Day one of the 2016 Grand National meeting and the last to be run under the sponsorship of Crabbie’s
Today saw a top class card of National Hunt racing with possibly the classiest ever opening day in the history of the festival, Four Grade One races all acting as the support act to the Fox Hunters over the big greens.
After a torrid night of wind and rain the course looked in fine shape and despite a tiny bit of the wet stuff it was all systems go come 1.40.
Saturday may be about the Grand National but for the purists of the turf today was a day to wet the appetite
1.40 Merseyrail Manifesto Novices’ Chase,Grade 1,2m4f,16 fences,5yo+
Harry Whittington bypassed Cheltenham with Arzal and it proved to be the right call as he made all here under Gavin Sheehan to land the opener,not seen since being a runner up in a Grade Two at Doncaster in January he kept up his improvement and benefitted from the step up in trip to hold off L’Ami Serge by about six lengths who in turn was well clear from favourite Sizing John who could never land a blow.
Arzal loves to bowl along in front which he was able to do when winning at Ludlow and Newbury,no doubt something like the Paddy Power or the Old Roan back here would be an early season target, L’Ami Serge ran a good rac in defeat and the flatter track suited him,Sizing John didn’t seem to stay and a return to 2m looks likely.
2.15 Betfred Anniversary 4yo Hurdle,Grade 1,2m1f,9 flights,4yo+
Apple’s Jade simply demolished the field in the same way that Aston Villa fans have seen their team capitulate this season as the 4yo filly strolled home to a breathtaking 41 length victory with the rest all fighting each other for the scraps.
Azzzuri had set out to make it a test and still led turning for home,however Bryan Cooper was travelling effortlessly well and lead over three out,from then on it was simply one way traffic, Triumph winner Ivanovich Gorbatov looked simply one paced and could find anything when needed and had to battle for second spot ahead of pace setter Azzuri.
More than enough to like about this filly who will give Gigginstown much to think about over the summer months,Champion Hurdle or the Mares’ Hurdle will be at the fore front no doubt, Ivanovich Gorbatov never looked himself and is better than this,it’s possible Cheltenham left his mark on him
2.50 Betfred Bowl,Grade 1,3m1f,19 fences,5yo+
A quality line up with horses rated from 153 to 176
After his crashing fall three out which snatched the £1,000,000 triple crown bonus in the Gold Cup from his hooves it was a case of back to normal for Cue Card as the popular 10yo bounced back to doing what he has done in the other Grade 1 3m chases this term and slam dunked the opposition in a race which has often thrown the odd shocker over the years.
Cue Card happily sat in the pack to begin as Djakadam and Don Poli took each other on from halfway and began eyeballing each other.
Off the home turn Don Poli began to commit but in truth he was merely a sitting duck for Cue Card who went on after three out and began to pour it on eventually winning by around five lengths, We will never know what would have happened in the Gold Cup,if he misses Punchestown then expect Wetherby,Haydock and Kempton to figure again next season.
Don Poli could be more of a National type now,he stays all day,Djakadam has yet to win a Graded race over this trip but with Vautour being the main Mullins horse over that trip he will struggle unless both have a job swap, Dynaste back in fourth ran with credit
3.25 Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle,Grade 1,2m4f,11 flights,4yo+
The late and much missed Sir Henry Cecil was regarded as the best trainer of fillies,on the jumps front it’s Willie Mullins who has the Midas touch with mares over jumps as Champion Hurdle winner Annie Power became the first winner to follow up in this race since Istabraq in 1999 and the first mare since Dawn Run in 1984
This was a race with a bit of incident,Nichols Canyon went right at a few hurdles and at the fifth flight The New One didn’t pick his legs up and fell.
Annie Power took over the lead with a lap to go and she was fluent over the hurdles, the only ones to try and battle with her were Mytentoryours and Nichols Canyon but up the straight both were struggling and they were outpaced and outclassed by this beautifully talented mare
Punchestown will probably be next up for her,wether we see her next season or if she goes to the paddock will be another thing, Mytentoryours was a country mile back and ran well all things considered,Nichols Canyon could be sent chasing now which could be ideal
4.05 Crabbie’s Fox Hunters’ Chase,Class 2,2m5f,18 fences,(National Course) 6yo+
On The Fringe landed leg two in the defence of his Hunter Chase Triple Crown as replacement rider Jamie Codd battered the challenge of Dineur in a race where twenty three horses set off and only seven finished
As expected they went a good clip as outsider Doubledisdoubledat and Bound For Glory towed the field along,a few came to grief out in the county and the field was well over thirty lengths top to tale approaching Bechers.
Bound For Glory went at the Canal Turn and along the canal side part of the course On The Fringe began to take more prominence and he and Dineur went on from Mendip Express after the last fence, from there both horses gave everything with On The Fringe letting his class do the talking as he scored by about eight lengths from Dineur and Mendip Express.
This was much easier than his Cheltenham win,no doubt Punchestown will follow again,Dineur gave his all as did Mendip Express.
Sadly Clonbanhan Lad and Marasonnien both had to be put down after the race,Condolences to all the connections.
4.40 Betfred Red Rum Chase,Grade 3,2m,12 fences,5yo+
An Aintree fairy tale here as Donald McCain saddled a winner with Katachenko for last years winning Grand National owner Trevor Hemmings as he enjoyed the run of the race with Pearls Legend and managed to fend off the challenges from Dandridge and Viconte Du Noyer.
As usual they went a good gallop in what was only an average renewal with the top weight running off 146,Katachenko threw in some lovely leaps and clearly benefitted from the return to going left handed,he had to fight to keep the race as Dandridge ran him close but he couldn’t get the the extra half length needed to pass, Viconte Du Noyer got snatched up on the run in but looked held.
After a tough season this was a much needed tonic for Donald McCain,Katachenko has plenty going for him and should go on from this as should Dandridge
5.15 Goffs Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat Race,Grade 2,2m1f,4-6yo Filles and Mares
A top quality mares bumper which resulted in a thrilling finish as last weeks Fakenham winner Kayf Grace under Nico De Boinville just got the better of favourite Augusta Kate by half a length finishing five lengths ahead of Shattered Love and Copper Kay
It’s taken a while for the penny to drop for Kayf Grace,she knows how to battle and should make her mark over hurdles, Augusta Kate lost nothing in defeat and had she not run in the festival bumper then she could have probably taken this,she will make a nice hurdler next season.
Apple’s Jade,Cue Card,Annie Power and On The Fringe were the stars on the turf this afternoon.
Tomorrow is Ladies Day with the main star being Vautour,sadly plenty of the 45,000+ crowd might not appreciate this talented chaser.
Until tomorrow Goodbye