Aintree Grand National Meeting Day Two,Friday 5th April 2013

Ladies Day today which as expected brought out the crowds in their outfits of various colours,sizes and shapes all with inappropriate high heel shoes which surely can’t last being worn for six to eight hours and as expected they didn’t as many women resorted to getting their free pair of flip flops to make walking much more easier, no worries here with my comfy hush puppies that have stood me in good stead over the years. 

Seven races on today’s card with the feature races being the Topham Chase over the National fences and the race everyone was talking about the Melling Chase which saw Sprinter Sacre taking on 2m4f for the first time in his chasing career. 
2.00 The Rose Appeal Supports Alder Hey Top Novices Hurdle 2m 110 yards 9 flights
Just four turned out for this Grade Two, it would have been five but Art of Logistics was a non runner but its fair to say a lot of them were scared of by My Tent or Yours from trainer Nicky Henderson who went off the 4-11f and won as an odds on shot should, held up off the pace he took the lead and had this in the bag before the second last flight and kept his top class form up after his recent second at the Cheltenham Festival and he now goes into his summer holiday with next seasons Champion Hurdle being his main target and you would have to put him in the shortlist for that. 
Back in second was Forgotten Voice again from the Henderson yard who is 8 and will be probably end up in top handicaps while back in third was Zuider Zee who will be a lot better over further next season and this was only his third start and has plenty good races left in him yet. 
2.30 The John Smiths Mildmay Novices Chase 3m1f 19 fences
This was a Grade Two event and it was a back to winning ways for Dynaste who was back up in trip after finding the 2m5f at Cheltenham on the sharp side. 
The early pace was good with Super Duty setting the early running and despite being given a few reminders he was in contention until three out when the maiden chaser Third Intention took over but he was overtaken at the last by Dynaste who went on to record a 6 length victory with joint favourite Rocky Creek a bit one paced back in third. 
Dynaste is a lovely grey horse who jumps his fences and travels well in his races, he will no doubt be aimed at the Gold Cup next year should he keep his form and not go the same way that stablemate Grand Crus has this season. 
Third Intention could be ideally suited by a test of stamina and the Welsh National may be the making of him and Rocky Creek is better suited with softer ground and should not be written off after this run. 
The disappointment was Sea of Thunder who was pulled up before the seventh and can do better than this. 
3.05 The John Smiths Melling Chase 2m4f
The Grade One which was billed as the race of the season was won as expected by the red hot jumping star Sprinter Sacre who was given a patient ride to begin with by Barry Geraghty and got the extra half mile without breaking sweat, as expected Cue Card and Flemenstar made the running, For Non Stop was always struggling in this company while Mad Moose decided to have the day off and planted himself at the start. 
In the end Sprinter Sacre beat Cue Card by 4.5 lengths and was not put of second gear he won with such authority and connections will no doubt be tempted by a crack at the King George on Boxing Day but you would imagine they will go Cheltenham in November,Tingle Creek,Clarence House,Game Spirit,Queen Mother and Melling Chase as the plan, as a horse to watch he is amazing and jumps wonderfully well and is a real star. 
Cue Card and Flemenstar are top horses in their own right but simply could not live with the winner, it was like Manchester United being walloped 5-0 by Barcelona but they will be winning again over 2m4f providing SS doesn’t give them anymore punishment. 
3.40 The John Smiths Topham Chase (Handicap) 2m5f 110 yard, 18 fences 
A Grade Three over the National fences and just the twenty nine in this which was dogged by controversy, at the beginning their was two false starts, bit worrying as this also happened in the 1993 National, the stewards did do an enquiry and apart from Ruby Walsh,Tom O’Brien and Brian Harding the rest of the jockeys all got a one day ban for anticipating the start so expect a few conditionals to get a chance as a shortage will soon be appearing. 
The other sad event was the loss of Little Josh aged 11 who sadly had to be put down after a nasty fall at the fourth last and fracturing a shoulder, my sympathies to the owner Mr Tony Bloom and the stable of Nigel Twiston Davies. 
At the business end it was another winner for Nicky Henderson as Triolo D’Alene bounced back to form on this much sounder surface to overpower long time leader Dunowen Point who finished fourth with second and third going to Walkon and Last Time D’Albain. 
