‘For a moment I thought this was going to be it’

 

Nicky Henderson expressed his disappointment after coming close to breaking his 44-year Grand National drought with Mister Coffey, who led for much of the race before eventually finishing eighth.

“I have to say for a moment I thought this was going to be it, which makes it all the harder really, but there you go,” said Henderson. “We know what this game is all about and we’ll have to come back and do it again next year. You can’t do much better than that. He deserved to finish in the first four for what he had done. He jumped from fence to fence and, like Nico said, you did sort of think you were going to get there, but not quite.”

Nico de Boinville, who rode Mister Coffey, had mixed emotions about the performance. “He gave me a fantastic spin and I’m absolutely delighted,” he said. “We can be really proud of him and he’s a true National type. Of course, you start to think when you’re crossing the road like that, but hey-ho it wasn’t to be.”

Vanillier, ridden by Sean Flanagan, finished second, two and a quarter lengths behind the winner, Corach Rambler. Flanagan commented on the race, saying, “I jumped a little slow early and I probably got further back than I wanted to be. He’s a really strong stayer and probably didn’t go forward early enough. But he stayed all the way to the line and jumped really well. I was very happy with him.”

Noble Yeats, defending champion and carrying a 19lb higher mark, ran a gallant race to finish in fourth place, just behind Gaillard Du Mesnil, trained by Willie Mullins. Owner Robert Waley-Cohen had no complaints about Noble Yeats’ performance, stating, “He was carrying an enormous amount of weight and I have absolutely no complaints about how he ran. I thought he finished off really strong, but he had 19lb more than last year and second topweight.”

 

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“I got a fall last week and banged my shoulder which was far from ideal. I was worried all week as I thought this horse could do it today and I’m just thankful I made it back in time as it was the thrill of my life to have ridden him,” said Fox, who rode Corach Rambler to victory in the Grand National.

“My physio Jenny Drysdale has done a great job working on the shoulder all week and it is thanks to her I was back and ready to go today. I got the all-clear to ride this morning really – I had to do some press-ups to make sure I was fit and I was very lucky to have passed the doctor in time,” Fox added.

“It is thanks to Lucinda and Scu for having the faith in me to put me up having not ridden all week. I feel very lucky to be working for such great people.”

Fox has partnered Corach Rambler on all 13 starts and has now ridden the last two British-trained winners of the Aintree showpiece, having steered One For Arthur to victory in the iconic race in 2017.

Russell, the trainer of Corach Rambler, said: “Derek was very close to not making the ride. I had a very surreal conversation with him at the start of the week about what did he want to do. It was hard for him to sit out with Ahoy Senor but he made the right decision, he didn’t want to hurt himself before the National. I’m so pleased he was back, he knows Corach so well and he’s just a fabulous jockey.”

 

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“Hill Sixteen got absolutely hyper and we washed him off. They haven’t a bloody clue what they’re doing. He just hasn’t taken off at the first fence; he’s got so bloody hyper because of the carry on,” said trainer Sandy Thomson, blaming the delay caused by animal rights protesters for the fatal injury suffered by his horse at the Randox Grand National.

“Dickon White, north west regional director for the Jockey Club said: ‘Hill Sixteen was immediately attended by expert veterinary professionals during the Grand National, but sadly sustained a fatal injury. Our heartfelt condolences are with his connections.'”

Julie Harrington, chief executive of the BHA, expressed condolences for the horses that suffered fatal injuries during the event and highlighted the efforts of British racing to improve safety standards. She also condemned the actions of the protesters disrupting the race, stating, “We respect the right of anyone to hold views about our sport, but we robustly condemn the reckless and potentially harmful actions of a handful of people in disrupting the race at a time when horses were in the parade ring.”

“The Grand National is and always will be an iconic sporting event and the actions of a small number of people today will do nothing to diminish its huge and enduring international appeal,” added Harrington.

 

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“The people were defending their race. It showcases their city to however many hundreds of million people around the world and they don’t want that spoiled,” said proud Liverpudlian Mick Quinn, former professional footballer turned trainer, praising the response of racegoers at Aintree who helped stop protestors from disrupting the Grand National.

“There was a time the race was on its knees with regards to a sponsor and it looked like petering out. It’s been rejuvenated and revamped and is still the most exciting race in the world,” Quinn continued. “As a spectacle, it takes your breath away and the Liverpool people are very proud of it. The meeting is massive in the calendar – for the people in the city it’s their Royal Ascot.”

