjoyable season and now attentions begin to turn to the turf flat.

It has been another good season,taking racing in at Haydock,Aintree,Carlisle,Newcastle,Ayr,Stratford,Wetherby and Cheltenham with a few diversions to football,rugby league and indoor athletics chucked in for good measure.

It’s hard to pick out one main highlight as it would be unfair to all the others but from a personal point of view I’m proud of spotting More Of a That after seeing his wins at Wetherby and Haydock in November plus seeing Gevrey Chambertin win the Fixed Brush Hurdle on Lancashire Chase Day,I suggested this could be ideal after last seasons Sefton Novices at Aintree.

So it’s the return of the flat next week and while I will always be a huge jumps fan I shall do my best to make the flat reviews decent enough.

Ayr Races,Coral Scottish Grand National,Saturday 12th April 2014

A week after the thrills and spills of Aintree and it was Scotland’s turn to host their Grand National on what is a huge year for the country sporting wise with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow being the icing on a very tasty cake indeed.

Today it was the big day for National Hunt racing in Scotland as a field of top quality horses turned up from all over the UK, the two big names that over the border equine wise were My Tent Or Yours and Tidal Bay,both gave the day a real sense of gravitas that a meeting like this deserves.

Also the Channel 4 trailer was parked up using the course as their principle base for the day.

Below,C4 trailer.

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It was an eight race marathon card,a mix of competitive handicaps,A Grade 2 Novice Chase,The Scottish Champion Hurdle and some useful events with horses for the future.

1.30 The Clyde And Solway Systems Limited Racing Excellence ‘Hands And Heels” Finale Handicap Hurdle,Class 3,2m4f,11 flights,4yo+ (0-130)

A field of eleven went to post but it was all about one horse here as Silsol under series winner Jack Sherwood who kicked on with around a mile to go and put the rest under the kosh, not a fluent jumper he nearly ran out before the second last but some correction got him home nicely in the end to give trainer Paul Nicholls a nice winner, Final Assault and Titus Bold got the minor money for the home team.

Both horse and jockey are going places, Silsol could go chasing next season and his jockey Jack Sherwood could be getting some nice rides too,he is one to follow.

2.05 Arcadia Consulting William Dickie & Mary Robertson Future Champion Novices Chase (The Vulmidas Cup) Grade 2,2m4f,17 fences,5yo+

Only the five here but it was a two horse race going out into the country,the favourite was Valdez who came here with three wins to his name before getting outpaced in the Arkle,however he had to play second fiddle to Eduard from Nicky Richards’ yard, Valdez jumped out to his right a few times which cost him ground but here he was comprehensively beaten as Eduard travelled and stayed well, Fourth in last years Mersey Novices at Aintree he will get three miles in time and could begin next season in the Old Roan at Aintree, Valdez will be better back over two miles in my view.

It was good to see Nicky Richards get a big winner here and with Eduard he has finally got a worthy successor to Monets Garden.

2.40 The QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle,Ltd Hcap,Grade 2,2m,9 flights,4yo+

A race that was complemented with the participation of My Tent Or Yours, the Champion Hurdle runner up in March was here to regain winning ways but he had to give away lots of weight, carrying 11-10 the next best was Court Minstrel, on 10-8 and in this field of eleven only three were in the handicap proper.

Below,My Tent Or Yours pre race.

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Once again My Tent Or Yours continued to play about during the race which was set at a decent pace by Barizan who loves tear along, MTOY was wearing new headgear and ear plugs to help him but he was still pulling during the race and knocked a few hurdles but despite this he travelled well and turning for home looked like he was toying with the field

Down the straight we had three horses over the last with MTOY leading but then had to fight off the challenge of Court Minstrel on the run in then from out of the clouds came the mare Cockney Sparrow who was fifth in the Mares Hurdle at the Festival behind Quevega to beat them both under young conditional Dean Pratt (7), passing the line he looked across as if he could not believe it just happened and began to point at the mare to suggest it was all her.

