Congratulations to Lucinda Russell and her Kinross based team following One For Arthur's victory in yesterday's Grand National at Aintree. The gelding had already improved by twenty one pounds this season winning at Kelso and Warwick and finishing fifth in the Becher Chase in December. Given a patient ride by Derek Fox, he crept into contention on the final circuit before making his move before the penultimate fence. Having collided with Blaklion jumping that obstacle, he took charge thereafter and then stayed on strongly to record a famous win and become only the second ever Scottish trained winner of the race. Triple Cheltenham Festival winner Cause of Causes ran a cracker in second, while Davy Russell gave Saint Are a fine ride as Tom George's charge was placed for a second time on his seventh run over the National fences.
The favourite Blaklion produced an exhibition round of jumping before finishing fourth. Admittedly, he was one of my selections but I can't help thinking he should have finished much closer. Noel Fehily's committed his mount a long way from home and not surprisingly had very little more to give between the final two fences. A more circumspect ride would surely have seen the former RSA Chase winner go mighty close to winning the biggest prize in National Hunt racing.
As for my other selections, Houblon Des Obeaux finished a honourable tenth, although he never looked like getting involved in the shake-up. The drying ground didn't help his cause. Stellar Notion wasn't the most fluent over the first two fences but then appeared to getting into a good rhythm racing prominently. However, he made a mistake at the the first fence after the Canal Turn and then steadily dropped through the field. I wonder if he sulked once getting behind horses because he seemed to lose interest thereafter.
It proved to be a memorable three days for Colin Tizzard. The West Country based handler endured a miserable Cheltenham Festival but he bounced back with avengeance on Merseyside. He sent out a treble on Friday, including Fox Norton's impressive success in the Melling Chase, and then followed it up with a double yesterday. Finian's Oscar was forced to miss Cheltenham due to a minor setback, but the former Irish pointer looked better than ever in the two and a half mile novice hurdle. Owned by Alan and Ann Potts, he was registering his second Grade 1 victory and the five year old promises to make an even better chaser in due course. He is a tremendous prospect.
Malcolm Jefferson won the Red Rum Chase on Thursday courtesy of novice Double W's, but the Malton based trainer probably headed back across the Pennines with a feeling of frustration. Cloudy Dream looked certain to win the Grade 1 two and a half mile novice chase on the opening day. However, the grey was seemingly outbattled by Flying Angel on the run-in. It can be argued the winner outstayed him and perhaps two miles will prove to be Cloudy Dream's ideal trip but I am not convinced. Stablemate Mount Mews also filled the runners-up berth in the Top Novices' Hurdle over the minimum trip the following day. Ironically, Pingshou (16/1), who was one of my selections in the Supreme NH at Cheltenham, won the race under Aiden Coleman. Jefferson's runner didn't jump as well as he can and appeared to get tapped for speed when the tempo lifted turning for home. Switched to the outside, the Presenting gelding did his best work late on but the winner had gone beyond recall. I spoke to Mick Meagher (Trevor Hemmings' racing manager) at Aintree on Saturday and he felt the steady early gallop proved his undoing. Malcolm is apparently keen to keep Mount Mews over hurdles next season with the Fighting Fifth Hurdle touted as a possible early season target. I feel time may show that he will benefit from stepping back up in trip. He lacked instant acceleration on Friday, especially on drying ground.
Switching codes, the first copies of Ahead On The Flat arrived from the printers on Friday and the bulk of the orders were despatched on the same day. The remaining orders will be sent out tomorrow. Thank you very much to those clients who have already ordered - the demand has been terrific.
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