Quinn, who was based in Newmarket but stopped training in 2021, recalled being captivated by the exploits of three-time National hero Red Rum in the 1970s. “I was lucky being brought up in the 1970s with that great Liverpool team and Red Rum. I trained on the Flat, but he’s my equine hero and that’s why I’m still so passionate about the race. It was great to grow up when he was in his pomp and peak, and the race is a firm part of my upbringing and had an influence on me getting involved in the sport.”

Despite the risks inherent in any sport, Quinn expressed pride in the race and its history, noting the efforts made to modify the race and fences to make it as safe as possible. “We don’t want any fatalities and I’m still proud of the race, as are many others in Liverpool,” he said.

 

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Jimmy Fyffe, owner of Hill Sixteen, has defended the sport of horse racing and its record on horse welfare, despite the tragic loss of his star horse at Aintree on Saturday in the Randox Grand National. Hill Sixteen, a ten-year-old horse trained by Sandy Thomson, fell for the first time in his 27-race career at the first fence in the National, which had been delayed by animal rights protesters.

Fyffe, who co-owned Hill Sixteen with Scott Townshend, expressed his support for the care that racehorses receive and stated that his horse’s death would not deter him from the sport. He emphasized that horses in racing are well looked after by trainers and compared the risks to those that horses face in a field.

“You can lose a horse in the field who is running about,” Fyffe said. “The horses get looked after so well by all of the trainers. I’ve been in all the stables where I’ve got horses and they’re looked after like kings, they really are. Sadly it [losing a horse] happened for me and Scott, but I love the game and invest a lot of money in it. The horses have a great life and love running, so I’ve got no qualms with staying in this game.”

Thomson, the trainer of Hill Sixteen, blamed the incident on the delayed start of the race due to animal rights protesters who had entered the course and attempted to secure themselves to fences and railings. He believed that the prolonged wait caused Hill Sixteen to become “hyper” and that it may have played a part in the fatal injury.

Fyffe agreed with Thomson’s assessment, stating, “It didn’t help with the horses walking about for a lengthy amount of time and then going back to the stables and coming back again. That wasn’t good for the horses. I was absolutely gutted to lose Hill Sixteen, especially for the stable staff, Sandy and all his team. It was heartbreaking.”

Hill Sixteen’s loss was not the only setback Fyffe and Townshend experienced at Aintree. On Friday, their horse Cooper’s Cross, trained by Stuart Coltherd, fell four fences from the finish in the Topham, after being hampered while traveling well.

Fyffe, who is also a director and sponsor of the Scottish Premiership football team Dundee United, had a mixed experience at Aintree, as less than an hour after his National heartbreak, he won the concluding Grade 2 bumper with the Nicky Richards-trained horse Florida Dreams. Fyffe expressed his excitement and happiness about the win, stating, “He’s very exciting, and it was good getting a win on home soil first [at Musselburgh], and then we wanted to keep him for this race. I love Aintree, sadly I lost a horse in the National, which is the ups and downs of the sport. I love getting a lot of my horses here, so to win was brilliant.”

Despite the tragic loss of Hill Sixteen, Fyffe’s resolve to continue his involvement in horse racing remains strong. He is appreciative of the care that racehorses receive from trainers and believes that the horses lead a good life and enjoy running. While acknowledging the risks involved, he remains committed to the sport and looks forward to future successes with his horses.

 

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Merseyside Police have reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring safety and security at the upcoming Grand National day at Aintree, following reports of potential protests by activists. According to the Mail on Sunday, over 100 activists are planning to storm security fences at the racecourse and form a human barricade across the National course. It was reported that the ringleaders of the planned protest had visited the racecourse twice to identify potential security weaknesses.

Merseyside Police stated that they have a robust policing plan in place for the event, in collaboration with partners including The Jockey Club. They respect the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression, but will not tolerate any public order or criminal offences, which will be dealt with firmly.

A spokesperson for Merseyside Police said: “Merseyside Police has a robust policing plan in place for Aintree, as it does for any major public event, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved.

“We have been working with our partners, including The Jockey Club, for a number of months in the build up to this year’s festival to ensure that any necessary plans and processes are in place to deal with any incidents that may arise and to prevent any significant or ongoing disruption to racegoers and local residents and businesses.

