Ahead On The Flat arrived from the printers over the weekend and all orders will be sent out on Monday morning. Thank you to all those clients who has already ordered, it is much appreciated. The response has been tremendous. The Flat season steps up a gear this week with the likes of Pontefract (Tuesday), Nottingham (Wednesday) and Newbury (Friday & Saturday) staging meetings. Then, the following week, Newmarket hosts the Craven meeting (16th - 18th April). It is therefore the perfect time to purchase a copy of AOTF, if you haven't already done so. Please head to the Publications section of the site to view full details plus information regarding the three AOTF Updates.
Tiger Roll won the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree for the second consecutive year on Saturday. Racing off a nine pounds higher mark than twelve months ago, Gordon Elliott's nine year old overcame a couple of mistakes on the final circuit before running out a decisive two and three quarter lengths winner under Davy Russell. The gelded son of Authorized has now won two Grand Nationals, he is a four times Cheltenham Festival winner and has proved a bargain at £80,000 when bought in December 2013. I thought Rathvinden ran a cracker in third, a handful of lengths behind the Gigginstown House Stud owned winner. Given a very positive ride by Ruby Walsh, the eleven year old jumped well bar the water jump and Valentines (second time around) and stayed on again on the run-in having been headed. It is possible he would have finished closer if given a more patient ride but there were no complaints. My other two fancies, namely A Toi Phil (12th) and Tea For Two (pulled up) never really figured, although I thought the latter was going to get involved on the final circuit but he didn't stay and was tired when Lizzie Kelly called it a day.
Owner Graham Wylie lost two horses at the Cheltenham Festival and, sadly, he was also responsible for Up For Review, who became the first horse for seven years to lose their life in the Grand National. It has been a tough few weeks for the North East based owner.
Unfortunately, another owner Ray Green suffered the same fate twenty four hours earlier when Forest Des Aigles fractured a cannonbone and had to be put down having gone wrong on the approach to the final fence in the Topham Chase. The ex-French gelding has running a blinder and still very much in contention when disaster struck. It was a cruel blow for everyone involved.
I thought the performance of the three days was provided by Min in the Melling Chase. Willie Mullins' dual Cheltenham Festival runner-up had disappointed in the Queen Mother Champion Chase last month but he was back to form with a vengeance at Aintree on Friday. Ruby Walsh elected to make the running on the eight year old and he produced a brilliant display of fencing. He ran out a twenty lengths winner and added a fourth Grade 1 to his CV. It was a superb effort and a pleasure to watch.
The Top 40 Prospects had a couple of winners, namely Kalashninkov (4/1) and If The Cap Fits (7/1), and I was left kicking myself for not tipping them in the Aintree Update. The former overcame a mistake at the first fence but appreciated the step up to two and a half miles for the first time in the Grade 1 novice chase. Amy Murphy's stable star has won 7 out of 9 racing left-handed, which appears to be the key to him. The Ryanair Chase was immediately nominated as his main target for next season, although it will be interesting to see where he reappears, given his preference for racing left-handed. Races such as the Old Roan Chase at Aintree or the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham are possibilities. Likewise, If The Cap Fits was tackling a new trip for the first time in the Liverpool Hurdle on Saturday. With Noel Fehily now 'enjoying' his retirement, Sean Bowen partnered Harry Fry's gelding for the first time and he ran on bravely to beat mares Roksana and Apple's Jade by a head and a neck in a driving finish. A Grade 2 winner earlier in the season, he had run well at Fontwell last time and arrived fresh. It will be interesting to see what the plans for him next term.
As regards the Update, it was another disappointing few days - things haven't clicked this season. There were a number of horses who didn't fire having run well at Cheltenham last month. The likes of Mengli Khan, Band of Outlaws, Clan Des Obeaux, Brelan D'As (didn't jump well) and Topofthegame looked flat and we unable to replicate their Festival performances. Felix Desjy (advised @ 8/1) and Min (advised @ 5/1) provided the Update with a couple of decent winners on Friday, while I thought the heavily backed Minella Melody was unfortunate to bump into a potentially top-class mare The Glancing Queen in the Grade 2 mares' bumper on Thursday. I tipped Three Musketeers for the handicap chase on Saturday and he won the handicap hurdle on Friday on his first start for Gordon Elliott and I am convinced Forest Des Aigles (advised @ 20/1) would have given Cadmium plenty to think about on the run-in in the Topham Chase. Add to that, Nicky Henderson very nearly withdrew Champ from the three miles novice hurdle to the two and a half miles one on Saturday, which would have left the way clear for Emitom in the Sefton Novices' Hurdle. There is a fine margin between a good or poor few days. Its time to move on.
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