With the exception of Abacadabras (fell at the third in the Champion Hurdle), six of the seven winners on the opening day of Aintree's Grand National meeting had skipped the Cheltenham Festival. It will be interesting to see if that continues over the next couple of days.
The Gigginstown House owned gelding produced a good performance to win the Aintree Hurdle by a length and a quarter. Following the early departure of compatriot Jason The Militant, Abacadabras's task was made easier but he stayed the trip thoroughly and, despite a couple of indifferent jumps in the homestraight, Jack Kennedy's mount was always going like the winner. The combination of a flat track and better ground were ideal and the winning margin flattered the runner-up.
Monmiral, who is featured in the French Revolution section of One Jump Ahead, won the four year old hurdle in convincing fashion. It would have been closer had Triumph Hurdle runner-up Adagio had jumped the last better, but I suspect Paul Nicholls' charge would have won in any case with Harry Cobden yet to ask his mount for maximum effort. A seven and a half lengths winner, the unbeaten Saint Des Saints is set to stay over hurdles next season with the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle touted as a possible target. While David Pipe's runner-up had the strongest piece of form on offer, it is worth recalling that he suffered from colic in the lead up to Cheltenham - a combination of a far from ideal preparation, plus a hard race at the Festival meant it was always going to be tough for the Pond House representative.
What a superb afternoon it proved to be the former champion trainer - Team Ditcheat sent out 11 runners on Thursday and returned with 5 winners, including a couple of Grade 1 victories. In contrast, it was a frustrating afternoon for his arch rival Nicky Henderson. The Seven Barrows outfit had seven runners at Aintree and they finished P5U2406. They will be looking for a change of fortune on day two.
It was a good day, too, for followers of the One Jump Ahead Aintree Update with Abacadabras (5/1) and Monmiral (10/11) winning. In addition, Clondaw Castle (advised @ 9/1) and Sully D'Oc AA (advised 25/10)) rewarded each-way support in their respective races. Both horses would have appreciated slightly better ground but ran crackers, nevertheless. For a split second, I thought the latter was going to reel in Editeur Du Gite in the Red Rum Chase but it wasn't to be going down by a length.
I am working at Aintree tomorrow and very much looking forward to it. I will therefore be back to update the Diary at some stage over the weekend. Hopefully, we can have a few more winners in the Update. In the meantime, please head to the Publications section of the site, if you would like to order a copy of the forthcoming edition of Ahead On The Flat, which is due back from the printers on Monday (12th April). There are full details of the book, plus the 3 Updates for the 2021 Flat season.
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