Cockney Sparrow looks to love Ayr,she won here on Ayr Gold Cup on the flat under Oisin Murphy, she could well end up back on the flat and is continuing to enhance her paddock value.

As for My Tent Or Yours he is still buzzy when racing,it has been suggested running him on the flat too,I would certainly give it some thought, a nice Group Two over 1m2f could work or even go over 1m, it could be worth stepping up in trip or go over fences next season.

3.15 Scotty Brand Handicap Chase,Class 1,2m,12 fences,5yo+

A useful looking race with horses that have been busy over the winter but it was no rest for winning horse Le Bacardy who was a runner up on Friday and rather than head back home he stayed overnight and took the scalp of top weight Desert Cry in a driving battle after the last fence.

Upsilon Bleu kept on for third but needs a bit of respite from the handicapper before he wins again.

3.50 Coral Scottish Grand National Handicap Chase,Grade 3,4m110yds,27 fences,5yo+

The big race of the day with twenty nine facing the starter,the top weight being the evergreen and ever popular 13yo Tidal Bay who came here after unseating at the Canal Turn last week before nearly taking out Across The Bay as they set out on the second circuit in the National.

Also turning up was the enigmatic Battle Group who refused to race last week and although he eventually did set off a fence behind after a false start he was pulled up after seven fences and was retired, pity he can’t take on Mad Moose is a match!

Due to Tidal Bay taking part only the top eleven were in the handicap proper

Below,Tidal Bay in the parade ring.

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So to the race and there was lots of market support for Roalco De Farges while the Scottish support was firmly in the camp of Green Flag for Lucinda Russell who has had a cracking season.

As the race progressed the early pace was set by Lackamon with Baile Anrai,and they certainly took no prisoners as they went over the fences,during the race we had a few incidents,Rigadin De Beauchene hit a ditch badly and was pulled up,Midnight Appeal took a tumble and Battle Group was simply Battle Group.

Turning for home as the field got whittled down lap after lap we had Al Co,Green Flag,Godsmejudge and Trustan Times all holding the best chances but at the last it was Al Co for Peter Bowen and Jamie Moore who lead by around five lengths from Green Flag who weakened and on the run in was being hunted down by Godsmejudge and Trustan Times who were bearing in on him but despite jinxing on the run in he just held on to a deafening silence from the crowd on this 40-1 shock result, Merry King who probably wants five miles plugged on for fourth.

Only nine got round in the end,old Tidal Bay was seventh and his best days are now behind him surely,he owes nobody anything and deserves an honourable retirement.

This was Al Co’s first run in 104 days,he did win a 3m Chase at Chepstow back in October,the race which used to herald the start of the jumps season proper for traditional jumps fans,he was rested since being tenth at Doncaster over hurdles back in December,he could be aimed at the big one next year, Godsmejudge is definitely a spring horse and showed his old zest here while Trustan Times could also be Aintree bound.

4.25 The Ayreshire Hospice Making Today Matter Handicap Hurdle,Class 2,2m5f110yds,12 flights,4yo+ (0-155)

Another useful horse off the Paul Nicholls production line here with Brother Du Berlais hacking up here off 132,he looks a classy horse and will be even better over fences but I would love to see him at Haydock in November in the valuable Fixed Brush Hurdle on Lancashire Chase Day although it is entirely possible he will go over fences.

Rumble Of Thunder kept on in second but they were all outclassed by a more than useful horse in the making.

5.00 Weatherbys Private Banking Novices Handicap Chase,Class 2,3m1f,19 fences,5yo+

A wide open and competitive event with some developing staying chasers in the field,they went a good clip early which took its toll on a few such as Pinerolo who would want it very heavy,Presented ran poor and Bit Of A Jig needed a lot of cajoling by AP and even his resilience and pushing couldn’t help him before he was pulled up.

