Horses for Courses
This weekend we have the running of the world’s most famous horse race, The Aintree Grand National and the draw has been made. The 40 horses, 13 were Irish trained, are all in the handicap proper. The Irish runners include the three leading fancies, Willie Mullins’ The Midnight Club, Gordon Elliott’s Backstage, owned by the stable staff, and Martin Lynch’s Oscar Time, who will be ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen, hoping to complete the Gold Cup National double and join a select club of six and become the sixth amateur to win the great race. The going at Aintree has eased following more rain on Tuesday.
Yesterday Willie Mullins ruled out Our Monty and Tony Martin rated Northern Alliance only 50/50. The first reserve Royal Rosa is now guaranteed her place and Skippers Brig should also make it, leaving Adrian Maguire’s Munster National winner Golden Kite as first reserve and likely to get a place, one to watch if he gets in. Katie Walsh had hope to have her first ride in the race on Our Monty, but best friend Nina Carberry does ride Character Building, the pair finished seventh last year, for John Quinn. Trainer Dermot Weld gives his eight-year-old Majestic Concorde the go ahead after schooling on Tuesday and will be ridden big-race amateur rider Robbie McNamara. McNamara won the Paddy Power Chase on the horse at Leopardstown over Christmas.
There are two previous winners in the field, Comply Or Die who won in 2008 and last years winner Don’t Push It with Tony McCoy aboard again. The race is off at 4.15 pm.
In today’s Grade 1 Bowl Chase Denman should prevail over his five rivals where his biggest danger would look to be Punchestowns. Also today Big Buck’s and Grand Crus, first and second in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham, lock horns again in the Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle over 3m ½f. A field of 11 has been declared for the race, including Irish runners Carlito Brigante and Won In The Dark. Khyber Kim, second in the 2010 Champion Hurdle and ninth behind Hurricane Fly this year is also in the race, but Big Bucks to complete another hat trick of wins in the race. The most tried and tested method of finding a winner is without doubt to stick a pin in the field but Duncan McCain’s ten-year-old Ballabriggs could be very good each way value.
Four millimetres of rain fell on Monday night and the ground on the Mildmay and Hurdles courses is now good to soft, good in places and it is good to soft on the National track.
This weekend sees evening racing at Powerstown Park in Clonmel first off at 4.35, today with all national hunt card consisting of 4 hurdle races and 3 chases. Tomorrow sees racing on the poly-surface at Dundalk with an evening start at 6.30 pm.
On Saturday Tramore run opposite the Grand National meeting at Aintree with a card of 4 hurdles, 2 chases and a bumper starting at 2.25, the first leg of a two day meeting. Sunday sees Tramore race again at 2.25 pm with 3 hurdles, 3 chases and a bumper two and in Leopardstown on the level at 2.15 pm, the highlight of which is the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes over 1m 2f for 3-Y-O’s.
Those of you who followed the column last week should have made a nice few euro when the feature at the Curragh, Group 3 Gladness Stakes, was won by the Tommy Stack trained and Wayne Lordan ridden Lolly For Dolly, following up her win of a fortnight ago. Dermot Weld’s inmate Unaccompanied opted for the Alledged Stakes which she duly won with Aidan O’Brien’s St Nicholas Abbey only 3rd. Both of these finished at nice odds of 9/2 and 4/1. Missgiloney from David Kelly’s Ballygar yard ran a nice race to finish 6th in Limerick just failing to make the e/w frame but keep an eye on her, she should win again shortly.
Davy Russell makes a welcome return to race riding at Aintree today when he rides Gordon Elliott’s Carlo Brigante in the first, Launch Pad for Dessie Hughes in the second and Tharawaat in the 5th, also for Elliott, all three are owned by Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud. Davy is down to ride Becauseicouldntsee in the Grand National for Noel Glynn. Jockey Barry Geraghty is also back after suffering a heavy fall at Newbury.
Paddy Brennan’s has ended his association as stable jockey with Nigel Twiston-Davies with the rider’s decision to turn freelance, While surprised, the trainer said there has been no falling out. Brennan made reference to ‘blood being thicker than water’ to the trainer’s son Sam, who naturally is getting a lot of rides, as a big factor in his decision to leave the job last Thursday. The 18-year-old is the champion conditional jockey elect. Brennan keeps the ride on Imperial Commander and will ride for Twiston-Davies when available, in fact he rode Our Columbus for the yard to win at Chepstow on Saturday.
The Irish version of Cheltenham is less than four weeks away and The County Roscommon GAA Supporters Race day will take place this year on the Saturday. The Punchestown PRO Shona Dreaper has given us three pairs of tickets to the races for the day and these will be given away in competitions over the next three weeks. So keep your eyes out for these competitions.
Ladies note that Arnotts are to sponsor the Punchestown Festival Arnotts Best Dressed Lady Competition once again in 2011 and the overall winner will receive a €10,000 fashion voucher for Arnotts as well as a private suite for an evening Punchestown meeting in May with a champagne reception. But remember that each day’s qualifier will receive a €1000 Arnotts fashion voucher.
Point to Point
On Saturday at Kirkstown Champion Derek O’Connor regained his lead in the championship from Jamie Codd recording a treble aboard Ballylinney, Sinonsberg and Boneparte’s Retreat and followed up with a double on It’s The Ice I Like and Strange Talking on Sunday in Ballynoe while last weekend’s leader Jamie Codd could only win a brace at Bree in his home county of Wexford.
O’Connor, the Champion, regains the top spot from the challenger Codd in this season’s leading riders table and now leads by one on 63. Liz Lalor could only finish third to Conna Castle on five time winner Carrigeen Lechuga in Templemore is still on ten winners. Jane Mangan who rode the winner moved into second place on two winners. The East Galway Hunt meeting at Eyrecourt on May 1st has been abandoned and will not be re-scheduled.
The Waterford Hunt are moving to a new location for their meeting on Easter Sunday 24th April on new racecourse at Tramore. It stands on 183 acres site will rate as one of the best courses in the country and a welcome addition to the Point to Point Calendar.
Across the water lady rider Polly Gundy rode a treble at Great Trethew and then announced her retirement. Polly was one of Britain’s top lady riders and rode 303 winners between the flags and 56 under rules during a great career. She has recently taken out a trainers license and felt the time was right to retire from the saddle. Best wishes to Polly in her new career.
Finally congratulations to all in the CBS on the school winning the All Ireland Schools Senior Football final in Mullingar last weekend.