12.04.12 - THE GRAND NATIONAL
Third to fifth race at Aintree
FOLLOW OLIVER’S PLAN
As a 50/1 shot, Follow The Plan surprised most racegoers when he went two better than his third place in last year’s Betfred Bowl. But his trainer Oliver McKiernan had been hopeful of another good run, at least, in today’s Grade One contest. “The way he’d been working at home there was no reason to believe he’d not have a bit of a shout.
“The drying ground helped him a lot, for he’s not a horse to run well on soft ground. And the way the race panned out helped too, they went a good pace and he was able always to have something to aim at.”
Follow The Plan was the first winner in Britain for McKiernan, who has a small string of a dozen, including point-to-pointers, at Rathcoole, Co Dublin. The trainer also has a building business, but said ruefully “You wouldn’t want to be relying on building in Ireland at the moment!”
The Betfred Bowl was Follow The Plan’s third Grade One victory, after a novice contest at Leopardstown four years ago and last year’s Guinness Gold Cup at the Punchestown Festival, which will be his next target. “It’s a local meeting,” said McKiernan, “so I guess we’ll go there and we are based not far from the course.”
Follow The Plan was ridden by Tom Doyle. “I was in front maybe sooner than I wanted,” he said, “but he was travelling so well I thought I’d better let him drive on. He was a bit sticky at the first but after that, no problems, and I could hardly believe how easy he was finding it. But we know that the sun on his back and better ground suits him.”
Follow The Plan was the first horse to arrive at Aintree this year.
Third race - Betfred Bowl Chase
BURTON PORT FOLLOWS PLAN HOME
Despite having to work hard for it, Burton Port stayed on to take second behind 50/1 winner Follow The Plan.
Trainer Nicky Henderson said: “Burton Port has had a great year but it’s just a shame he hasn’t won a race. He was second to Long Run, fourth in the Gold Cup and now second again.
“We schooled him over an Aintree fence but he’s a little horse and Barry [Geraghty] says he rides a little horse too. You can get little horses who ride with size and scope. He was off the bridle all the way and he probably wants a stiffer track.”
Burton Port’s owner Trevor Hemmings added: “That was a super run. You can’t knock that. He gave it everything and has had a pretty hard race. I’m really pleased.”
Henderson also saddled the favourite, Riverside Theatre, who was struggling from early in the race and pulled up by Barry Geraghty before the 13th.
Henderson said: “I think he’s gone backwards a bit. I know he won the Ryanair but that wasn’t as good as [his win at] Ascot. I think next year it will be King George, Cheltenham and bed. Keep him fresh.”
REMARKABLE IMPROVER HUNT BALL KEEPS DREAM ALIVE
Hunt Ball, the season’s most improved chaser and winner last month of the Byrne Group Plate at Cheltenham, made the progression to Grade One company today.
He had to settle for third, beaten a neck by runner-up Burton Port, but jumped superbly and his connections were pleased he seemed to stay the trip ahead of a campaign next season that will be geared around the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Jockey Nick Scholfield said: “I can’t wait until next season - Cheltenham would suit him even better because he’s so well balanced, while trainer Keiran Burke said: “That was brilliant and I can’t complain. He was spot on for today, but he’s still a young horse and will improve again.
“He’ll have a summer out at grass and he’s still only seven - I’m sure he’ll be a better horse next season. We’ll set out a plan for next season but the dream is still alive.
“He’s had a lot of races, but they were easy at the start of the season. We had to come for this today and have not lost anything in defeat. He got the trip no problem.
“He jumped better today than at Cheltenham where the ground was perhaps a little bit dead - the ground’s definitely a key to him because he was beaten on soft at Plumpton earlier this season when I should never have run him.
“I trained ten horses at the start of this season and I’ve still got ten, so I’m looking for some more orders.”
Owner Anthony Knott said: “I’ve no excuses he was just beaten on the day. It was a Grade One race today and he’s done us proud - I thought he was going to do it at one point, but he’ll be back as a stronger horse.”
JOHN SMITH’S GRAND NATIONAL MEETING, AINTREE
RACENEWS RACECOURSE SERVICE
LIVERPOOL DAY, THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2012
Fourth race - John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase
CLOUDY LANE WINS HUNTERS’ NATIONAL
The McCain family’s wonderful Aintree record was further embellished today when Cloudy Lane won the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase.