“We respect the right to peaceful protest and expression of views, but public order or criminal offences will not be tolerated and will be dealt with robustly.”

There have been previous incidents of protests at racing events, including six activists who ran onto the track at Epsom before the Derby in 2022, and four climate-change protesters who chained themselves to the rail at Royal Ascot in 2021.

In 1993, the National was declared void after protestors entered the track near the first fence, leading to delays and two false starts before the race was finally run. In 1997, the race was postponed by two days due to a bomb threat, but Lord Gyllene won the rescheduled contest.

 

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“We’ve just run out of time”: Clan Des Obeaux will not run this season, but there is still an Aintree option for the Bravemansgame.

Clan Des Obeaux has been ruled out for the rest of the season by Paul Nicholls, but Britain’s champion trainer has said that Gold Cup second Bravemansgame could run at either Punchestown or Aintree.

Although Nicholls has a potential strong replacement for Clan Des Obeaux in Bravemansgame, the horse that has won the previous two Bowls at Aintree will not be ready in time to compete for a third victory in the Grade 1 next month.

The King George winner was brave in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, where he finished seven lengths behind Galopin Des Champs, who jumped the last in tandem with the winner.

Nicholls will not let the presence of Bravemansgame’s Cheltenham conqueror influence his decision if Punchestown is deemed a better fit for him, despite his desire to avoid a rematch with Galopin Des Champs this spring.

“Clan Des Obeaux won’t make it to Aintree; we’ve just run out of time,” said Nicholls. “He’s had a few warning lights flashing, so we’re going to leave him until next season, and now everyone has jumped on the bandwagon of ‘Bravemansgame is going to run now’. Bravemansgame has an option of that or Punchestown, either option is open to us.

“The most important thing is to make sure we’re happy with him wherever he runs, if we do run him again this season. If we could avoid Galopin Des Champs, anyone would wisely do that, especially on his home turf. You’d want to avoid getting into another scrap with him until next March, so that’ll come into our thinking, but we’ll make the best decision for our horse if we’re happy with him.”

Nicholls has won the Aintree Bowl a record six times with See More Business, What A Friend, Silviniaco Conti (two times), and Clan Des Obeaux (two times).

“Age has caught up a little with him and he’s had this very minor injury,” he added. “His suspensory boots have troubled us. We thought he’d get there and we were very happy with him, but by the end of the week we realised we weren’t going to make it. It’s frustrating as it’s a minor injury, but it doesn’t matter the extent, if we have a problem we have to be careful.”

Nicholls will delay any decisions regarding his 11-year-old horse until he has spoken with his owners and has not ruled out another bid for the elusive treble in the Bowl next year. Clan Des Obeaux has not competed since finishing second to Allaho in the Punchestown Gold Cup last season, which is the race that Bravemansgame may be targeting.

 

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‘It’s going to be a mammoth task’ – Emmet Mullins realistic as Noble Yeats bids to claim back-to-back Nationals.

Emmet Mullins, the trainer, believes Noble Yeats faces a “mammoth task” in his attempt to win the Grand National twice. However, he reported that the eight-year-old horse is in excellent form after finishing fourth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The 167-rated chaser, a general 8-1 shot to repeat last year’s success, will need to carry 11st 11lb to victory to follow in the footsteps of Tiger Roll and Red Rum and win consecutive Grand Nationals.

Noble Yeats became the first seven-year-old to win the Aintree showpiece since 1940 when scoring under Sam Waley-Cohen in April. The surprise 50-1 winner of the race last year while still a novice was Noble Yeats.

After being outpaced for much of the race, Noble Yeats ran well but was beaten 15 lengths by Galopin Des Champs in the Gold Cup. Mullins stated: He has emerged from the Gold Cup well overall. He appears great. I would have said that I needed to work him this week if he hadn’t run in the Gold Cup, so the National is set for now.

“It’s going to be a mammoth task to carry that weight, but we know he likes the course and stays the trip so that’s two big ticks to have.

“He ran a good race at Cheltenham, he galloped all the way to the line and the National trip looks to be definitely in his favour.”

Corbetts Cross, Mullins’ promising novice hurdler, may have finished the season. The JP McManus-possessed six-year-old has won multiple times in a useful season including a Grade 2 at Naas, and was all the while voyaging great in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham when he dodged right and ran out at the last obstacle.

