Another superb meeting at Aintree kicked off midweek & the Grand National was in sight, but there was some first class grudges to clear up before that. Silviniaco Conti got back to winning ways after gold Cup Defeat, comfortably seeing off favourite, Dynaste & took home the Betfred Bowl for Paul Nicholls. The New One was ready to step up once again after being badly hampered in the Champion Hurdle by Our Conor. However, the mission was not as easy as the odds on price tag suggested. Pace setter, Irish Saint contested the lead with Rock On Ruby for the majority of the race, whilst The New One patiently loomed, before rising to the challenge. Rock on Ruby & Irish Saint presented a serious challenge & took the race to a 3 way photo finish. The photo was judged in favour of The New One & justice was done for the Twiston-Davies yard.
On Friday Nicky Henderson was firing on all cylinders, landing a treble with Barry Geraghty on Josses Hill (the only winning favourite on the day), Ma Filleule & Beat That. Holywell followed up his Cheltenham success with another victory, denying O'faolains Boy from doing the same. Davie Russell posed the biggest threat on Don Cossack who fell at Cheltenham last month. A grinding ride from A P saw Holywell kick on after two from home to secure the win. Four in a row for Jonjo O'Neill's Holywell.
Grand National day was finally upon us & 14/1 Coral Cup winner Whisper, proved his worth again in The Liverpool Hurdle. Henderson's six year old ran well, seeing off Rebecca Curtis' At fishers Cross & Paul Nicholls' Zarkander, who hasn't shaped up well since beating the likes of Oscar Whiskey & The New One last year at Aintree. Teaforthree had been nestled on the top spot since the betting opened prior to the National, having been targeted for the meeting for some time. Double Seven joined the top spot at 10/1 before the off. Not before the usual, false starts & boo's. They were off, all but Battle Group, who refused to race. Teaforthree raced readily, prominent from the start, but never made it round unseating Nick Scholfield at the chair. McCoy on Double Seven managed to grasp 3rd place behind the mighty, Balthazar King who won the cross country chase at Cheltenham last month. Not one was good enough to take on Leighton Aspell on Pineau De Re who led coming over the final fence & had kicked clear before the elbow to pass the line unchallenged. All pitfalls avoided to claim glory & a cool half million for his troubles. Aspell, who retired in 2007 only to come back to his beloved sport in 2009 is experiencing his most successful season ever & topping it off with the national is really something special. Trainer, Dr Richard Newland, who describes his efforts in training as "a hobby" now sets his sights to next year where the 11 year old will attempt to defend his title, "We'd like to bring him back & have another go at the National, so perhaps we'll go down the hurdling route & maybe do a similar thing to this year. He deserves a nice summer break now". I am pleased to say all 40 horses & jockeys are reported to be home safe & in one piece, bar the odd bump & scratch.