Aintree Races,Randox Health Grand National Festival Day Two, Friday 13th April 2018

It may have been a wet and gloomy Ladies Day at Aintree but the cloud occupied by the late Richard Woollacott shone down on his wife and current licence owner Kayley to give her one of the biggest wins in her training career as Lalor finally delivered his first success over hurdles when landing the Grade 1 Top Novices’ Hurdle much to the delight of friends,family and racegoers alike. 

Everyone in the racing family was stunned when news of Richard’s passing came through and this seemed to be the result everyone would have wanted, winner of last seasons bumper on the card he has had placed efforts over hurdles but the return to Aintree certainly brought about the best in him and he can kick on from here hopefully and go on to much better things. 

Kayley Woollacott (Blue Coat)

On a very emotional day indeed one man who got a win that was most definitely deserved was John Hales, twenty years after One Man’s death in the Melling Chase his current star chaser Politologue just got the better in a titanic battle in the feature Grade 1 Melling Chase from the Willie Mullins trained Min for trainer Paul Nicholls and jockey Sam Twiston-Davies, A top quality race on paper he was behind Min in the Queen Mother but the extra trip brought about his best performance of the season despite winning top races like the Tingle Creek and Desert Orchid Chases. 

Paul Nicholls will have plenty to think about over the summer with this horse, natural targets would probably be races like the Peterborough and Ascot Chases so to avoid Altior in the big two mile events, Min is a top two miler but even more effective at this longer trip too. 

John Hales,Sam Twiston-Davies and Politologue


The Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase over 3m1f was a more than top quality renewal with some top quality staying chasers on show and Nicky Henderson continued his good fortune here with Terrefort putting in an exemplary round of steeplechasing under the steerage of Daryl Jacob to get the better of the gutsy mare Ms Parfois, Already a Grade 1 winner at Sandown in February over shorter he showed no problems about staying the extra trip. 

A lovely looking grey he will make Nicky Henderson wonder what to do now in making sure he doesn’t cross the path of Might Bite next season and he is a serious chaser for next season at the top table, Ms Parfois back in second is a tough mare and she can take a hand in the long distance division next season in races like the Classic Chase and Welsh National. 

Terrefort

The Topham Chase gave the jockeys a chance to get their eye in for the big one tomorrow over one lap of the National course and it was a case of rewind back to last year as Ultragold repeated his win of last year albeit from a 5lb higher mark under Harry Cobden, making most of the running he jumped these fences like he was born to do so and showed that the Aintree factor is very much essential here, back in second spot was Theatre Territory under Sam Waley-Cohen who ran an honest race but still needs dropping a few pounds to get that elusive win. 

A happy Ultragold

Another Henderson winner came to fruition in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices over the marathon 3m trip for young stayers in Santini under Nico De Boinville but it certainly wasn’t easy as the mare Roksana made a race of it with both split across the width of the track towards the end with Santini just getting on top at the end, this is a very good horse in the making and has a top future ahead of him next season wether it be over timber or its just possible that fences could well be called for. 

Ladies Day began with the Alder Hey sponsored hurdle over 2m4f and this race gave a good start for the bookies with a 20-1 surprise in Jester Jet for the Tom Lacey stables, this 8yo mare had missed Cheltenham after a gallant second in a Warwick Mares’ Hurdle back in February and made good use of her featherweight of 10-9, no doubt her paddock value will have had a few extra pounds added on to it after this as will her handicap mark which was 133 before landing this Grade 3. 

In the finale a Grade 2 Open Bumper, that went to the 25-1 shot Portrush Ted who gave Gavin Sheehan a dream ride and dug deep when asked to easily best Kateson and Harambe by just over three lengths, as is the case in a race like this it will be stacked full of potential top quality novice hurdlers for next season and is worth keeping an eye on the form of it. 

In summary Ladies Day was a very emotive one most especially for Kayley Woollacott and John Hales and anyone who follows this sport would have been over the moon for the pair of them, racing has its ups and downs and this was without doubt a huge up for both of them. 

