Rachel Blackmore became the first lady rider to win the Grand National at Aintree when steering Minella Times to a six and a half lengths victory on Saturday. Crowning a memorable season both for herself and trainer Henry De Bromhead, the 31 year old is a class act both in and out of the saddle. The J.P.McManus owned gelding may have enjoyed a dream passage throughout the four and a quarter miles, but it shouldn't be underestimated what a superb job his rider did. Shortly before the departure of Double Shuffle at the twelfth fence, Blackmore pulled her mount off the rail and therefore she wasn't immediately behind Tom George's runner. That proved a key manoeuvre because otherwise Minella Times would have been badly impeded if not worse, which was very much the case for Any Second Now (almost certainly cost him the race). In addition, early on the second circuit, Rachel moved Minella Times around Lord Du Mesnil and got in a better position. It is small moves like that which make a huge difference and what separates the good jockeys from the top-class ones.
Minella Times jumped brilliantly throughout and was always going well. Bred to stay well, the Oscar gelding is from the family of Borders National winner Rambling Minster, so there was every chance he was going to improve for this longer distance. Any Second Now ran a cracker in third and would have been considerably closer had Ted Walsh's charge enjoyed a smoother run through. I am sure he will be back next year in an attempt to go two better. Burrows Saint looked a major threat after the third last but his petrol tank ran dry from the penultimate fence, while Discorama ran creditably in seventh. He appeared set to drop away turning in but kept on again on the long run-in.
I was delighted to see Thyme Hill win the Liverpool Hurdle earlier on the card. It was been a trying season for Philip Hobbs - not much has gone right for the Minehead outfit but his stable star battled on courageously to reel in Roksana close home under Tom O'Brien. It was his second Grade 1 win of his career and it will be interesting to see if he remains over hurdles next season or goes chasing. If he is ever to go over fences, then it needs to be in the Autumn otherwise it will come too late in his career. The seven year old was providing his yard with their 52 winner of the season and their second Grade 1 winner of 2020/2021 following the success of Sporting John in the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown in February.
Kim Bailey went close to Grade 1 success on Friday when Espoir De Romay was still in front when crashing out at the second last in the Mildmay Novices' Chase. However, the former Grand National winning trainer gained some compensation when Happygolucky won the staying handicap chase on Saturday. Runner-up in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham last month, the Jeremy gelding had been raised a couple of pounds since but it wasn't enough to stop him going one better. Staying on strongly after the second last, he comfortably beat Johnbb by nearly three lengths. The seven year old has been a credit to the Top 40 Prospects in One Jump Ahead winning three times this season and his connections are dreaming about him competing in the National itself in years to come.
Dan Skelton has had an excellent season and Paul Nicholls' former assistant had two Grade 1 winners over the course of the three days. The Warwickshire based handler has always maintained My Drogo was 'exceptional' and the Milan gelding treated his opponents with contempt in the Mersey Novices' Hurdle. Already a dual Grade 2 winner, the six year old took charge after the second and powered clear to win hard held by nine and a half lengths. Ballyadam didn't fire and it wasn't the strongest renewal of its type but he couldn't have won any easier. His trainer is already looking forward to sending the Richard Kelvin-Hughes owned gelding over fences in the Autumn. The Arkle or Marsh Novices' Chase at Cheltenham will be his target next spring.
Thank you very much to all those clients who have emailed during the last 24 hours, it is greatly appreciated. It was an excellent three days for the Aintree Update with 7 winners - Monmiral (10/11), Abacadabras (5/1), Chantry House (advised @ 2/1), Livelovelaugh (15/2), My Drogo (advised @ 5/2), Shishkin and Minella Times (advised @ 12/1). There were plenty of selections placed, too, including Clondaw Castle (2nd - advised @ 9/1), Sully D'Oc AA (2nd - advised @ 25/1), Mister Coffey (4th), Bold Enough (3rd), Johnbb (2nd - advised @ 16/1) and Any Second Now (3rd - advised @ 10/1).
Finally, just a reminder that Ahead On The Flat is due back from the printers on Monday pm. All orders will be sent out as soon as possible. In the meantime, if you would like to order a copy, if you haven't already done so, please go to the Publications section of the site. There is full details of AOTF, plus the 3 Updates during the season.
As well as Ahead On The Flat being published on Monday, the good news is that hairdressers and gyms reopen. Thank goodness for that - it hasn't been much fun resembling a dulux dog over these last few months.
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