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.
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