Mullins said: “It was just one of those things at Cheltenham and we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. I’m not sure we’ll we see him again this season. I ran him at Naas not knowing whether we would be going to Cheltenham or not, but we decided to head there and it nearly paid off. We are in a different position now so we’ll have to gather our thoughts and reassess.”

Another one of the trainer’s runners, Filey Bay, put on a good show at Prestbury Park. He finished third in the County Hurdle despite making a few mistakes when jumping.

Mullins said: “Filey Bay ran a stormer in the County when his jumping just let him down in the middle part of the race. He’s creeping up the handicap all the time without getting his head in front, which is a bit frustrating.”

 

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Only 31 of the 85 entries in the Grand National are trained in Britain, leaving Corach Rambler to lead the depleted field.

Corach Rambler, a winner of the Cheltenham Festival, is on track to lead a depleted British field for the Randox Grand National. He is one of only 31 home-based candidates out of 85 initial entries, most of which are Irish-trained horses.

Gordon Elliott, a trainer who has won three times, has a remarkable 21 entries, and Noble Yeats, trained by Emmet Mullins, is a best-priced 12-1 favorite to win again in 2022.

Corach Rambler, who won the festival’s Ultima Handicap Chase last year, appears to be returning to Cheltenham before entering the National. He is a best-priced 20-1 selection, making him the leading British-trained candidate alongside Iwilldoit, who won the Welsh National and Classic Chase.

The nine-year-old colt trained by Lucinda Russell is entered in both the Betfair Denman Chase on Saturday at Newbury and the Betfred Grand National Trial on Sunday at Haydock.

However, Peter Scudamore, Russell’s partner and assistant, stated that they would prefer to wait until the National weights were announced on February 21 before traveling to Cheltenham.

“We’ve dithered over it but I think he has a fair mark of 146 and I don’t want it to go up or down,” said Scudamore. “Lucinda and Derek [Fox, stable jockey] think the Haydock race is quite hard on them close to the National and the ground looks to be fast at Newbury so I think he’ll go to Cheltenham for the Ultima.

“He’s 6lb higher than last year and then from there he’d go to Aintree. You don’t win a National without thinking about it and when we won [in 2017] with One For Arthur, we had to get him up in the weights. Once we’d done that we left him. Corach Rambler has a realistic mark and we don’t want to mess it about really.”

Any Second Now, Delta Work, Fiddlerontheroof, and Longhouse Poet, along with Noble Yeats at the entry stage, could all make a comeback to Aintree this year.

Only 19 of the British entries are rated at 142 or higher, which is the lowest mark in three of the last five Nationals. Irish trainers saddled 21 of the 40 runners in the race last season, and the disparity appears to be set to grow this season. In the event that the race were to be held as a more formal renewal than it was in 2021, when a rating of 145 was required to be run, that rating would only be 14.

However, when asked if British trainers should be more ambitious when entering horses for the National, Scudamore was philosophical.

“The reason I want to go to Cheltenham, the reason I want to go to Aintree, is that I want to take on the best,” said Scudamore. “Willie Mullins is the best at the moment but it’s hard for me to criticise him because I was with Martin Pipe and we dominated.

“The world evolves. When I first started it was hard to win because it was Fred Winter and Fred Rimell, then Yorkshire won everything, then it swung to Martin.”

Scudamore added: “I don’t like the criticism, they’re the best horses running. I want to see the best against the best and at the moment the Irish have them and they deserve to be in the race.

“They’re better than us at the moment, we’ve got to pick our arses up and do something about it. With ‘Arthur’ everything went right and with Corach Rambler, I don’t know. But if you don’t plan for it you can be sure the Irish will.”

The shift in the distribution of training facilities for the relevant segment of the population could account for the decline in British applicants.

The home team’s roster largely omits two British-trained horse owners who have historically targeted the National. The sole entry, Cloudy Glen, trained by Venetia Williams, embodies the colors of the late Trevor Hemmings.

Additionally, only Sporting John for the Philip Hobbs yard is trained in Britain, out of the seven tickets that JP McManus currently holds. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that trainer Jonjo O’Neill won’t have a horse for the second time since 2003 due to the changes in their circumstances.

Additionally, David Pipe, Paul Nicholls, and Nigel Twiston-Davies, three trainers who have a long history of success in the staying chaser division, each have only one entry.

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