At the business end it was finally one for the home team with the Hawick trained Samstown who got sent off favourite showed the punters they were right as he dealt a 19 length thrashing to King Of The Wolds who was stepping up in trip and could be worth another try at it,Kentford Legend was third and looks like the handicapper as got a hold of him.

Samstown will end up being aimed at the decent staying events next season,he could be ideal for the Becher Chase or something like the Borders National at Kelso but he is consistent and stays well.

5.35 The Jordan Electrics Ltd Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race,Class 3,2m,4,5 and 6yo

An ok but probably not a top class bumper, all the talk was about the Nicky Henderson newcomer Saint Charles in the JP McManus colours who was bought for £140,000 at the sales after winning his maiden Point at North Carlton in February, he travelled ok but couldn’t pick up when needed and came in 11/15 but he is only a 4yo and will be better in time when he has to do some jumping.

Miles To Memphis got the better of Irish raider The Unsub at the business end,Apache Prince who was third here over CD last year was third again and Speical Wells was fourth.

The first two look decent enough and will make good novice hurdlers next season,Miles to Memphis will show his true ability over 2m4f in my view and The Unsub is one with a fair future ahead of him.

Some excellent racing at Ayr then on a busy day for Scottish sport with the Scottish Cup semi finals taking place over the weekend at Ibrox.

Was very impressed with Eduard in the big Novice Chase,he is a horse going places and will be the apple of Nicky Richards’ eye for next season.

The National was a typical park course long distance chase and long may they continue, Jamie Moore has had a grand season and this is a nice little extra bonus for him and he is no doubt looking forward to getting back on Sire De Grugy in two weeks time.

My Tent Or Yours still has his problems but ran a good race in defeat,it’s great to see horses like this in handicaps giving away weight.

All in all a well run meeting, I don’t like to criticise courses but one thing missing for me was a pipe band like you get here on Gold Cup Day in September as that would be the icing on the cake.

Next up for me is the Easter Saturday meeting at Haydock with the finals of the Jockey Club Grass Routes series.

Below, Plenty of boxes parked up.

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Below, Coming into the course.

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Below,Police horses coming by.

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Aintree Afterthoughts.

Has it really finished till 2015?

Of course come October and hopefully December I shall be back their for the Old Roan and then the Becher and Grand Sefton Chases but only the real jumps fans would know that and not the usual once a year people who only think Aintree hosts one meeting.

The Grand National meeting under the stewardship of Chairman Lord Daresbury who stepped down yesterday after twenty five years of careful running and rather than get a collection and a small clock instead had the County Stand renamed The Lord Daresbury Stand in his honour is now a top class three day meeting that complements the Cheltenham Festival and is part and parcel of the lives of not just people in racing but also a Jewell in the crown of the people in Merseyside who protect,respect,love and defend this place like its a member of their own family.

Thursday which is Grand Opening Day but to me should be rebranded as a sort of Countryside Day is the day that’s given over to the racing purists,we are the ones who could bore you senseless about places we have been and which horses we have seen in their novice days, This day had the unique distinction of having three Grade One races as a prelude to the Fox Hunters and Silviniaco Conti and The New One treated us to some wonderful battles added to the opening race of Guitar Pete flying from the clouds to take the 4yo hurdle.

The race over the big greens though was the plus point of the whole meeting for Sam Waley-Cohen who gave an exemplary display of riding on Warne who jumped for fun and not since the 1974 National made a race over these fences so one sided.

Friday and “Ladies” Day which meant the traditional display of unflattering outfits,fake tan and silly shoes but while the people watchers,fashionistas and once a year racegoers come out in force the what I call “real” racing fans probably start to feel like they are in the minority.

As for the racing it was not a vintage Melling Chase this year even though it produced a cracking finish with Boston Bob getting the better of Rolling Aces in a driving and pulsating ride from Paul Townend.

One horse which did catch the eye was Beat That who won the Sefton Novices in the style of a real quality stayer,he could be a potential Gold Cup horse and I can’t wait to see him take on a fence when that time comes.