The winner seems a tricky horse to place but he’s only six and can find improvement,the eye catcher for me was Dunowen Point who ran much better after his recent run at Chepstow and before was second at Wetherby in February behind the progressive Cloudy Too, he is only seven and should be back in December with a try in the Grand Sefton and could end up a Grand National horse later on in time. 
4.15 The John Smiths Sefton Novices Hurdle, 3m 110 yards, 13 flights
Another Grade One race here and this prize went to Wales and the stables of Rebecca Curtis with her star horse At Fishers Cross who strolled home in effortless style to give AP McCoy his second winner of the day. 
The early running was cut out by Gevrey Chambertin who led turning for home but doesn’t seem to stay three miles and will be better over two and a half which is the distance he has won two of his races but he could possibly be aimed for the fixed brush hurdle at Haydock in November which the Pipe yard has won before with Grand Crus and Dynaste. 
At Fishers Cross is a blummin good horse and will be a serious proposition In the staying hurdle division next season and with Big Buck’s coming back from injury he may not be the same horse and throw Zarkander into the equation the staying hurdle league could be an interesting set of races to watch. 
Back in second was Just a Par from the Nicholls stable who stayed on and if he goes novice chasing shall be a good horse to follow as he is a chaser in the making. 
4.50 The John Smiths Daily Mirror Punters Club Handicap Hurdle, 2m4f,11 flights
A very competitive hurdle on paper for this Listed contest but this was turned into a procession by the 6yo Minella Forfitness to give Nicky Henderson a hat trick on the day and this horse his third win in a row and the step up in trip benefitted him even more plus the weight of 10st 3lbs was an absolute featherweight and he has lots of improvement in him and may be turned out again depending what the handicapper does. 
Clerks Choice put in a PB back in second but is still a tricky customer to win with while favourite Meister Eckhart kept on on third but needs to settle better in his races. 
Back in fifth was the Martin Pipe winner Salubrious who stayed on into fifth but maybe better suited by three miles and could be their is a nice race over that trip at Haydock over that trip in May. 
5.25 The John Smiths Mares Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, 2m1f
The last race on Ladies day was for the Mares and despite being trained in Ireland it was a third consecutive win in England for Legacy Gold who has victories at Catterick and Sedgefield to her name and after being held up early made good headway and took up the running in the straight to go on over two furlongs out and fought off the challenge from Cailin Annamh under jockey change AP McCoy to win by 4l 
The winner may only have won at two small courses over here but the form was very good, the Sedgefield win had Runswick Royal back in second and of course he ran a cracker in yesterday’s 4yo hurdle so off that bit of form Legacy Gold will be one to follow when she eventually goes over timber as she is a serious prospect and will be a top novice hurdler. 
A good few of these ran in the big DBS Mares Bumper at Sandown and the best of these to get placed was Carole’s Spirit who ran into third and has plenty of ability. 
So another good two days of racing at Aintree and we were treated to some excellent racing with the highlight of course being Sprinter Sacre who showed why he is currently the best jumps horse in training and for all of us fans we want summer to go quickly and the winter months to reappear so we can see this amazing steeplechaser strut his stuff back on the course. 
With the good parts of racing we also have the bad side and two deaths have occurred in races over the National fences but we must not jump the gun and overreact about this although sadly their will be various media outlets who are no doubt chomping at the bit with this and doing their best to spoil this wonderful sport. 
Of course deaths do occur in equine sports, not just racing but eventing,polo,carriage driving and out in the fields when turned out no doubt claim horses lives, Last year former festival winner Brindisi Breeze escaped and sadly got hit when galloping loose and killed by a tanker which was much worse than the way some horses have lost their lives on the track. 
I do hope all tomorrow’s horses come back safe and sound but having been their myself the past two days I can 100% say that the level of veterinary care given is the best that you will ever see at a race meeting like this as is the medical care for riders. 
For me its been two excellent days of jumps racing and this is probably my last full jumps meeting of the season, next up racing wise will be Hamilton on the flat in early May and in the meantime I hope to report from local rugby or football. 
Enjoy the Grand National and I hope all your bets turn into winning ones. 