Rider Richard Harding, wearing the colours of Trevor Hemmings, drove the 12-year-old home by two and three-quarter lengths from Roulez Cool, while Herons Well was two and a quarter lengths back in third.
Winning trainer Donald McCain said: “That was marvellous. He was the first horse I had for Trevor Hemmings having taken him over from Dad [Ginger] and he’s won us a Kim Muir, Grimthorpe, Tommy Whittle, Peter Marsh, Red Square Final - it’s been marvellous. Everything we wanted him to do he’s done.
“He missed last season and we didn’t know what to do with him, but then we decided on the hunter chase route and he’s won this.
“What do you do with an old horse? He’s like a four-year-old at home although I wasn’t happy with him at the beginning of the week when his blood was wrong and my head girl has done a wonderful job with him. She sorted him out and it’s great to see the old horse back.
“He didn’t get the run of the race at Cheltenham [when sixth in the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase] and we made sure we got him out and racing today, and when he got there they weren’t going mad up front and he enjoyed himself. They started racing down the back a bit but Richard bided his time and the horse’s ears were pricked in the home straight.
“I wouldn’t think he’ll run again this season, but he may well be back next year. Aintree is special to us and to have a winner here is wonderful, especially for Trevor Hemmings who has been so supportive of us.”
Harding said: “I gave him a breather turning in, and he idled in front, but he jumped for fun and really loved it. I’ve been around here a few times and been beaten each time, so it’s wonderful to win the race.”
More fourth race quotes
John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase
Trevor Hemmings, the owner of the winner Cloudy Lane in the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase, said: “It’s marvellous to win, especially over the big fences. As small as Cloudy Lane is, he jumps those fences superbly.
“Someone has to take over from Ginger, so I am helping out with the young son. If he needs a telling off, he rings me now!”
Donald McCain added: “Aintree is special to us as a family, so to have a winner here is wonderful.
“Mr Hemmings has supported me since my first season and it’s magic to repay people like him. Cloudy Lane was my first horse for him.
“To see Ginger looking down on me as well, it’s a bit special.”
JOCKEY BANS FOLLOWING THE JOHN SMITH’S FOX HUNTERS’
Richard Harding, successful on Cloudy Lane in the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase, received a four-day ban for using his whip above the permitted level.
He actually used it 12 times but the stewards discounted two uses before the last fence but counted the 10 after the last. This is two over the permitted level.
Three other jockeys in the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase - Gina Andrews, Stephen Magee and Sam Waley-Cohen - were banned for one day for lining up at the start before being given direction to do so.
The time for the race was 5m 36.20s.
FOURTH RACE - JOHN SMITH’S FOX HUNTERS’ CHASE - RUNNER-UP QUOTES
SAM’S COOL WITH SECOND
Sam Waley-Cohen added to his excellent record over the Grand National fences with his runner-up spot on Roulez Cool in the John Smith’s Fox Hunters Chase.
Waley-Cohen has won this race twice before, captured a Topham Chase and finished second on Oscar Time in last year’s John Smith’s Grand National.
“If you have the right horse,” he said, “this course is a lot of fun. If not, it can be a horror show. But Roulez Cool gave me a great spin today.
“It did take him a while to get going; he didn’t really help me at the first few and I had to be quite positive with him. But once he got into his rhythm, he was fine.
“He does stay well, but he’s only had a couple of runs this season and he just ran out of petrol on the run-in.”
Home-bred Roulez Cool is trained by Waley-Cohen’s father Robert at the family yard near Banbury in Oxfordshire. “Donald McCain and Trevor Hemmings in front of us again!” said Waley-Cohen snr, referring to the victory of Ballabriggs in last year’s John Smith’s Grand National.
“I actually thought he was going to finish third, but he rallied.
“This is not quite in the same league as Long Run and the Cheltenham Gold Cup but it is still great fun and gives us all huge pleasure, especially with a horse we bred ourselves.”