Everyone was shocked in the racing village back in January and to take over the licence and keep the flag flying plus getting a Grade 1 is something that Richard will have been dancing up on his cloud on Friday night.  

Aintree has held another great festival as usual, you can be sure that whenever you come to this place you see that the north west has its own way of doing things. 

So that brings an end to my jumps season for 2017-18, it’s had its ups and downs and now it’s time to concentrate on the flat with hopefully a few more visits to more flat meetings with the first one being the Thirsk Hunt Cup meeting this time being ran at Wetherby so a sort of final fling of the jumps if you like!

Aintree Races, Thursday 12th April 2018, Randox Health Grand National Festival,Day One 

Nicky Henderson probably paid for many of the locals summer holidays at Aintree on the opening day of the Randox Health Grand National meeting as he saddled a rapid fire hat-trick of winners on a cloudy,slightly chilly in places but thankfully not a rainy afternoon on Merseyside. 

The feature winner on the day came in the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle with L’Ami Serge bouncing back from a below par performance at Cheltenham under Daryl Jacob to overpower short priced favourite Supasundae and easily bag the prize, having mixed hurdles and fences this term L’Ami Serge looks possibly set to head over to Paris and take in the French Champion Hurdle that he won last year, this win also paid a nice complement to Grand National entry Warriors Tale who finished ahead of L’Ami Serge in the Great Yorkshire at Doncaster. 

L’Ami Serge

Henderson’s first winner of the three came in the 4yo Hurdle with the very impressive We Have A Dream making it four on the bounce since coming over from France as he ran away with an impressive front running performance putting a good few lengths between him and Gumball, plenty options will be available to him next season but a novice chasing campaign could be in mind and he looks a chasing type in the making. 

We Have A Dream

Far way the classiest of the three winners came with Might Bite who showed no ill effects after his hard race in the Gold Cup last month, tracking long time leader and eventual runner up Bristol De Mai he led after the penultimate fence and quickly put the race to bed, thoughts of the £1,000,000 Triple Crown next season have been talked about and on this showing if he handles the potential Haydock mud then we could be in for a season to remember in the staying chase division. 

Might Bite

First race of the day was the Grade 1 Big Buck’s Celebration Manifesto Novices’ Chase and what looked an ok but not spectacular looking contest saw a huge bounce back to form for Finian’s Oscar after a very poor showing at the Cheltenham Festival, last seasons Mersey Novices’ Hurdle winner on Grand National Day he showed he likes this place to land the spoils despite having to work hard to overpower the mare Rene’s Girl on the run in, he may have been hit and miss over the big obstacles but the way he galvanised himself after the last showed that he might be worth having a go over 3m in time.  

Aintree’s big green fences came to the fore for the amateur riders in the Foxhunters’ Chase over 2m5f it’s a race that requires good jumping ability,speed,stamina and heart to pick up the £22586 owners prize money.

In the end the same winning system as last year came to the fore, Balnaslow who was the runner up last year to Dineur who himself was a runner up the year before took the scalp of some quality horses which was its usual standard of quality horses and riders who love the challenge that these fences bring, given a quiet patient ride up the inside by Derek O’Connor he made his move on the run to the elbow then began to edge ahead of Bear’s Affair, more of a spring horse now he should be off to Punchestown after this to defend his title from last year. 

Balnaslow


Sadly Lilbitluso took a nasty fall at the Canal Turn and sadly was fatally injured, Our condolences to all connected. 

For many one of the fastest and hair raising races is the Red Rum Chase over 2m on the Mildmay course which brought about a victory for Bentelimar who came bounced back from a disappointing show at Kempton last time to fend off the challenge of Theinval by just over three lengths in a typical Aintree thrilling finish. 