2013 Grand National Preview

Up in the beautiful setting of the Lake District is an area where the spruce grows that is transported down the M6 for the five races a year run on the famous Grand National course which produces sporting history every year and has done since 1839 when the aptly named Lottery won the first ever running at its current home Aintree albeit with runnings at Gatwick when the two World Wars with Germany got in the way of the fun. 

The Grand National meeting is now a three day bonanza of jump racing which follows on three weeks after the Cheltenham Festival, the racing is equally as competitive and the quality of the card has improved year by year to such a degree that for the 2013 meeting the race that everyone is keen to see is not the National itself but the highly anticipated battle between Sprinter Sacre,Cue Card and Flemenstar in the Melling Chase over 2m4f. 
I was asked in an interview with a friend of mine about how the class system shows in racing after all it has been commonly known as The Sport of Kings since Adam was a lad and while meetings such as Royal Ascot does have a sort of segregation in place with the Royal Enclosure I can genuinely say that things are different at Aintree, the sport of jumps racing has its roots firmly established from the countryside but at this meeting you see a real coming together of anyone and everyone. 
Walking around during the racing you see the richer and more well off in the tweed and funny coloured trousers but you also get the Scousers in their suits and ladies in dresses albeit not made of much material and the high heels which end up being swapped for flip flops after about four races due to novice racegoers not realising you spend about eight hours stood up for the days racing but this is a real sense of everybody in it together and the class barriers are down which makes this meeting what it is, It’s when the town and the countryside unite as one for the love of the sport,the event,the occasion and you can’t help but look and be proud that this is a true British sporting institution. 
This years meeting does see a few changes, for a start the television viewers will be tuning into Channel 4 who are going all out to make everyone know this is the only channel for terrestrial coverage of horse racing, many people including myself will be nervous and excited as to what will no doubt we a different style of coverage but anyone who saw the 2012 Paralympics will know that Channel 4 will do a cracking job and treat it with the respect it deserves. 
The other main changes include the start going forward by 90 yards which may work but trying to get the jockeys to go slower could potentially back fire with a shorter run to the first fence meaning riders could be more in a hurry to get a good sight at the first, I am more worried about this but jockeys are professional riders and hopefully will use their heads and remember to ride the race and not the occasion but only time will tell. 
The last change are the fences themselves, normally the big greens are made with stiff upright timber poles covered with spruce but all of these have now been removed and replaced with a new fixed fence with plastic birch and still covered with spruce so to the once a year viewers they will not notice any changes and to be fair in December at the Becher Chase meeting four of these were trialled and I certainly spotted no difference whatsoever and hopefully while their will still be fallers we all hope nothing bad comes from them. 
Each day of the meeting has a different feel to it,for me I only go to the first two days,I have been to a Grand National back in 2001 when Red Marauder was one of only four finishers in what was the most dramatic National since Foinavon in 1967 and since the 2001 running I have watched them all on the TV apart from 2011 when I was at Bangor on Dee but for me this is a race better to watch on the big telly at home
Day One is now known as Liverpool Day with four Grade One races including the Aintree Hurdle and the Bowl Steeplechase as the two classiest races on the card but oddly they are mearly the warm up acts as the big race for all those on course is the Aintree Foxhunters over 2m5f 110yards of the Grand National course with the horses ridden by Amateur riders who oddly dont get paid and will get no prize money should they earn it for the owners and it gives us our first sighting of the fences, always a brave,brutal and tough race it is an event to savour as these mighty warriors do battle with the winning jockey joining that elite list of being on the scoresheet of the five races held every year on the National course. 
Day Two is Ladies Day which is always a sight in so many ways as the Liverpool ladies go all out to have fun and although its a mixture of high heels,fake tans,outfits that leave little to the imagination and lots of wine mixed in with the fashion show and best dressed competitions the people should also be aware that their is high quality racing on too!
The feature races on Ladies Day are the Melling Chase over 2m4f on the quick Mildmay course which always produces a cracking race and as I alluded to earlier the potential coming together of Sprinter Sacre,Cue Card and Flemenstar will make it the race of the whole meeting, the other biggie is the Topham Chase over the same course and distance as the Foxhunters and this gives jockeys a quick chance to get their eye in for the National the following day,always fast and furious it is a good race and with Always Waining going for the National there will be a new name after his winning the previous three renewals. 
Grand National Day is one of the iconic days in the sporting and racing calendar and those on course will be treated to a real sight of top class horses and jockeys doing battle over those fearsome fences and going into Aintree folklore, The local betting shops as ever will be full of the once a year punters and no doubt asking the usual daft questions like “What’s Dettori riding?” “How much tax do I pay?”  But it is things like this that make the day what it is and we would be much poorer without it occurring. 
The Grand National may be a race which divides opinion, I for one will always defend it as I have grown up with the race and still remember my first ever pick in the race, Durham Edition back in 1988 and being amazed and in awe of Chris Grant as he finished a gallant second in the race which got be hooked on this most beautiful of sports. 
As for the 2013 running well it does look as tricky as ever but if I had to give one horse to hopefully give you a nice run for your money then I would suggest Chicago Grey as a worthy each way bet, he fell last year very early but has form over this marathon trip and warmed up with a win at Navan in February so for me he could go well at a big price. 
Thank you for reading this, I shall be at Aintree for the Thursday and Friday at the meeting and I know full well come Wednesday I will be going to bed feeling like a kid on Christmas Eve knowing what the presents are and getting more and more irritable to open them!