And so to Saturday and the one race that this whole meeting revolves around,The Grand National, so often this is the race that divides a nation rather than unite it, in some of the Sunday papers today the usual twaddle coming from non racing writers saying these horses are “forced” to race over an impossible course, well clearly old Battle Group showed that if you don’t fancy it then their is nothing you can do.

It always amazes me that people who only watch this one race a year makes them think they are entitled to an opinion about the sport, Lots of people were a bit worried and nervous when the fences were replaced with plastic cores but it was a fantastic decision and has secured the future of the race.

Yesterday we had a race that will go down as one of the most eventful in a long while with fancied horses such as Teaforthree,Long Run,Burton Port and the loveable rogue Tidal Bay all departing,A false start that thankfully didn’t go down the 1993 route then after it a jockeys mutiny!,but it was great to see a small trainer take the big prize in Dr Richard Newland and Pineau De Re with his jockey Leighton Aspell,this is what jump racing is about and unlike last weeks Dubai World Cup it was not won by the big boys.

The jumping season is slowly winding down but during the summer at the various flat meetings when it’s unbearably hot and I’m sinking a nice cool fruit based drink that rhymes with Limbs thoughts will no doubt turn to wanting it to be winter and wrapped up all warm seeing a field of early season novice hurdlers and chasers show their early potential.

One more thing which I would like to mention and that is that Aintree showed just how good and different our various festivals are in racing, We should be proud of how the many different places such as Ascot,Cheltenham,Aintree,Goodwood,Newmarket,Ayr,Perth,York,Doncaster and Chester all host racing and welcome people who travel far and wide to go their supporting local hotels,pubs and restaurants while enjoying the racing from Group One flat racing to Grade One jumping mixed in with ultra tough handicaps and races that bring the potential stars of the future into the public eye for the first time.

The 2014 Grand National meeting may have gone but the memories will remain and the stories told in years to come by those who had the first hand knowledge of what they saw on course, As the famous old phrase by Dr Seuss goes “Don’t cry because it’s over,smile because it happened”

Aintree Races,Crabbies Grand National Meeting Day Two,Friday 4th April 2014

“Ladies” Day at Aintree which meant the usual sights of fake tan,unflattering outfits and odd looking shoes of various height on the second day of this three day festival.

Seven races with the feature race being the Grade One Melling Chase over 2m4f although this years was not a vintage renewal plus the professional jockeys get a chance to get their eye in for tomorrow with the Topham over one circuit of the big greens.

Looking into some of the various media reports apparently their were a few celebrities here today,not that I would know as unfortunately I was in the minority of being here as a racing fan!

2.00 The International Festival For Business 2014 Top Novices Hurdle,Grade 2,2m110yds,9 flights,4yo+

A good franking of festival form here with favourite Josses Hill obliging for Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty although he didn’t have an easy win with Sgt Reckless under AP for Mick Channon back in the runner up spot, both of these were second and fourth in the Supreme Novices and are useful horses indeed.

Josses Hill is a high quality horse and it will be interesting to see wether he goes for a crack at the big hurdles or gets sent chasing,he will jump a fence and remains a top prospect for next season.

Below,Josses Hill coming back in.

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2.30 The Betfred Mobile Mildmay Novices Chase,Grade 2,3m1f,19 fences,5yo+

Only six but a more than useful looking Chase with two festival winners lining up.

The one everyone wanted to see follow up his win in the RSA was O’Faolains Boy but just like Haydock in January he showed that he has an aversion to the north west by running totally flat and couldn’t pick up.

It was Holywell who always prominent that took the prize,he jumped well and won his fourth on the bounce to hold off Irish raider Don Cossack who was staying on and gained a little bit of compensation after his tumble in the RSA.

This was a decent contest,Holywell is a horse I’ve always liked and he will be taking on the big three milers next term,I fully expect to see him in the Betfair Chase come November and with the staying Chase division being wide open he will end up in the Gold Cup, Don Cossack could end up at Punchestown and those nice staying races in Ireland will be his calling next year.

