Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Hedgehunter Returns with Ruby Walsh to Claim the 2005 Grand National Crown

Having fallen at the last, while still in contention for the 2004 Martell Grand National, the 9 year old Trevor Hemmings owned Hedgehunter had been installed as the 7-1F for the 2005 running of this famous steeplechase. Also heavily backed were last year’s runner up Clan Royal, trained by Jonjo O’Neill, the Richard Ford trained Forest Gunner and French Grey, Strong Resolve.

Last year’s winner, Amberleigh House was listed as 16-1, 5th favourite.

The going for the rebranded John Smith’s Grand National was good to soft and the 40 strong field set off under leaden Aintree skies. The assembled crowd cheered as the race was officially underway.

Over Becher’s

By the time the field crossed over Becher’s Brook for the first time, there had been just 4 fallers, with last year’s 3rd placed horse, Lord Atterbury, trained by M C Pipe amongst those whose race ended in the first few fences. The early running was being made by 150-1 outsider Glenelly Gale, followed a couple of lengths back by Double Honour with Paddy Brennan in the saddle and Astonville in 3rd.

The Chair

At the mid way point of the race, there were still as many as 20 horses within touch of the leading bunch and the arduous Aintree course had resulted in 8 fallers. The remaining field was still headed by Glenelly Gale, who was starting to feel the pace, causing the horse to fade away shortly after.

Bad Luck

Coming up to Becher’s Brook for the second time, Clan Royal, who had been flanked by two riderless horses for much of the straight was baulked by the pair, leading to a refusal and disappointment for Jockey Tony McCoy.

This allowed favourite Ruby Walsh on Hedgehunter to hit the front, jumping over Foinavon, followed by Innox, ridden by Robert Thornton and 16-1 shot, Joly Bay in third.

It was a lead that Hedgehunter would hold all the way to the finish line, Ruby Walsh skillfully saw the steed home, some 14 lengths clear of the field. It was another wonderful day for Irish racing, as the Irish trained and ridden horse romped home to rapturous applause from the vibrant Aintree crowd, earning owner Trevor Hemmings £406,000 in prize money in the process

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Grand National Focus - Geraldine Rees

In recent years, Geraldine Rees has been better known as racehorse trainer and, since she relinquished her licence in 2010, as the head of GSR Thoroughbreds, a breeding operation based at Moor Farm, near Preston, Lancashire. However, in her younger days, Geraldine was a highly accomplished amateur rider and has the distinction of being the first woman to complete the Grand National course.

In 1982, at the age of 26, Geraldine rode Cheers into a weary eighth, and last, place behind Grittar, ridden by 48-year-old Dick Saunders. Her original intended mount, Gordon’s Lad, went lame shortly before the race and, when her attempt to buy Cheers – who’d finished twelfth behind Aldaniti in 1981 and was entered for the Grand National again in 1982 – at auction failed, the winning bidder booked her for the ride in any case.

Geraldine wasn’t the first woman to ride in the Grand National. That distinction is held by Charlotte Brew, who in 1977, at the age of 21, rode her own horse, Barony Fort. The 12-year-old had qualified for the race by finishing fourth in the Fox Hunters’ Chase, over one circuit of the National fences, at Aintree the previous year, but was hopelessly tailed off when refusing at the fourth last. Of course, 1977 was the year in which Red Rum won his unprecedented third Grand National, so Charlotte was destined to play second fiddle to the legendary steeplechaser.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Hedgehunter Returns with Ruby Walsh to Claim the 2005 Grand National Crown

Having fallen at the last, while still in contention for the 2004 Martell Grand National, the 9 year old Trevor Hemmings owned Hedgehunter had been installed as the 7-1F for the 2005 running of this famous steeplechase. Also heavily backed were last year’s runner up Clan Royal, trained by Jonjo O’Neill, the Richard Ford trained Forest Gunner and French Grey, Strong Resolve.

Last year’s winner, Amberleigh House was listed as 16-1, 5th favourite.

The going for the rebranded John Smith’s Grand National was good to soft and the 40 strong field set off under leaden Aintree skies. The assembled crowd cheered as the race was officially underway.

Over Becher’s

By the time the field crossed over Becher’s Brook for the first time, there had been just 4 fallers, with last year’s 3rd placed horse, Lord Atterbury, trained by M C Pipe amongst those whose race ended in the first few fences. The early running was being made by 150-1 outsider Glenelly Gale, followed a couple of lengths back by Double Honour with Paddy Brennan in the saddle and Astonville in 3rd.

The Chair

At the mid way point of the race, there were still as many as 20 horses within touch of the leading bunch and the arduous Aintree course had resulted in 8 fallers. The remaining field was still headed by Glenelly Gale, who was starting to feel the pace, causing the horse to fade away shortly after.

Bad Luck

Coming up to Becher’s Brook for the second time, Clan Royal, who had been flanked by two riderless horses for much of the straight was baulked by the pair, leading to a refusal and disappointment for Jockey Tony McCoy.

This allowed favourite Ruby Walsh on Hedgehunter to hit the front, jumping over Foinavon, followed by Innox, ridden by Robert Thornton and 16-1 shot, Joly Bay in third.

It was a lead that Hedgehunter would hold all the way to the finish line, Ruby Walsh skillfully saw the steed home, some 14 lengths clear of the field. It was another wonderful day for Irish racing, as the Irish trained and ridden horse romped home to rapturous applause from the vibrant Aintree crowd, earning owner Trevor Hemmings £406,000 in prize money in the process.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Amberleigh House Returns to Claim First Place at the 2004 Aintree Grand National

Joss Naylor and Clan Royal were the fancied horses prior to the 2004 Martell Cognac Grand National, with both listed as 10-1 chances before the off. An overcast day at Aintree did nothing to dampen the excitement for this blue ribbon steeplechase event and the crowd were full of voice as the runners and riders stood at the tape.

