Aintree Races, Thursday 7th April 2022, Grand National Festival Opening Day

In what seemed a lifetime ago and with a world that has experienced something it never thought it would do, crowds returned to Aintree for the Grand National Festival, the defining sporting event in Merseyside and the race which draws people in like no other.

2022 is a huge year for sport in the north west with Manchester and Leigh hosting games in the Women’s Euros in July then come autumn we will see Manchester,Leigh,Wigan,Warrington,Bolton and St Helens all hosting games in the Rugby League World Cup but to kick start the glorious year of sport we turn to Aintree.

Epatante In Aintree Hurdle Glory

Nicky Henderson loves Aintree winners and his fabulous mare Epatante gave him a fourth success in the Grade One Aintree Hurdle as she cruised home under Aidan Coleman to bag her third win of the season.

Having dead heated for the Fighting Fifth and winning the Christmas Hurdle this season she came here with a point to prove possibly having been beaten by Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle but she took the step up in trip with ease and beat a reasonably decent field in the process.

This will most likely have been her final run of the season unless connections fancy a trip over to Punchestown but it’s likely she will go the same route of Newcastle and Kempton before heading to Cheltenham once again and although she saw this trip out it might be a case that the long distance hurdle races might come under consideration too.

Clan Does It Again.

After being successful in the first three races last year as a part owner, the footballing legend that is Sir Alex Ferguson was able to relive a bit of that with a crowd this time as Clan Des Obeaux repeated his Betway Bowl win from last year.

In what looked good quality race, Clan Des Obeaux came here having been kept fresh from his February defeat in the Denman Chase at Newbury, he jumped nicely as ever in the first time blinkers and was sent on by Harry Cobden from third last despite ploughing through it and despite getting a bit tired on the run in he got to the line just in time from the fast finishing Conflated.

Clan Des Obeaux has been lighly raced this season but held his form pretty well, Punchestown may be the next stop for him before his summer break and a hattrick of Bowl attempts will no doubt be the plan of action for this top chaser.

Of the beaten horses Protektorat probably felt the affects of a hard race in the Gold Cup, he is still a young horse and has plenty of big days ahead of him, expect to see him in the Charlie Hall or Many Clouds Chases in the early part of the season.

Pass Scores In Hunters

Back in December racegoers saw Bridget Andrews ride a big race winner at Aintree and this afternoon they saw sister Gina do the same as she steered Latenightpass to victory in the Foxhunters’ Chase over the big greens.

Runner up last year behind 66-1 winner Cousin Pascal who tried to make it a repeat win but faded towards the end, Latenightpass had a real fight on after the last fence with Cap Tiger under David Maxwell but Gina Andrews kept her mount up to his work as he repelled the runner up by a lenght or so.

Always an interesting and entertaining race to watch and this was no exception, Latenightpass is a hardy sort and had two wins in points prior to this and all being well he should be back to defend his crown next year

Best Of The Rest

Arguably the most controversial moment of the day came in the G1 Anniversary Hurdle for 4yos when Knight Salute and Pied Piper passed the post in unison and despite the judge using more magnifying glasses than Lovejoy and Indiana Jones combined the result was a dead heat.

However that was not the end of things as the stewards called an inquiry and after questioning jockeys Paddy Brennan and Davy Russell they decided that interference had taken place and thus awarded the race outright to the Milton Harris trained Knight Salute who had previously been sighted behind Pied Piper in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, he is rated 75 on the flat too which could mean the odd foray into some middle distance handicaps before going back hurdling in the autumn

Finally the opening Manifesto Novice Chase looked a fairly weak renewal on paper and went the way of the Alex Hales trained Millers Bank who finally seems to be going the right way over fences, after his debut chasing win at Huntingdon in October he then posted two U’s before chasing home Pic D’orhy home in the Pendil at Kempton, he is probably worth keeping an eye on in 2m4f handicap chases next term.

Despite the weather being a pain to begin with it turned out to be a glorious afternoon of jump racing at the home of the Grand National

Thursday is always a day for the racing purist and this afternoon showed exactly why, for those affiliated with the red half of Manchester would have been bouncing seeing Sir Alex collect the prize when Clan Des Obeaux went in and fans went crazy as Epatante hosed up in the Aintree Hurdle while the noise in the winners enclosure from everyone connected with Latenightpass showed what was missing from last years behind closed doors meeting.

Aintree has a special place in the hearts not just of racing fans in general but for the people of Liverpool also, a countryside sport in a port city is a very unusual combination but in this part of Merseyside it works and has been sorely missed by the loyal racegoers over the past two years.

Next up is the final jump meeting of our season with Challenger Finals Day at Haydock, till then it’s goodbye.

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