By Alan Coyle
Auroras Encore. The horse that won the Grand National and elevated jockey Ryan Mania and trainer Sue Smith into the pages of Aintree folklore. At odds of 66-1, there probably weren’t too many in the grandstands toasting his victory, but the most significant thing for the sport was the emergence of all horses getting round in one piece.
Thursday’s highlights saw Zarkandar and First Lieutenant get on the score sheet not to mention the 100-1 winner of the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ chase Tartan Snow.
Friday was a more punter friendly day with My Tent Or Yours registering a bloodless success in the Grade 2 novices hurdle. Dynaste made amends for his second at Cheltenham when running out a six-length winner of the John Smith’s Grade 2 Mildmay Novices’ Chase but without doubt the most impressive performance of the day and meeting came in the shape of Sprinter Sacre, who brushed off his rivals with disdain when slamming Cue Card by four and a half lengths, winning eased down towards the line in the Grade 1 John Smith’s Melling Chase.
At Fishers Cross was able to handle the faster going in the John Smith’s Sefton Novices’ Hurdle in one of the later races of that day and confirmed he too is a bright talent to look forward to seeing in action next season.
Saturday was something of a punters’ graveyard with probably the only winner many will have latched on to being Solwhit in the Grade 1 John Smith’s Liverpool Hurdle.
Going forward Sprinter Sacre is expected to be at Punchestown provided the ground doesn’t come up heavy along with Sir Des Champs, Long Run, First Lieutenant, Solwhit, Quevega, Hurricane Fly and Rock on Ruby among the other highlights of the meeting to enjoy. The Punchestown Festival is just over a week away with the season pretty much culminating in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown Park a week on Saturday.
Much to ponder for National Hunt fans over the summer months and the flat season to enjoy too. In what will hopefully bring some bright, warm summer evenings in the coming months, get along to your local racecourse and have a pint or tipple of your usual, although beware the summer rainstorms. I nearly lost a good shirt one evening at Hamilton.
In the upcoming weeks we will be looking at upcoming race meetings including how to bet on the Irish Derby.