A veritable feast of jumping action at the home of the Grand National on what looked the equivalent of a taster menu with seven high quality races as the 2017 calendar year at Aintree came to an end and while for many who woke up on Saturday morning to see a fluffy white blanket of snow covering the area,no doubt many would have looked outside and gone back to sleep thinking it would be abandoned but this neck of Merseyside got away with it although the conditions for the competitors would be pretty searching the more the day wore on.
For many of the locals of Merseyside their Christmas expenses became much shorter after Blaklion romped home to land the afternoons feature Grade 3 Becher Chase over the big green Christmas tree looking Grand National fences to give Nigel Twiston-Davies a record sixth win in this race and a total of twelve winners over the famous fences, some fest considering the place only had five races a year over them.
In a race run in attritional conditions which finally got the go ahead after no doubt a nervous nights sleep for the course officials, Blaklion romped home on an afternoon which gave two big boosts of form for the Charlie Hall last month, runner up to Bristol De Mai who demolished the field a fortnight ago in the Lancashire Chase he gave Gavin Sheehan a peach of a ride that every jump jockey would dream of experiencing, jumping all the 21 fences so well he never made a mistake and once he got passed former winner and pace setter Highland Lodge who ran an honourable third the race was easily in the bag, a bit of a rest up now will be the order before coming up to the north west in February for the National Trial at Haydock.
Saturday’s other big race over the National course was the Grand Sefton over 2m5f and finally a much deserved pay day for course regular Gas Line Boy as he landed the pot but gave his backers kittens after getting hampered from Arcitc Gold taking a tumble at the fourth last but Robbie Dunne kept his composure and took the lead over the last fence from which point it was a real case of “Ref stop the contest” as he breezed away and had plenty in hand over Topham winner Ultragold and the third placed Sametegal, all being well the National in April will be the target once again where he should have his say should he arrive in one piece.
Then upgraded and newly named Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase over 3m1f of the Mildmay course only had four turn out but it was a strong race and another boost to the Charlie Hall form plus a 1-2 for the north as the third placed Definitly Red from Brian Eliison under the steerage of Danny Cook readily brushed off Malcolm Jefferson’s Cloudy Dreams by 7 lengths, making all his own running he used his stamina expertly in the muddy conditions.
Pulled up after losing his jockeys irons in the National the plan now seems to be to aim for the Bowl back here in April as he likes these flatter courses, wether the Gold Cup will be taken in is another thing but it would be no shock to see Definitly Red have a pop at either the Cotswold or Denman Chases en route to the Spring, Cloudy Dreams was ridden to get the trip and he should do on a better surface than this afternoon, being a Trevor Hemmings owned horse a possible target might be Haydock’s Peter Marsh Chase in January before being aimed at either the Bowl or Melling Chases at the National meeting.
The other steeplechase on the Mildmay course was a qualifier for the Challenger Middle Distance Chase final over 2m4f and a real thrilling finish here that resulted in the bang in form Play The Ace getting his snout up on the line to deny former Red Rum Chase winner Katachenko by a nose to give Sean Bowen a winner for his father and for Sean the second of a double on the day, the winners mark originally began on 118 and landed this of 134, a very game type he never runs a bad race and could well turn out over Christmas at Chepstow for a nice 2m3f race on Welsh National day.
Sean Bowen’s first leg of the double came in the first race a 2m1f Novice Hurdle as he partnered Mont Des Avaloirs to a hardworking win, making all he did get overtaken at the second from home by Midnight Shadow but he regained the lead after the last to hold on by three lengths, bowling along helped and will be even more suited by a step up in trip after this, hard to work out where he will stand in the list of the novice hurdles from the Paul Nicholls yard but it would no shock if Mont Des Avaloirs had a decent prize in him somewhere.
Black Ivory easily disposed of top weight and Evens favourite Le Breuil to land the feature 2m4f Handicap Hurdle, carrying a feather weight of 10-7 compared to the favourites 11-12, a reasonably decent novice last season Black Ivory hacked up here off 120 and can expect a fair hike in the weights now but he is a horse going places, Le Breuil did himself no favours when trying to go the wrong side of the markers as they made the turn down the back but he is not one to write off at this stage.
Lastly in the 3yo Fillies’ Hurdle which took a long time for the five finishers to complete due to the testing ground provided the only Irish winner of the day with Famous Milly making the first part of a Robbie Dunne double as she took this fairly effortlessly after moving past the odds on favourite Malaya, useful up to 1m on the flat Famous Milly is even better now under the winter code and can more than pay her way plus picking up some black type will be even handier for her owner Nigel Kirkwood.
Well in fairness it was a good quality days jumping as the calendar year drew to a close at Aintree, the course now goes into its winter hibernation until April when the many various hospitality tents and stands will be up for the Grand National meeting in what will be far nicer and easier conditions no doubt.
The conditions were very tough and in most of the races you could see small patches of water about and being kicked up but the horses and jockeys were very sensible and fully respected how hard it was in all of the races.
Weather wise it’s hard to tell when the next review will be, hopefully the two Haydock meetings pre Christmas and New Year but at this stage with anything possible from snow to even more snow and even rain so I shall get in early and wish you all a Merry Christmas from me.
Till the next meeting,Goodbye.