Fourth race - The John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase - placed quotes
HERONS WELL GIVES HIS YOUNG RIDER A THRILL
Josh Halley has forged a good partnership with his father’s Herons Well, winning a hunter chase at Fontwell last year and running at both Cheltenham and Aintree in each of the last two seasons. By far their most thrilling result to date was today’s third place finish in the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase.
The young rider, whose father John is Coolmore’s vet, said: “That was terrific. He got a bit outpaced down the back and it didn’t really suit his jumping. He’s getting older but when he started passing horses he really picked up.
“Jumping the last I didn’t think I could catch them but the more horses he passed the better he got. I’m delighted with him.”
JOCKEYS BEING TREATED
Oliver Greenall, who rode Sheriff Hutton, a faller at Becher’s Brook, has been taken to Fazakerley Hospital with a suspected broken ankle.
Nick Sutton, whose mount Offshore Account unseated him at the ninth fence, has suspected concussion.
JOHN SMITH’S GRAND NATIONAL MEETING, AINTREE
RACENEWS RACECOURSE SERVICE
LIVERPOOL DAY, THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2012
Fifth race - The matalan.co.uk Red Rum Handicap Chase
SOL SHINES FOR NICHOLLS AND AXOM
Five-year-old Edgardo Sol streaked to a 14-length victory on his return to fences at Aintree, having won over course and distance back in October. His victory brought up a double on the day for champion trainer Paul Nicholls, who is desperately trying to hold off Nicky Henderson to retain his title this season.
Nicholls said: “It’s amazing to think that he got beaten off a mark of 117 over fences at Newton Abbot in the autumn - he is a massively improved horse. He won here, we took him back over hurdles and he was a bit unlucky in the County Hurdle.
“I entered him in four races here and I didn’t know what to run him in. The novice races looked a bit hot and he was due to have 11st 12lb in one of the hurdle races, so this looked the right contest for him.
“I didn’t have any worries about returning to fences with him - he is a great jumper and a real improver. If he is all right after this, he will go to Ayr next Saturday for the Scottish Champion Hurdle, when he can run off his old hurdle mark. The plan was always to run here and then head to Ayr.”
The delighted trainer added: “He astounded me with how well he won there and I know that it is not going to do his handicap a lot of good over fences. Life will be an awful lot harder for him next year but he now up to around 150 so we will have to go down a different route. He’s owned by a syndicate and they have had such amazing fun with him.”
Winning jockey Ruby Walsh said: “He is an improved horse and his run in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham was a great run.
“He is one of those horses that you would love to own. Every run has been a better run and he is improving the whole time. He jumped super today, he handles good ground and he will probably get a bit further.”
FIFTH RACE - The matalan.co.uk RED RUM CHASE - RUNNER-UP QUOTES
ONE MORE FOR ASTRACAD
Astracad, who bounced back from a seventh place at Cheltenham to finish clear second-best behind handicap snip Edgardo Sol in the matalan.co.uk Red Rum Chase, may seek compensation before the end of the season. “He’s in good form and he’ll have one more try as a novice this season if we can find him a race,” said trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies. “He’s a progressive young horse and a lovely prospect for next season. Today the ground would have been fast enough for him, especially over two miles.”
Rider Sam Twiston-Davies, the trainer’s son, agreed with the latter sentiment. “When the ground is like this, two and a half is what he wants. But they did kick on from the start, which suited us, and he kept going very well. No-one was going to catch the winner and it was a really good effort from mine
FIRST RUN DELIGHTS DE BROMHEAD
Henry de Bromhead, trainer of Echo Bob who came home in third place in the matalan.co.uk Red Rum Handicap Chase, was thrilled with the brave run of his first runner at Aintree.
“ I’m delighted with our first runner here and we’ve got in to the winner’s enclosure, how bad can that be. A brave effort - he’s a star and he’s jumped brilliant,” said de Bromhead as his charge was led in.
“We thought this kind of track, a tight two miles, would suit him. He is only starting this term, he won on his only other start this year. He’s more of a good ground horse so we will rock on with him now.”
John Lenahan, one of the Munster Alliance Syndicate, said: “ Henry bought him at the Goffs Landrover sale and we’ve had him ever since, he’s been second 12 times so he’s really consistent and we are thrilled with today.”