Haydock Park,Saturday 18th February 2017,Betfred Grand National Trial Day

The days are slowly ticking down until the Cheltenham Festival begins but the focus this afternoon at an unusually very sunny Haydock jumps meeting was on Aintree in the shape of the Grand National Trial, supported by some top quality races on the undercard. 

During the week in London the weights were unveiled for the big showpiece in April and this was a chance for plenty to stake their claims come the big race.  

So to the action and David Pipe will be feeling a real of excitement and nerves as Vieux Lion Rouge followed up his December win in the Becher Chase over the big greens by putting in a true staying performance under Tom Scudamore who himself must be wishing the current jumps season won’t be ending as he now is in the enviable position of potentially getting the Gold Cup and Grand National in his winners satchel. 

Vieux Lion Rouge put in a stellar round of jumping and was always up with the pace, he and Blaklion had the final fences between them at the business end of this 3m4f stamina test with VLR finding just that little bit extra to forge on by 3.25 lengths ahead of Blaklion,Vintage Clouds ploughed on through the beaten ones to secure third. 

Both runners have interesting weights for the big one, VLR has 10-7 and Blaklion is on 10-10 and these two can have a big say should they hold their form,these two have contested some of the big staying handicaps this season and that will stand them in good stead. 

Staying hurdle races over  2m7f formed the base of the supporting card, The 10yo Zarkandar rolled back the years to land the Rendlesham Hurdle giving trainer Paul Nicholls a 1-2 as Aux Ptit Soins filled up the second spot with favourite Agrapart back in third, Zarkandar hadn’t been troubling the judge of late and would be an outsider in the stayers at Cheltenham, Aux Ptit Soins could back over fences in the RSA while Agrapart probably didn’t get the extra trip here and might be worth being aimed at the Aintree hurdle over 2m4f instead. 

A wide open looking Persian War Novices’ saw a very useful type in The Worlds End, he jumped with plenty about him and will be even better when he sees fences, holding an Albert Bartlett entry he could have a say, a winner of three races all at Chepstow he handled the more tighter Haydock track easily, No Hassle Hoff back in second ran to his best form this season is top company. 

The final Pertemps qualifier went to Dadsintrouble who landed a race over course and distance last month for trainer Tim Vaughan, clearly in good heart the trainer hopes he will make the cut but as he seemed to get on well with jockey Alan Johns (3) then a more realistic possibility could be the Martin Pipe race. 

Don Bersy made it three on the bounce to land the opening Victor Ludorum over 2m under James Davies’ canny and brave decision to kick on from off the home turn and use his mounts hurdling experience to gain the upper hand on the rest, he isn’t entered at Cheltenham but could pop up at Aintree instead. 

Two steeplechases closed the day,Captain Redbeard secured some treasure for trainer Stewart Coltherd and jockey Sam Coltherd in the 2m4f Novice Handicap in a duelling battle up the Haydock run in from Aqua Dude by a very short head, this supplements his recent Wetherby win and is becoming a more than useful chaser, Aqua Dude was a fortunate runner up in a real heads up heads down fight. 

Final race of the day was the Walrus Hunter Chase over 3m and Wonderful Charm gained his qualification to the Cheltenham Foxhunters with relative ease as Will Biddick appeared to be a mere spectator sat aboard, Paul Nicholls might not have a chance of landing the Gold Cup this year but we could have a race to savour thirty five minutes after it if Wonderful Charm lines up attempting to dethrone On The Fringe from trying to achieve the triple Triple Crown of the festival hunter chases. 
Wattspots

Zalvadoss,4yo trained by Oliver Greenall was runner up in the Victor Ludorum and now qualifies for handicaps, has got a race in him. 

Some good racing and potentially the Haydock faithful could well have seen the first two home come Aintree in April. 

Review wise at the moment March is looking pretty quiet so keep following me on Twitter for details. 

Till we meet again etc

Wetherby Races,Totetpool Medieval Raceday,Saturday 4th February 2017

By the power of Greystoke were the words that came to mind for many at Ye Olde Wetherby on Saturday as Baywing defied his 33-1 price by putting in a demolition job in the feature Grade 2 Towton Novices’ Chase over 3m. 

A winner of four staying hurdles last season he did appear to disappoint on his first run here over fences last month but clearly learnt plenty from that and showed his authority from three out when challenging the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Calett Maid and put twenty two lengths between the two horses, Baywing probably won’t be heading to the RSA but could be aimed at the four miler should be run at Cheltenham but winning trainer Nicky Richards thinks of him more as a Welsh National type, it would be no shock if Baywing got aimed at the Scottish National as the ground usually comes up very soft at Ayr. 

Calett Mad back in second is only a 5yo and has better days ahead ahead of him over fences,maybe a return to handicaps will suit this useful type even more. 

Baywing,2017 Towton Novices’ Chase winner


Dan Skelton got off to a flying start in the afternoon by winning the first two races with brother Harry in the saddle, Golden Vision easily won the opening 2m novice hurdle for mares as she made all but had to be kept up to her work,a winner in France before being bought for £68,000 she should make up into a more than useful yardstick and could get an entry in the Dawn Run at Cheltenham but with this style of running she could be more of an Aintree type. 

The other winner for the Skelton’s was Oldgrangewood in the 2m3f handicap chase as he repeated his course and distance win here over the Christmas period, a winner that day off 130 he was upped only 4lbs here and was always travelling with plenty left in him towards the end, this horse has lots going for him so is still worth being kept onside at the moment all depending what the handicapper does to him, Oldgrangewood will no doubt stay three miles but that could come next season unless temptation gets the better of the trainer. 

Golden Vision

Oldgrangewood


Skipthecuddles benefited from a step up in trip by a couple of extra furlongs when taking the 2m5f novice hurdle race, only having his second start over timber he looks a useful sort for his trainer Graeme McPherson who like Dan Skelton got a double up on the Wetherby card when Ami Debois made every yard of the running to land the 3m staying handicap hurdle, both hold entries in the staying novice events at Cheltenham. 

The hunter chase on this card can inevitably throw up a nice winner and this year proved to be no exception as Galway Jack won his first race since 2014 on his hunter chase debut here comfortably holding favourite Ardea at bay by just over four lengths, Galway Jack did bring some good form to the race most notably on his last completed start just shy of a year ago when fourth behind Taquin Du Seuil at Warwick, it looked like his class just got him home and he probably would struggle if having a crack at the Cheltenham Foxhunters’ next month but possibly Aintree is what trainer Caroline Bailey could have in mind for him. 

Lastly Kim Bailey unveiled a nice one when scoring in the concluding bumper with Mon Palois,an ex pointer from Ireland he stayed on in a good manner and easily beat professional seconditus horse Eskendash who was second for the fourth consecutive time, Mon Palois should be a good sort when he goes over further and obstacles too. 

Wattspots

Shanty Town,8yo trained by David Dennis was third in the 2m5f novice hurdle on his first state for 839 days,has some useful looking form and will be much better for the run and one to note for handicaps. 

Some decent racing this afternoon, probably not the highest quality that we’ve seen this season but certainly not the worst either. 

Next racing will be in two weeks time at Haydock for the Grand National Trial meeting but hopefully before that we could try and pop in a football match for review. 

Till we meet again etc…..