Below,Holywell and AP

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3.05 The Betfred Melling Chase,Grade 1,2m4f,16 fences,5yo+

A Grade One in name but a really average renewal that was even worse when favourite Module got pulled out before the race.

It was wide open coming down the straight with a host of chances but this year it was going to Ireland who hadn’t won this since Hi Cloy back in 2006 with Boston Bob for trainer Willie Mullins, largely disappointing over fences this season he was sixth back at the festival in the Ryanair Chase but looked a lot better today and held off the challenge of Rolling Aces who ran a lot better since his flop at Ascot back in February.

Toner D’oudaires was keeping on and could be worth chancing over three miles later next season,he remains with potential for Gordon Elliott.

3.40 The Crabbies Supporting Everton In The Community Topham Chase,Grade 3,2m5f110yds,18 fences,5yo+

A wide open looking handicap with the maximum field of thirty runners over the big fences but galloping to the elbow it was one way traffic for the mare Ma Filleule who helped frank the form of Holywell’s festival win with a destructive performance over these big green monsters and could now be trained for the National next year much the same that her trainer Nicky Henderson has done with last years winner Triolo D’Alene.

Benny’s Mist was second and he was always prominent with Eastlake third but none of them could keep up with the winning mare who kept up a grand gallop to the line.

At time of writing their was plenty of fallers in the race so will make any changes if I find any news of anything but their were a few jockey changes later in the afternoon.

4.15 The Doom Bar Sefton Novices Hurdle,Grade 1,3m110yds,13 flights,4yo+

Lots of potential stayers as usual in this race which resulted in a bloodless success for Beat That who had not been seen since being a runner up over 2m4f in a Grade Two at Sandown, always travelling well he picked them off slowly and was going much the best over the last from long time leader Cole Harden and favourite the Rendlesham winner Seeyouatmidnight back in third who lost his unbeaten record under rules.

Capote under AP in the famous Trevor Hemmings colours stayed through beaten horses to take fourth and has the look of a potential National horse in the future as he looks like a battle hardened stayer.

Beat That will have plenty of options next season, the staying hurdle division could be worth a try if More Of That goes chasing and if they are not put off by At Fishers Cross but this was only his fifth career start and this 6yo looks full of potential for the future.

Below,Beat That

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4.50 The Alder Hey Children’s Charity Handicap Hurdle,Grade 3,2m4f,11 flights,4yo+

A lot of these ran in some of the big handicaps at the festival but the one oddity of this race is that the first four home all began with the letter C!

It was the much loved Aintree family of McCain who finally got a winner at this meeting with the 6yo Clondaw Kaempfer who had a real mother of all battles after the last with a three way battle from runner up Caid Du Berlais and Cash And Go who was staying on from the last flight.

Not a lot separated the front three at the end here with a finish that really makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, It’s been a fairly quiet season for Donald McCain but this will be the ideal tonic for him and this horse should be starting next season in a nice little Chase around the likes of Bangor or Carlisle, the other McCain horse and favourite Stonebrook didn’t seem to stay the trip just yet,he could be ideal for the Swinton next month at Haydock should he get a nice weight.

5.25 The Concerto Group Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race,Listed Race,2m1f,4,5 and 6yo only.

A field of twenty went to post and they hacked along for the first mile and a half or so until turning for home when the field began to spread across the course which meant it looked like the finish of a 6f sprint contest than a bumper.

After a tricky season it was a more than welcome big festival win for Alan King’s stable with the 5yo Avispa who came into this race after a fair fourth in the EBF Mares race at Sandown last month but had to fight off the attentions of Lady Buttons who gained some useful black type for the Philip Kirby yard, Tara Mist who was second at Sandown came with a challenge but was outclassed here on the day.

