Three weeks after a great Cheltenham Festival had been marred by horse deaths and serious jockey injuries, the Aintree Festival was well anticipated in the Racing world.
But the home of the Grand National was also greeted with trepidation due to the mainstream media coverage of this event and the welfare concerns that the Aintree fences has previously caused.
This year, with last year’s changes to the track still in place, 332 star racehorses took to the Merseyside track across the 3 Festival days.
And 332 of them returned to the paddock fit and healthy including all 40 runners of the Grand National spectacle, in a race that was praised by the World Horse Welfare authority as “More evidence that responsible riding from most jockeys and new fences are improving safety (of horses)."
With the Grand National taken by Pineau De Re, and trainer Dr Richard Newland, who stopped practising in his GP surgery earlier this year, the big feel-good story was for jockey Leighton Aspell who returned 5 years ago from a 2 year retirement, came back to take his first Grand National triumph aboard the 25/1 shot.
Balthazar King (14/1) took second from AP McCoy’s well-backed Double Seven (10/1 jf) with Alvarado (33/1) and Rocky Creek (16/1) filling the other place spots.
Balthazar King was advised in this very column 3 weeks ago after his Cheltenham Festival success and hopefully other readers had the 33/1 shot!
Other tips for the Grand National were Tidal Bay (more on him later), Shakalakaboomboom (pulled up), Hawkes Point (Finished 18th) and The Rainbow Hunter (unseated rider, Fence 9).
Other big stories from the week included the victory of Holywell who looks a real contender for next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup after a comfortable victory under McCoy, giving Jonjo O’Neill a second big hope for that race after the Cheltenham victory for Taquin de Seuil.
The New One took victory as 4/9 favourite in the Aintree Hurdle but was made to work hard for the victory by Rock on Ruby who was returned to jumping hurdles after an average season over fences.
It was a race that was half a mile longer than the Champion Hurdle, and as the last 100-200m came, the exertions of Cheltenham seemed to take it’s toll as the Twiston-Davies horse won by a head.
Silviniaco Conti took victory for Paul Nicholls in the Gold Cup after his defeat at Cheltenham defeating Dynaste, despite again taking a wander across the track towards the end of the race, but still claimed the honours by 1 ½ lengths.
With strong cards at Newbury as well as at Scottish Grand National Day at Ayr, there is lots of racing available at the weekend to keep you interested until Punchestown Festival.
My Tent Or Yours should be the banker of the weekend at Ayr. The Champion Hurdle 2nd takes on the Scottish Champion Hurdle, and despite conceding a stone of weight, the horse will enjoy the drying ground and should take victory.
After a mildly successful Aintree with 5 winners, 4 places and the ante-post 33/1 each-way place for Balthazar King, here are my tips for this weekend.
FIVE TIPS FOR SATURDAY
Newbury 1.50 – Mutashaded
Newbury 2.20 – Al Thakira
Thirsk 3.25 Englishman
Newbury 3.30 Brownsea Brink
Crystal Palace tip of the weekend – Newbury 4.05 – Eagle Top
The Gosden/Buick combination along with the horse being a full brother to The Lark points towards a potential star.
Scottish National tip: Tidal Bay and Godsmejudge
Tidal Bay was a favourite for last weeks Grand National but unseated Sam Twiston-Davies through no fault of his own, and was entered in this race and should stand a good chance despite top weight. Godsmejudge was last years victor and despite a poor year, carries 10lb less into this race and on his best form, that has to put him in with a chance.
There will be tips for Cheltenham on Wednesday and Thursday (as I will be in attendance) as well as for the Inaugural All-Weather Championship at Lingfield on Good Friday, as the National Hunt season ends and the Flat season begins to kick into gear in the run-up to the Guineas and the Derby festivals.