Monday, 9 July 2018

Ireland Joyous Again as Robbie “Puppy” Power Narrowly Wins the 2007 Grand National

For the second year running, the John Smith’s sponsored Aintree Grand National endured a false start, as outsider Cloudy Bays encroached over the tape on the start line. Though it took some time, the field managed to regroup in time to successfully get started, which was met with a raucous cheer from the Aintree faithful.

There were three big favourites going into this one, with the irish pair Joe’s Edge and Point Barrow backed into 8-1 joint favourites, along with english horse Monkerhostin, ridden by Richard Johnson.

They’re away!

Once the race had begun, the early lead was taken up by last year’s winner, Numbersixvalverde who was returning with Irishman Niall Madden again in the saddle. Cloudy Bays was still perhaps affected for his earlier mistake, as he lost almost 10 lengths before getting going after the field.

Point Barrow’s race was over very early on, as he fell at the first fence along with the Alan King trained Tikram. Going over Becher’s Brook for the first time, the field was still quite tightly packed with only a few fallers. By fence 10, rank outsider Naunton Brook was leading the field by about 5 lengths, with Denis O’regan on Ballycassidy close behind.

Going over the Chair, the longshot was still in front with a 3 to 4 length lead, with Ballycassidy still in attendance. Robbie Power was getting more out of Silver Birch, resulting in the Brian Walsh horse making steady progress towards the front.

Becher’s Brook

The lead changed hands a few times before Becher’s was cleared for the second time, as the mare, Libertine hit the front ahead of Ballycassidy and Slim Pickings, with Silver Birch in 4th.

The field began to stretch from 5 fences out and a number of strays were causing a problem for the remaining riders. With 16 horses still in the race, Slim Pickings headed for home in the lead with Barry Geraghty in the saddle. Having cleared the last fence the better, Silver Birch hit the front and stayed there to win, just edging out McKelvey who staged a spirited comeback.

So it was another Irish triumph in the National, with rider Puppy Power, trainer Gordon Elliott and Owner Brian Walsh taking the plaudits, the title and the £399,140 prize money.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Numbersixvalverde Wins the 2006 Grand National, Earning Niall Madden His First Senior Victory

The 2006 John Smiths Grand National was billed as a clash of the titans, with Tony McCoy going up against Ruby Walsh for the prestigious steeplechase crown, but it was a lesser known jockey by the name of Niall “Slippers” Madden who steered Numbersixvalverde to an impressive 6 length victory ahead of the Irish pair. Bedecked in the green, black and white colours of his owner, Trevor Hemmings, he strode across the line with his fist held in the air in triumph.

The race had not had the most auspicious beginning as Ross Com poked his nose over the tape causing a false start in the process. However, the field regrouped and they were soon on their way, with Andrew Tinkler on Shotgun Willy making the early running with Ballycassidy ridden by Leighton Aspell for company.


Approaching the halfway stage, Puntal had joined the party ridden by former National winning jockey, Barry Geraghty. He and the Peter Bowen trained Ballycassidy surged to a 4 length lead two thirds the way round the Aintree course.

By the 20th fence, only 4 runners had fallen and the much backed joint favourite and reigning champion Hedgehunter joined the leaders along with Irish compatriot Numbersixvalverde. The field became strung out and with just 6 fences to go, it had turned into a three horse race with Niall Madden’s ride seemingly out of it in 4th.

Tight Finish

Could Hedgehunter become the first horse to win back to back Aintree Nationals since Red Rum? Sadly, no. The chance faded away as Numbersixvalverde defied the odds to surge back into contention and strike the front going into the elbow after clearing the last at a pace. He kicked on and stretched out to an eventual 6 length victory.

The winner had outfought, outraced and outrun the field to claim the £399,140 in prize money and add to the already proud record of the Irish in the Aintree prize steeplechase. Bernard Carroll couldn’t wipe the smile of his face as his man had triumphed over the two big favourites ridden by Tony McCoy and Ruby Walsh.

It had been a race worthy of the occasion and one that Niall Madden would never forget.

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, 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.


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.


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.