Tiger Roll provided Gordon Elliott with his second win in the Grand National at Aintree. The eight year old already had three Cheltenham Festival wins on his CV and he followed up his Cross Country success last month with a head win in the greatest steeplechase of all. Partnered by Davy Russell for the first time, he looked set for a comfortable success but compatriot Pleasant Company rallied well on the run-in and was gaining hand over fist in the final hundred yards. Only a head separated the pair. Bought by Mags O'Toole, the former Nigel Hawke trained gelding has been a remarkable horse for Gigginstown House Stud and Elliott. It was somewhat ironic that the O'Leary's were responsible for the winner of BHA handicapper Phil Smith's final Grand National given their war of words in recent years.
The runner-up ran a cracker given the fact Willie Mullins' charge had raced keenly during the early stages. David Mullins' mount jumped brilliantly before showing a terrific attitude after the last. As regards my own selections, Ucello Conti was ridden prominently by Daryl Jacob and still held a chance when coming to grief at the fourth last. It is impossible to say where he may have finished but his stamina hadn't been tested. Unfortunately, stamina did prove an issue for my other fancy, Valseur Lido. Keith Donoghue gave him a superb ride and I thought he was set to go close jumping the third last. However, the petrol tank soon dried up and he was a spent force by the time he negotiated the penultimate fence. Sent off 66/1, his jumping was first class and he certainly got my hopes up for much of the four and a quarter miles.
As regards the Aintree Update, it was a disappointing three days overall but things could have been very different with a bit of luck. Shanahan's Turn (advised @ 40/1) ran a storming race to finish second behind stablemate Ultragold in the Topham Chase. Given a fantastic ride by Robbie Power, who was partnering him for the first time, he jumped and travelled beautifully throughout and held every chance on the long run-in. In fact, the Topham Chase probably summed up the week - I selected three horses, namely Shanahan's Turn (2nd), Theatre Territory (3rd) and Ballyalton (5th).
It was also galling to see Bedrock, who I tipped at 33/1 for the opening two and a half miles handicap hurdle on Friday, being rerouted to the Grade 1 novice hurdle on the same card instead. Iain Jardine's five year old produced a career best effort to finish third behind Lalor in the two miles event. He would surely have gone mighty close in the handicap off a mark of 137. Overall, the Update produced 4 winners - We Have A Dream (advised @ 9/4), Might Bite (4/5), Terrefort (Advised @ 7/2) & Santini (advised @ 9/4) and six seconds.
The Top 40 Prospects in One Jump Ahead also produced 4 winners over the three days, including three Grade 1 winners. Finian's Oscar (5/2), Lalor (14/1), Mr Big Shot (7/1) and Black Op (3/1) all won and I was kicking myself for not staying loyal to the quartet. Once again, Robbie Power made the difference aboard the first named in the two and a half miles novice chase. Colin Tizzard's gelding didn't jump with any fluency but Power managed to galvanise his mount and they led close home from Dan Skelton's mare Rene's Girl. Noel Fehilly was also very good on Black Op who gained compensation for his second at the Cheltenham Festival. Tom George's gelding looks every inch a chaser in the making and deserved a win at the highest level having chased home Samcro at Prestbury Park.
As for the highlight of the week from a personal point of view, it was working alongside Ruby Walsh for Racing UK on Ladies day on Friday. It was a privilege and an experience I will never forget. He is a class act both in and out of the saddle.
Switching codes, the three day Craven meeting at Newmarket gets underway on Tuesday and is then followed by two excellent days at Newbury. If you haven't already ordered your copy of Ahead On The Flat, please head to the Publications section of the site. The book has already started producing winners, including the previously unraced Mootasadir (4/1) at Chelmsford on Thursday evening. Hugo Palmer certainly pointed readers in the right direction with his complimentary remarks regarding the son of Dansili.
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