Lots of useful potential here for the mares races next term, Avispa should jump a hurdle as should Tara Mist who is trained by Henry Daly so expect to see her pottering around Ludlow in October and November.

Two days of top class jumping done then,tomorrow it is the big one, Grand National day which I shall be spending at home after fighting May way through the once a year punters and explaining why Frankie Dettori won’t be riding in the race!

Like all true racing fans I hope all the horses and jockeys come home safe and sound,sometimes of course this doesn’t happen but having been at Aintree the last two days I can 1000% guarantee that the medical and veterinary care given to all the competitors is the best you will see on a racecourse.

As for the big one I think Long Run could go really well providing his jumping holds up,a former Gold Cup and dual King George winner yet he isn’t even top weight and two big EW ones that I like are Battle Group and Lion Na Bearnai

Next racing for me is next weekend when I’m off to Ayr for the Scottish Grand National which is always a good day out on the west coast of Scotland.

Enjoy the Grand National tomorrow and let’s all hope for a safe race.

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Aintree Races,Crabbies Grand National Meeting Day One,Thursday 3rd April 2014

A new year and a new sponsor at Aintree in Crabbies who take over from John Smiths after a good few years of keeping the Grand National flag flying.

Opening day is one of the great occasions as usual with a mix of Four Grade Ones,Two competitive handicaps and the hustle and bustle of the Foxhunters over the famous big greens.

Their is always something special about coming here wether it is in October or April, Aintree with its rich history has a special place in the hearts of not just myself but racing fans who appreciate what it takes to win any race here.

Saturday is what it’s all about though but the first two days are equally full of high quality jumping action with the main reason being who will lift this trophy below in the first £1,000,000 Grand National.

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On to today’s action though and the crowd of over 30,000 were treated to some excellent jumping action in Merseyside.

2.00 The Injured Jockeys Fund 50th Anniversary Juvenile Hurdle,Grade 1,2m1f,9 flights,4yo.

A useful looking field of fifteen over which half of them contested either the Triumph or the Fred Winter at the festival.

It was first blood to the Irish here as Paul Carberry galvanised Guitar Pete after jumping the last in third place to pick up speed and take the prize for trainer Dessie Hughes, he came here after being third in the Triumph and will probably be aimed at next seasons Champion Hurdle,Clarcam was the runner up and came here after falling at Cheltenham while Calipto faired the best of the British horses in third,he found himself in the lead down the back and was headed in the home straight before fighting and wrestling back the lead before fading, he could go chasing next season.

A lot to like about the winner Guitar Pete,it was his third win in Graded company and is clearly going places and with a flat rating of 58 it would be tempting to pick a few nice races as part of his warm up next season.

Below,Guitar Pete.

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2.30 The Betfred Bowl Chase,Grade 2,3m1f,19 fences,5yo+

Only six runners and it looked on paper between two horses in Silviniaco Conti and Dynaste who came here off the back of two different runs at the festival with Conti being fourth in the Gold Cup albeit wandering around on the run in and Dynaste who won the Ryanair over a shorter trip.

In the end it was a bold display of front running by Silviniaco Conti who got the better of Dynaste who rallied after the last but could not bridge the gap between the two, First Lieutenant last years winner made his effort coming to the cross fence but turning for home he didn’t pick up,it’s possibly he will head to Punchestown.

Argocat plugged on into third but isn’t up to this company just yet.

Again on the run especially coming to last fence,Silviniaco Conti had a wander around so it’s possible that some head gear may be needed on him to help with concentration.

Dynaste struggles with 3m but no doubt he will take in the big 3m chases like the winner will again next season as they go towards their much earned summer holidays.

3.05 The Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle,Grade 1,2m4f,11 flights,4yo+

A back to his best but only just win here for The New One who had to fight to win just like he did in defeat last year to get the judges verdict from former Champion Hurdler Rock On Ruby and Irish raider Diakali.

