Our columnist Neil Watson attended the captivating meeting at Aintree on Sunday.
Experience got the better of youth in a pulsating finish to the 2017 Grade 2 Monet’s Garden Old Roan Chase which brought a battle of the greys to the Sunday crowd on Countryside Day at Aintree and the evergreen 10yo Smad Place showed that the enthusiasm is still in their as he fought off Cloudy Dreams to scoop up the £30128 first place money for the Alan King yard as the jumping season really came to life.
In what looked a high quality renewal of this 2m4f contest they went a good clip as expected with lots of pace on and it showed that being prominent can often help on this tricky Mildmay course, Smad Place is expected to head to Newbury for what was formerly the Hennessy which he has won and ran credible races in before while Cloudy Dreams next stop is Cheltenham for the BetVictor Gold Cup and could prove to he a decent flag bearer for the northern scene.
The crowd really enjoyed this race and showed why jump racing continues to thrive in popularity and with races like this we look set for hopefully a great season.
Ride of the day for many,myself included went to young 10lb conditional Charlotte Jones who now has a 100% strike rate at Aintree as she gave the 8yo mare Bon Chic an enterprising front running ride to land a wide open looking C/J Hurdle over 3m in her first ride at the home of the Grand National.
It takes some bottle to jump out and try to make all especially in a large field but that’s exactly what she did and a decisive move after four out to kick on proved to be the icing on the cake and despite plenty trying to gang up on her they just could not get past and she clung on by a diminishing three parts of a length for the Jimmy Moffatt yard up in Cartmel, paying 33-1 at the bookies hopefully some of the owners and staff had a few quid on so they could afford a nice bit of grub at the local L’Enclume Restaurant just around the corner from the famous racecourse, Black Ivory plugged on for second place and he should gain compensation sooner rather than later.
Nicky Henderson has his string in good heart at the moment and unveiled a nice type in On The Blind Side, a 5yo winner of his only point he took the 2m4f Maiden Hurdle and a useful looking race it looked on paper too, travelling well he did have some unwanted company in 80-1 outsider Another Stowaway who was quickly turned out after a first flight tumble at Worcester on Wednesday who ran a gallant second and Aye Aye Charlie back in third.
On The Blind Size looks a decent recruit to the hurdling game and looks every inch a stayer in the making, he isn’t afraid to get his hooves dirty when he needs to fight, one of put on the tracking list for this season.
On The Blind Side
A top quality renewal for the more senior staying chasers over 3m1f brought a real upturn for some and not so for others.
The Romford Pele on his first start for Tom George took full advantage when long time leader and last seasons Grand National 5th Gas Line Boy tumbled to the floor and capsized at the third last when seemingly in command and having the race for the taking, this left The Romford Pele in the lead and had to use all his stamina and guts to fend off Bob Tucker which he easily did in the end under the guidance of Adrian Heskin, the old boy still showed he has plenty to offer and could be back in December here for a go over the big ones in the Becher which could be ideal as it probably will be for Gas Line Boy as all eyes will be firmly targeted towards the National again.
The Romford Pele passes the line
Bags Groove looks to be going places this season for Harry Fry and showed plenty of improvement after his recent seasonal blow out at Chepstow by justifying favouritism pretty easily in a competitive looking 2m4f Handicap Hurdle, a fair novice last season he made his mark of 132 look very workable and should be aimed at bigger things off this, he looks to be staying over timber for now and that could prove to be the best call.
It’s not often you complain about the sun being out but the big yellow disc of fire got in the way as it often can do at this meeting which meant that of the intended 19 fences only 10 got jumped in the 3m1f Nov Hcap Chase with a run of 7f or so to the first and a near 6f run in mixed in with some tricky chicanes up the home straight, in the end Vintage Clouds finally got on the scoresheet over the bigger obstacles after a mixed first season where he ran credible without winning, he thrashed top weight Lovely Job by 18 lengths and could well be aimed at the big long distance chases with ultimately the National being a Trevor Hemmings owned horse.
A nice looking mares bumper concluded the day’s racing and the stewards were in action as first past the post Grageelagh Girl under Alain Cawley got disqualified and placed second with first spot going to Posh Trish who originally lost out by a nose after the judge called a photo in a real grandstand finish, Posh Trish under Sam Twiston-Davies was buried mid pack but stayed on up the run in and got carried left by the new runner up before the stewards called an inquiry.
Both were recruits from the pointing world and look like becoming even better when sent over hurdles, it looked a race full of decent types to keep an eye on.
Aye Aye Charlie,5yo gelding trained by Fergal O’Brien was third in the 2m4f Maiden Hurdle, he looks one to follow when he gets a handicap mark.
Three Musketeers,7yo gelding from Dan Skelton, plugging on under Bridget Andrews to be 5th in the feature 2m4f hurdle he will be better when upped back to three miles and has a nice race in him.