Ladies Day on a sunbaked afternoon as the crowds poured into the home of Grand National for a competitive afternoon of top class National Hunt racing
The feature race on day two was the JLT Melling Chase over 2m4f at Grade One level and this was complemented by a mix of top novice events,two handicaps which included the Topham, a race so difficult that even the worlds greatest mathematicians and form experts would struggle to solve and a Grade Two NHF race for good measure.
Today though the plaudits went to trainer Colin Tizzard as he took three of the afternoons big races,after a Cheltenham in which nothing seemed to go right, today was very much a case of balance being returned to the force.
Of the three the biggest was in the Grade 1 Melling Chase in which Fox Norton showed he needs a trip like this now as he beat a more than useful field in a race that might not have looked like a top class renewal but he could only best the field that turned up and he shook off Irish challenger Sub Lieutenant quite easily, Fox Norton had won two at Cheltenham this term and was runner up in the Champion Chase, he is likely to be aimed at the big 2m4f chases next term but it would be no shocker to see him turn up at Kempton on Boxing Day.
The first of the Tizzard treble came in the Grade 1 Top Novices’ Hurdle as Pingshou burst a few egos and bubbles as he easily breezed home ahead of Mount Mews, over 34 lengths back down the field at Cheltenham he clearly benefitted from being a lot more handy,he will probably go chasing next season, Mount Mews back in second came here on the back of a Grade 2 win at Kelso and will clearly be suited by further.
Winner number three came in the Grade 3 Topham Chase over the big National fences courtesy of Ultragold who stayed on ahead of long distance regular Portrait King to send the bookies heading for the Champagne Bar as he picked up this wide open handicap at 50-1, back to his last winning mark of 136 back at Newbury in November he looked to enjoy the challenge of these fences.
Nicky Henderson picked two more races up as his quest for the champion trainer title continued,first up he saddled a 1-2 in the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase over 3m1f with the same 1-2 as the RSA last month as Might Bite showed himself to be the best staying novice chaser of the season beating Whisper yet again, probably not the strongest renewal as only five turned up but the best two finished in the correct order, Might Bite will certainly be up to having his say in the big three mile division next season.
His first leg of the double came in the first race the Grade 3 Alder Hey Hurdle over 2m4f and with the news that Jess Glynne is gong to be dong a summer concert here it was one for the coincidence bets as Rather Be showed that Aintree is the one place he would rather be as he paid his owners back for his four faults after unseating early in the Martin Pipe C/J Hurdle at Cheltenham just getting the edge over Clondaw Kaempfer whose mistake at the last cost him his chance.
The Worlds End paid back his connections following his fall at Cheltenham when getting to the business end as he hung on to land the Grade 1 Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle over 3m under Adrian Heskin for Tom George, ridden up with the pace he went for home off the final bend and the judges line just came up in time as Beyond Conceit and Debece chased him right up to the end, This was his second win at Graded level and he could be aimed at the big staying hurdles unless he goes novice chasing.
Finally in a wide open looking Grade 2 Bumper over 2m1f, Champion jockey elect Richard Johnson who bizarrely has no ride in the big one landed his first win of the meeting as Lalor whose previous three runs in bumpers have all been at Wincanton put in a polished performance from a very nice looks horse in second place,Enniscoffey Oscar.
So two top days of jumps racing comes to an end.
Tomorrow sees the Grand National and like everyone else who loves jump racing I wish all horses and jockeys a safe journey and hope they all come back and sound.
Next weekend we go to Haydock for Challenger Finals Day.