Sunday 17 March 2019

Leighton Aspell Steers French Horse Pineau de Re to Claim the 2014 Aintree Grand National

The false start curse struck again in this year’s Crabbie Grand National, as the race got underway at the second time of asking with the sheepskin noseband of Battle Group up in the air with the horse refusing to start.

Hazy sunshine broke through the muggy sky as the race lost 3 runners in the first three fences and Sam Waley-Cohen hit the front on Long Run, just a fraction ahead of the closely packed field. Last Time D'Albain was the next to go at Becher’s and pre race joint favourites Teaforthree and Double Seven sat in 6th and 7th respectively.

After several fallers at Valentine’s, a fence that saw the end of Long Run, Mountainous and the Aidan Coleman owned Rainbow Hunter, Across the Bay took it up just ahead of Mr Moonshine with last year’s National winning jockey Ryan Mania in the saddle.


Across the Bay ridden by Henry Brooke still lead jumping over the Chair, narrowly avoiding disaster thanks to an errant riderless horse. The Bay recovered to maintain his advantage over Colbert Station who was now in 2nd place, but the 15th saw the end of Teaforthree’s and Nick Schofield’s National for another year.


Two stray horses were to prove to be Across the Bay’s downfall, as they carried the unfortunate Henry Brooke and his ride well wide, allowing the entire field to pass by. He did rejoin the race, but was never again in contention.

Noel Fehily seized the opportunity this stroke of bad fortune had provided, as he steered Rocky Creek to the front of the pack. Colbert Station remained in second place as the race passed in front of the cheering crowd and the rain began to fall and A P McCoy was well placed on Double Seven, hoping to make a successful return to the race after a few years of disappointment.

Second Jumping of Becher’s

As the field stretched going over Becher’s Brook in worsening weather conditions, Rocky Creek was still holding his position at the head of the race. Pineau de Re was making his first tentative moves towards the front at this point with the horse going well in around 6th place.

Heading For Home

As they turned for home, there were 2 clear leaders, with Rocky Creek vying for first with Pineau de Rey who was really picking up the pace. This was a decisive moment as Leighton Aspell rode strongly over the last, pulling 3 lengths clear and having cleared the elbow, it was evident that Pineau de Rey had the legs to stay the course and he did so by 5 lengths followed by Balthazar King and A P McCoy a close third on Double Seven.

It was a win for Aspell on his 7th Grand National appearance and one that earned his jubilant owners Barry Connell and John Provan a cool £561,300 in prize money.

After the race, the World Horse Welfare stated that they were happy with the modifications that had been made and the effect they had had on equine welfare at this year’s race. Another reason to feel good about racing on this most momentous of days.

Wednesday 6 March 2019

Cheltenham Festival Ryanair Chase Preview

The Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival faced a little criticism when it first came on board, as suggestions were made that it would take something away from the Gold Cup. However, as the race has grown it has developed into a top quality addition to the festival, and a big prize to win in its own right. People now respect this race, and in 2019 we look set to have another fantastic renewal.

The ante-post betting market for the race right now looks a lot different than the one we will see on the day, as horses are declared for other races, either over shorter or longer distances. The current race favourite is Min at a best-price of 5/1 as found by Oddschecker, though he is one of many horses who may look elsewhere, and the two-mile Queen Mother Champion Chase is the one that he may contest instead of this one.

One horse who will be going to the Ryanair is Waiting Patiently, and he will go down to the festival as one of the main hopes from the North of England. He is trained by Ruth Jefferson, who took over from her father Malcolm last year when he sadly passed away. The horse has a very apt name considering his career so far, and despite being an eight year old he has just ten runs under his belt. He has won seven of those though, and looks ready to move into top quality company which this race will give him. His best win so far came in the Ascot Chase last year, when he got the better of Cue Card in what was a very impressive win.

The original plan for the horse was to possibly go to the Gold Cup, but the yard wanted to test out his stamina with a run in the King George. He was fancied that day, but was brought down by another horse early on in the race so the yard learnt nothing. They do not want to risk his stamina, which is why the Ryanair is his intended target.

Just like Min, many of the other fancied runners in this race come from Ireland. Willie Mullins trains Min and if that horse goes for the race, he is unlikely to go on his own, with Un De Sceaux and Footpad other potential runners for the yard from Closutton. Un De Sceaux has run in this race before, winning it in 2017 before finishing second behind Balko Des Flos in 2018.


Elsewhere the Irish could have further representation in the race from Monalee and Road To Respect. While Monalee is still a possibility for the Gold Cup, it seems as though Road To Respect will head to this race instead. He is owned by Michael O’Leary which helps as he owns Ryanair the sponsors, but he also looked as though the Gold Cup trip would be a stretch for him, when he was beaten by Bellshill in the Irish equivalent.

Away from Ireland, two English trained runners that are set to be in the field are Politologue trained by Paul Nicholls and Fox Norton trained by Colin Tizzard. Fox Norton has run over many different distances during his career, but it appears as though two and a half miles is the trip for him. He is a top class horse but lacks the speed and change of gears for two miles, while lacking the stamina to run over three.

Politologue has been seen over two miles for a large part of his career, but the signs are that he stays this kind of trip, and could be considered a dark horse for the race.

The Irish look as though they are going to be strongly represented, although it is unlikely that all of the above mentioned Irish horses will run. Those trained in England should all run in the race, and of those, it is Waiting Patiently that stands out above the crowd. He deserves a change of luck in his career after struggling to get to the track as often as he should have done, and he looks to be the leading prospect for the north at the festival this year.