David Pipe got a nice early Christmas present from a very crisp and even afternoon at Aintree as Vieux Lion Rouge showed his grit and determination to produce a typical finish for those brave horses who attack the big green monsters that are the Grand National fences as he battled on up the elbow going the brave mans route up the inside to land the Grade Three 3m2f Becher Chase and mugging last years winner Highland Lodge who almost gave Henry Brooke a dream winner just seven weeks after being in an induced coma after his heavy October fall at Hexham.
In a thrilling spectacle as you normally get over these fences their were five in with a shout going over the last, Highland Lodge had been up with the pace from the outset but from the last fence in that gut busting two furlong run in, Tom Scudamore drove his charge from third after the last to deny last years winner by a very short head.
Both horses will be coming back no doubt in the spring, the winner should be fine as he ran in it last year although the runner up needs to get a few pounds to make the cut and could pop into the National trial at Haydock in February to do that.
Seven horses came to grief but all came home safely.
The supporting card was a stellar line up too, As De Mee found this much easier than last months BetVictor Gold cup when taking the Grand Sefton over 2m5f on the National course, he did have a run over course and distance back in April and no doubt all roads will lead back to here in April, still only six he could be upped to three miles during the season.
2015 Grand National winner Many Clouds continued his love affair with Aintree by landing a very good looking 3m1f Listed race on the Mildmay course, making all under regular pilot Leighton Aspell he stayed on tenaciously from runner up Le Mercurey who was having his first start as a second season chaser, Minella Rocco was challenging until taking a heavy fall at the last fence.
Many Clouds will be aimed as expected at the National with a trip to Kelso in March pencilled in and probably a trip to Ireland too,Le Mercurey was getting 5lb off the winner and should be more than capable of picking a nice prize up during the season, Irish Cavalier was over forty lengths down in third place, he has been fairly busy of late and could do better after a rest and brought back fresh in the spring.
Call Me Vic came out on top in an incident packed 2m4f handicap chase which saw four horses all come down at the cross fence on the final circuit, leading towards the the fence The Fresh Prince had been making most until he met it all wrong and fell which in turn had a concertina affect and brought down three others including the favourite Oldgrangewood who had began to make his move and was travelling kindly, Call Me Vic was left in front and fended off the attentions of Bailey’s Concerto.
Nigel Twiston-Davies didn’t leave Merseyside empty handed and his useful 5yo Florrie Boy took the feature 2m4f handicap hurdle, going in off 120 he was 8lb higher than his last win at Newbury back in April, he found this much easier than his seasonal debut at Cheltenham back in October, probably not good enough for something like the Coral Cup he could be aimed at the conditionals race at the festival and the trainer has no shortage of useful jockeys for a race like that.
Evening Hush picked up some useful black type in the first race when taking the 2m1f Listed Fillies’ Juvenile Hurdle, a race with very little pace on she made all under Paul Moloney who did exactly the same as he did on her at Exeter last month, a visit to Chepstow for the big 3yo hurdle on Welsh National day looks likely for this Evan Williams trained filly.
The other novice hurdle on the card over 2m1f saw Charlemar use his previous jumping experience to good use when easily holding favourite Minotaur by over four lengths, a winner of two French bumpers he took a maiden hurdle at Chepstow last month and has a decent future ahead of him, A possibility is the Tolworth at Sandown in January should connections be wanting to aim high or even the Rossington at Haydock, Minotaur ran well on hurdling debut but with good flat form up to 2m he will be better over 2m4f one would imagine.
Aintree as usual was blessed with some quality racing at this pre Christmas classic meeting, the racing as usual was full of everything that fans of jump racing want to see with the biggest cheer of the day being given when Minella Rocco got up after his nasty fall in the 3m1f Listed Chase.
All being well with the weather next up will be Tommy Whittle Day at Haydock Park in two weeks time.
Pleasure Dome,3yo filly trained by Jonjo O’Neill, third in the Listed Fillies’ race was chucked in at the deep end but she should have learned from this and can go on from here
One For Arthur,7yo trained by Lucinda Russell was staying on after a patient waiting ride in the Becher Chase and is a thorough stayer, He is a dour stayer and while the National may come to soon it would be no shock to see him be aimed at the Scottish version
Federici, 7yo from Donald McCain finished mid div in the Sefton but looks to have plenty to build on and could be laid out for the Topham.