The race started with no problems and the 39 strong field jostled for position over the first few fences, with three outsiders Kelami, Luzcadou and Artic Jack ridden by Dominic Elsworth all falling at the first fence.

Becher’s Brook

Going over Becher’s for the first time, the field was still bunched together, with Irish owned and trained Hedge Hunter leading from compatriot Al Capone in second place. Gunner Welburn, who went close to winning in 2003, was also well placed in behind, in third.

The Chair

Half way round this most challenging of courses, the field had spread out considerably, with the leaders having to contend with a number of riderless horses. The fancied, 9 year old 11-1 shot Hedgehunter, trained by Willie Mullins, led the field by a couple of lengths from Martin Pipe mount, Puntal and Lord Atterbury in 3rd.

Over Foinavon, the field was stretching out, with 3 horses surging clear. They included 10-1 joint favourite Clan Royal, Hedge Hunter and long shot, Lord Atterbury who were putting clear daylight between themselves and the chasing pack that featured the 2003 National winner, Monty’s Pass.

Comeback

Going into the 2nd last, it looked to be between these three, with Amberleigh house trailing some 10 lengths back. However, this was a pivotal moment in the race, as Hedge Hunter Fell and Amberleigh House found a second wind.

Through the elbow, it was apparent that the 13 year old Amberleigh House, ridden by Graham Lee and trained by legend, Ginger McCain, had the beating of the other two. He reigned Clan Royal and Lord Atterbury in to pass them both on the nearside, crossing the line 2 lengths clear, much to the delight of owner A L Dickel, who had in that moment, become £348,000 richer.

The J P McManus owned Clan Royal stayed on for 2nd, with Lord Atterbury coming home in 3rd.

It was another Irish win, as Lee punched the air in front of the jubilant Aintree crowd.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Monty’s Pass Streaks Home Victorious in the 2003 Grand National

Blue skies and sunshine blessed the 2003 Martell Grand National at Aintree and in the lead up to the world famous steeplechase, all the talk was of clear 7-1 favourite Shotgun Willy, ridden by Ruby Walsh. Having already won the National just 3 years earlier, the 9 year old was heavily backed in the 4 mile 4 furlong race, which was limited to 40 runners.

After the off, Tremallt, ridden by Jason Macguire made the early running, leading over Becher’s Brook for the first time, followed closely by the Joe Tizzard on Montifault, Blowing Wind,Torduff Express and Monty’s Pass ridden by Barry Geraghty.

Fallers

By fence 16 of this 30 fence race, 9 of the field had gone by the wayside, including Youllneverwalkalone, ridden by Conor O’Dwyer and Tony McCoy mount, Iris Bleu. Both were fancied and backed into 8-1.

The bookies favourite, Shotgun Willy had not had the best of races, failing to make any headway on the leading pack. The Irish chestnut Gelding, trained by P F Nicholls and owned by Paul Beck faded and pulled up just after jumping Becher’s for the second time.

Heading for Home

The following few fences sorted the men from the boys and going over Canal Turn, the field had become very spread out, with a small leading group had forming that included 16-1 shot, Monty’s Pass, Barry Fenton on Gunner Welburn, Montifault, Amberleigh House and Torduff Express.

Going into the 2nd from home, the leading pack had been reduced to three, with 10 year old Monty’s Pass, Amberleigh House and the Andrew Balding trained Gunner Welburn vying for the lead. This was where the race was won, as Irishman, Barry Geraghty found strode away through the elbow on Monty’s Pass.

Accelerating and pulling away all the time, Monty’s Pass went on to win by an impressive 12 lengths from Supreme Glory who got up well in the final furlongs to finish second, with Amberleigh House in 3rd.

Irish eyes were smiling at Aintree, as another Irish win was confirmed at the world’s grandest steeplechase, earning the winning owner, Mike Futter a cool £348,000.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Cheltenham Festival - Cross Country Chase

The Cross Country Chase- oft referred to with sponsor Glenfarclas name as a prefix- is another longer distance race run during the latter stages of the Cheltenham Festival. It opens its gates for
horses of age five years and more who fight to complete three miles and seven furlongs (6236 m) on the cross country course.

Along this distance, an astounding 32 obstacles are to be cleared, all in the bid to collect the most of a £50,000 purse. The already tough race is made even more demanding by the presence of condition weights used to cull weight advantages.

It is a unique race in that it is the only cross country competition held at the Cheltenham event and all over racing circles at this time of the year. This has caused its popularity to go up among stamina race lovers since it was first introduced in 2005.

Irish trained horses do love this chase as indicated by their 11 wins in the 13 editions running up to 2017. It gets even better for horses of between eight and 10 years who have won ten of the
thirteen races. The other three were 12-year-olds. Garde Champetre and Balthazar King share a record of two wins. The leading trainer is Miss Nina Carberry with three wins, during which she rode leading trainer Enda Bolger (5wins) trained horses.

Cheltenham Festival - National Hunt Challenge Cup

This penultimate race of the opening day events at the annual festival is a grade two competition that brings together horses of age five years and more. These compete to complete a distance of four miles (6400 m) with the winner earning an estimated $59000 of a £100,000 purse.

The race enjoys the record of being the longest distance at the festival as well as ranking among the oldest events since it was first run in 1860. It has been especially consistence, recording the single largest number of repeat competitions.

The gruelling distance is not made any easier by the twenty four fences that competitors have to go over. It calls for outstanding stamina and endurance on the part of the horse and excellent handling by the rider.

The fact that no single horse has been able to win thrice in a race that is over a century and a half old is an indicator of its competitiveness. Jonjo O’ Neill is the leading trainer with six wins to his name.