Let the fairytale begin

THE Aintree Grand National reminds me of JFK or Elvis. People remember where they were when they heard that the American president had been shot dead in Dallas in 1963. It’s the same with the news that The King had passed away 14 years later.

The National has so many memories for me and no matter what winner you’d mention, I could say, “I remember that” and where I was when I was looking at it.

I can remember L’Escargot winning and after that you had the Red Rum years which were amazing. I actually remember the Foinavon race, when all the horses fell and he came from way back to win.

It always throws up something, a story of some kind such as the void race after the start was messed up.

And invariably, there’s a fairytale in it, like when Bob Champion won it as a jockey having recovered from cancer, on Aldaniti, who had had so many injuries. It’s a race of memories and will always have a special place.

With the drying that’s been there the last couple of days it looks like being perfect racing ground for today’s renewal. It’s a very competitive race and I think Dessie Hughes has a good chance with his two, Vic Venturi and Black Appalachi.

Last year’s winner, Mon Mome, must have a good chance as well. He ran a hell of a race in the Gold Cup, coming from a long way back to snatch third.

That wouldn’t have been his target for the year though and the race would probably have brought him on nicely for this. He’s a proven jumper and he likes it around Aintree.

To win a National you need a one that jumps well and stays. Nowadays, they’ve got to have a bit of class as well. You have to be able to win a three mile handicap to win a National now. But you need that bit of luck as well.

I’ve never had a runner in the race but you keep hoping. It’s like Dessie said during the week. He’d been waiting 30 years to have one good enough to go in it and now he has two.

We’ve seen a familiar trend in Aintree so far in that it’s a graveyard for Cheltenham winners. On Thursday, the Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander never jumped or travelled and was beaten when he unseated Paddy Brennan.

Sanctuaire and Baby Run were others who failed to follow up, while in the first race yesterday, Menorah ran out of steam in much the way Sanctuaire had done. He was on fire in Cheltenham, beating Dunguib. He looked to be going well and was a length up jumping the last but was battled out of it by General Miller.

It was another winner for my friend Nicky Henderson, with whom I’d stayed at Seven Barrows for Cheltenham. Barry Geraghty, who has ridden so many winners for me, was in the saddle.

There’s only three weeks between the two meetings and horses are primed to be at their peak for Cheltenham. In a way, you can be fooled by the bit of warm weather because the horses’ coats look good and you think they’re well in themselves. But Cheltenham just takes so much out of them. General Miller fell at the first there so it was the same as if he’d had no run.

Looking back on the week, Fairyhouse went pear-shaped for me with the ground so soft and I hadn’t as many runners as I would have liked. Roberto Goldback ran a great race in the Gold Cup but took a terrible fall at the last when second.

The one advantage with the ground being so heavy is that it wouldn’t have hurt as much as if it was good. Thankfully he’s fine. Your heart is in your mouth when they get a fall like that, even if it’s someone else’s. Everyone is pleased when they get back up.

He’s entered for the two mile race in Punchestown but we’ll have to see. We’ll probably give him a jump this week and see how that goes.

It’s a pity that the ground was so bad because it spoiled the racing. The horses were finishing very tired, even though they were going very slow. But you can’t do anything about the Irish weather.

We did have a winner in Dundalk last week with the two-year-old, Moment of Weakness. We were thrilled as the draw wasn’t good and it was great for the work my staff have put in. The horse came out of the stalls well and knew what it was about. A winners-of-one in Dundalk again at the beginning of May will probably be next.

Jumbajukiba runs at the Curragh tomorrow in the Gladness Stakes, which he won two years ago and he’s in great form. Unfortunately we don’t have Fran Berry as he’s riding for John Oxx but Willie Supple, who rode work on him during the week and was pleased, is a good replacement.

Princess Marlan runs in Limerick tomorrow and has a good chance hopefully. She won well last time despite being nearly brought down at the first but again, the ground might have an impact. Limerick’s usually soft but with the drying that’s there now it might be tacky.

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