Finally the Grade 2 Mares’ Bumper sent punters home happy as the jolly duly obliged in the lucky last as Getaway Katie Mai under Jamie Codd had to put in the double overtime to get the better over long time leader Duhallow Gesture who eventually came third and the staying on Midnightreferendum who was second, Plenty to like about this mare who was runner up behind the Festival bumper winner back at Leopardstown in February and she will make a nice hurdler next season. 

So a useful afternoons racing in Merseyside, it may have been a bit chilly seeing as it’s done nothing but rain and be cold around the north west since September, the weather surely must make a change in the right direction soon!
Friday is Ladies Day and no doubt that despite the forecast not being that good the Liverpool ladies will come out in force for their big day out of the year!

Haydock Park,Saturday 31st March 2018, Smarkets Challenger Finals Day. 

Middle of the road jumps horses had their day not quite in the sun on Easter Saturday at Haydock but more a chilly afternoon and probably for the first time in this neck of the woods at a jump meeting the rain relented and gave itself the day off for the finals of the 2017-18 Challenger Series. 

For trainer Lucy Wadham she kept flag flying for Newmarket as the flat brigade were busy over in Meydan at some valuable flat meeting by landing the Staying Chase Final over 3m1f and a few yards extra with Potters Legend who showed no ill effects after his recent Fakenham tumble and roughed it out to go on and win by 11 lengths from Horatio Hornblower, Aidan Coleman got a good tune out of him and he could be ideal for a Becher Chase or Badger Ales next season. 
The race also had one of the best displays of horsemanship seen on a racecourse for a long time when Barry Geraghty on favourite Behind Time made a complete horlicks at the ninth fence which caused him to lose the reigns and somehow he managed to wangle them back around despite the right hand side being under the horses neck and certainly brought back memories of Carl Llewellyn on Beau in the 2001 National, that error cost Behind Time all chance and he was eventually pulled up

Potters Legend

Donald McCain landed a 1-2 in the 2m Hurdle with William Of Orange showing the benefits of his recent wind op by giving stablemate Chti Balko a 3.25 length beating, behind the pace under Lorcan Murtagh (5) he got the lead over the last and forged ahead to win, Donald McCain has a couple of Spring targets in his eye for him in the Chester Cup or the Swinton Hurdle in May. 

William Of Orange.

The opening race was the first part of a top and tail double for Ian Williams, Amber Gambler at the foot of the weights beat the top one Crievehill by a length, back after a short break since flopping at Doncaster he jumped pretty fluently and did it in a professional manner, he has form over further and that stamina helped him out a lot. 

A stewards was called for into the Mares’ Hurdle final over 2m3f when they deemed eventual winner The Delray Munky had suffered interference off Lamanver Odyssey, it was very bumpy on the run in between the two and at first look watching the race it seemed like the claxon would be sounded which it duly did, already a winner of three Ayr hurdle races this season the connections from Iain Jardine may just be having a look at any potential races at the Ayr or Perth festivals in a few weeks time. 

A pulsating finish in the Stayers Hurdle over 2m7f saw Culture De Sivola under Harry Cobden fend off Andrew Thornton on Head To The Stars, this was a race that was run at a solid pace but it was all about the closers to come on through the beaten horses to fight out the finish, following up from a Taunton win over 3m that could be it for the season for her and she will make a useful prospect next season should connections have a go down the staying division or go chasing. 

Peter Bowen had the long drive back to Pembrokeshire seem a lot shorter following Rons Dream impressive jumping display in the 2m6f Mares’ Chase Final, runner up at Bangor last weekend over 3m she looked to appreciate the slight drop in trip and drew away from second placed Socksy very nicely, Rons Dream is a very likeable mare and can build on from this with connections hoping to get some black type into her no doubt. 

Rons Dream

Finally the Ian Williams second winner of the day came in the gruelling 3m4f Tim Molony Chase in Zerachiel who was one of only four finishers and picked up his first win of the campaign since landed a novice chase last season. 

Next up here we head to Aintree for the first two days as usual of the Randox Health Grand National meeting, hopefully with some new things to improve our coverage!