The New One needed this after his run in the Champion in which is error at the third cost him a chance of finishing much closer than his original third place, this trip I’ve always thought suited him better and he heads for his break with the Champion Hurdle very much his main target next season.

Rock On Ruby came back to hurdles after a disappointing campaign over fences and seemed happier for it, He would be a credible contender for World Hurdle glory should More Of That go chasing.

Diakali could go chasing next season and that would be the sensible option with him.

3.40 The Crabbies Supporting The Hillsborough Families Fox Hunters Chase,Class 2,2m5f110yds,18 fences,6yo+

The first race of the meeting and year over the big greens here with the Amateurs getting their yearly whizz around.

A real mix of jockeys with well known riders such as Sam Waley-Cohen,Gina Andrews and Philip Mullins in the saddle while at the other end of the scale racecourse judge Felix Wheeler having his first ride over the fences at the age of 52, he pulled up after about six fences!

It was an all the way victory for Warne under Sam Waley-Cohen who jumped off in front and the only other horse he saw was a loose one trying to get in his way a few times, Favourite sent off very short was Irish raider Mossey Joe who won last seasons Champion Hunters at Stratford, he jumped well but could not get close to Warne who at one point led by over fifteen lengths going down the far side.

Last years victor Tartan Snow ran another stormer here plugging on in to second,he is 14 and could pick up a small hunter around his beloved Kelso.

Warne came here on the back of two good runs in Ireland,he may end up at Punchestown at the big Hunter in their festival.

Below,Warne after his Fox Hunters win.

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4.15 The Silver Cross Red Rum Handicap Chase,Grade 3,2m,12 fences,5yo+

Always a competitive and tough contest over one of the countries fastest two miles over fences this was another tricky renewal which went to one of the outsiders in Parsnip Pete who stayed on well under Paddy Brennan to just hang on from a fast finishing Turn Over Sivola and Claret Cloak who was also boxing on,Astracad who always looks to run an honest race without winning came fourth and needs a bit of respite from the handicapper.

This was much better from Parnsip Pete but he can be a tricky customer at times, I’m not sure he will follow up after this.

4.50 Pinsent Masons Manifesto Novices Chase,Grade 2,2m4f,16 fences,5yo+

Only the five in this but it included this years Arkle winner and a dual Aintree Hurdle winner.

Western Warhorse the Arkle winner ran very flat here and didn’t show his running,he jumped ok but showed he can still be a bit of a nut job on the track,eventual winner Uxizandre took up the running as the came up the straight for the first time and shook off Western Warhorse,however it wasn’t a case of job done as Oscar Whisky came with his effort despite being a bit iffy at some of his fences had a chance but could not get past AP on Uxizandre on the run in. En

This was a deserved win as he showed his Cheltenham second was no fluke,he will aimed at the decent 2m4f chases next season, Oscar Whisky could be upped to 3m possibly but still has yet to convince sometimes at his fences.

Below,Uxizandre

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5.25 Dominican Republic Handicap Hurdle,Grade 3,3m110yds,13 flights,4yo+

A field of twenty two but a bloodless success here for the David Pipe trained Doctor Harper,only a 6yo he came here off the back of a really good third in the EBF final at Sandown and saw the three miles out really well in the end to fight off the late challenge from a staying on Kaylif Aramis,Meister Eckhart kept on and came third as did Jetson who got fourth while long time leader the mare Utopie Des Bordes looks held by the handicapper at the moment but this was her best run since being runner up at Haydock in November in the valuable fixed brush, it’s possible she could end up at the paddocks soon.

A lot to like about Doctor Harper here, he stayed the trip really well and could be turning up at Haydock in November for the big fixed brush unless he gets sent chasing.

So day one all done,some really good racing with some top quality finishes.

Tomorrow is Ladies Day which is great for lovers of all things high heels,fake tan and ridiculous headwear!

Racing wise the feature races are the Melling Chase over 2m4f and the Topham Trophy over the National fences.

Below, Side view of The Chair.

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The run in.

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