Day two of the Grand National Festival and as usual the ladies of Liverpool got dressed up in their finery to descend upon this most iconic and famous sporting institution.
Ladies days always have their differences,Royal Ascot may get viewed as the more classier affair but Aintree certainly does it for more of a real people’s feel as the girls come out to have fun rather than be paraded as bait for the more affluent in society to try and get an even wealthier son in law.
Seven races with the main race being the Melling which had Vautour trying to follow up his Cheltenham win,also some nice novice events mixed in with tricky handicap as a nice way to test the punters metal just 24 hours before the big race on Saturday.
1.40 Alder Hey Children’s Charity Handicap Hurdle,Grade 3,2m4f,11 flights,4yo+
A competitive handicap hurdle with plenty of improving types but it was a case of experience prevailing here as bottom weight Party Rock finally landed this race after running in the previous two runnings of the event,always in the pack he drifted to the near side and despite clattering the last flight he forged ahead of Champagne At Tara and the well fancied Starchitecht, a real Spring type he loves this time of year and maybe the big staying hurdle at Haydock in May could be an idea.
Some horses never showed,the well touted Tycoon Prince dropped back with 6f left but he looks a real chasing type,Ma Du Foi found this too tough but it’s a race to keep an eye on.
2.15 Imagine Cruising First In The Frame Top Novices’ Hurdle,Grade 1,2m103yds,9 flights,4yo+
Potentially a strong looking renewal on paper with Supreme form and the innaugral Mares race at the festival both coming together.
The Supreme form in the end turned out to be the best as the Nicky Henderson trained Buveur D’Air who was fourth in the bumper here last year got a lovely waiting ride off Noel Fehily but had to dig deep after the last hurdle to overpower Petit Mouchoir by half a length, Limini the Mares’ Novices winner at Cheltenham travelled well but couldn’t pick up when needed and came third looking a bit one paced.
Buveur D’Air looks to prefer flatter tracks as his wins at Newbury and Huntingdon have proved, he will make a fine chaser should he go down that route, the runner up put in a PB but wouldn’t be the stables best horse, Limini will be better back in mares hurdles and possibly up in distance next season.
2.50 Betfred Mildmay Novices’ Chase,Grade 1,3m1f,19 fences,5yo+
Good quality festival form came into this staying chase for the novice division.
Native River went one better from his runner up spot in the Four Miler at the festival where he just went down by 1.25 lengths,adopting new front running tactics under champion elect Richard Johnson he used his stamina with authority as he jumped boldly and always found extra when asked and had RSA winner Blaklion struggling to go with him after two out and favourite Un Temps Pour Tout looking beaten, runner up Henri Parry Morgan missed Cheltenham and tried to bridge the gap but couldn’t reduce the distance and went down by three lengths or so.
A good looking horse for the Colin Tizzard yard he will be interesting to see in the long distance chases next season with the Hennessy and Welsh National no doubt being potential ideas, Henri Parry Morgan bypassed Cheltenham and looks a reliable handicapper, Blaklion couldn’t do anymore here and is possibly feeling the effects of a busy few months, Un Temps Pour Tout prefers plenty of juice in the ground.
3.25 JLT Melling Chase,Grade 1,2m4f,16 fences,5yo+
A race with a rich history of top quality winners such as Moscow Flyer,Native Upmanship,Viking Flagship,Monet’s Garden,Master Minded and Sprinter Sacre being on its roll of honour.
The race was all focuses on one horse,Vatour,who missed the Gold Cup for the Ryanair at Cheltenham and looked to follow up as so many have done.
The non residents of Merseyside finally felt how many countless Liverpool and Everton fans have felt this season when the 1-5f Vautour seemingly having the victory in the bag even at halfway had his first fall over fences when he met the ninth on the wrong stride and gravity did its usual thing and sent him crashing to the floor.
This essentially left it wide open and turning for home we had three horses,Clarcam,Al Ferof and God’s Own set for the fight, Al Ferof and God’s Own began to open up coming to two out with God’s Own eventually running out a two length winner at 10-1
Wether he would have won had Vautour stood up is one thing but God’s Own could only do what was left on the track and recorded his first win since the 2014 Haldon,Al Ferof couldn’t bridge the gap while Clarcam ran well until fading.
Vautour could be back in the North West in November for the Betfair should he have another go over three miles.
4.05 Crabbie’s Topham Chase (Hcap) Grade3,2m5f,18 fences,5yo+
A traditional wide open running of this tough handicap and just like the opening race you had to find a horse that had run in this race previous.
JP McManus followed up yesterday’s Foxhunters’ win as Eastlake,third in 2014, who was was jumping and travelling well tracked leader and eventual runner up Fairy Rath for the last mile or so and despite about seven holding good chances going to two out it was always going to concern these two.
Coming to the Elbow Fairy Rath held the inside line but Barry Geraghty got a fine tune out of him to get past in the last furlong,the two were clear from top weight Third Intention and Distime.
Eastlake came here after being 9th in the Grand Annual,the extra trip looked to suit him,Fairy Rath was runner up again off the same mark of 131 while Third Intention ran his usual game race.
As always with their only being five races a year over these fences it’s hard to dissect the form but the best horse on the day won.
Sadly we lost two horses as Gullinbursti and Minella Reception were involved in a nasty form at Bechers, Condolences to all involved.
4.40 Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle,Grade 1,3m149yds,13 flights,4yo+
Lots of likeable types where stamina was at a premium and necessity in a top quality staying novice race
Ballyoptic made it three from three for Nigel Twiston-Davies here under Ryan Hatch
Turning for home plenty held a chance,Ballyoptic committed for home after jumping three out but out of the pack Bellshill came to put his name in contention and travelled oh so well until he pecked over the second last,this gave Ballyoptic a bit extra but Bellshill regained the lead over the last flight, on the run in Ballyoptic stuck to the task on the near side rail as Bellshill began to idle and got up by a head, the pair finished clear from Potters Legend in third.
This winner missed Cheltenham instead taking an egg and spoon at Uttoxeter but he’s clearly on the upgrade and will make a chaser should connections go down that route,Bellshill looked to get three miles but a return to 2m4f won’t harm him and chasing could be his plan next season.
5.15 Weatherbys Private Bank Champion Standard National Hunt Flat Race,Grade 2,2m1f,4-6yo
A top notch bumper which saw the festival form completely reversed here as Willie Mullins got the forecast up in a real pulsating finish with bumper third Bacardys under Philip Mullins just getting the better of runner up Battleford who had to settle for that spot again,Ballyandy who took the festival one could only come fourth behind race debutant The Minch.
Both the front two should make into nice hurdles next season,no doubt going off at very short odds in big field maiden hurdles, Ballyandy struggled with giving the first two 4lbs but he can take a big hand in the novice hurdle division next season.
The Minch in third ran a massive race on debut for Jim Goldie,off that run he should pick up a small bumper no problem but he could also race on the flat as a possibility
Two top class days of racing brining the end of the 2015-16 NH season here.
Tomorrow sees the big one,The Grand National and like all real racing fans all we want is for all forty horses and riders to return safely home.
At time of writing Ruby Walsh misses his rides due to fracturing his wrist in the Topham,Paul Townend rides Yorkhill and Douvan while Nina Carberry rides Sir Des Champs.
Next racing here will be Haydock’s first flat meeting in two weeks time.
National wise I’m keen on Silviniaco Conti,Holywell,Morning Assembly and Buywise.
From myself Goodbye