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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The run in.