THE Grand National turned out to be something of a benefit for the bookmakers at Aintree as 66/1 chance Auroras Encore showed a clean pair of heels to the opposition at Aintree on Saturday, writes Ned Tierney.
The winner made the move on the long run-in from the last fence, beating Cappa Bleu by nine lengths with Teaforthree just a neck further back in third place.
If ever proof was needed that the Irish-bred horse has no equal when it comes to toughness and durability punters only had to look at the result as the first five home first saw the light of day in this country.
Like many a National in the past there was a fairytale-like story attached to this year’s race. The winning rider Ryan Mania had left racing to act as whipper-in to a pack of hounds in his native Scotland before a chance meeting with Harvey Smith saw him return to the game he loves.
Smith himself is a gruff no-nonsense Yorkshire man who has won everything worth winning on the showjumping circuit. He will always be remembered for his ‘V for victory’ salute to the judges when landing a big class after having a run-in with the authorities many years ago. Although the training license is the name of Smith’s wife Sue the man himself is heavily involved the running of the yard, which usually turns out around 40 winners a season.
In one of the most trouble-free Grand Nationals ever run the field was still intact until the Canal Turn on the first circuit, due in no small way to efforts of the executive to modify some of the fences for safety reasons. With all horses and riders returning safely it certainly was a day to remember.
Katie Walsh was bidding to be the first female to win the race aboard Seabass having finished third last year on the same horse last year. Punters waded in on the combination as if there was no tomorrow - as a consequence they went to post one of the hottest favourites ever at 11/2.
However, it wasn’t to be. In spite of running a big race, Seabass could not find the change of gears necessary from the third last and finished well out of the money.
Willie Mullins saddled three in the race with stable jockey Ruby Walsh plumping for On His Own. The nine-year-old was still in touch although weakening when tipping up at Valentines Brook.
After going a good even pace there were plenty still in with a chance crossing the Melling Road and none going better than Auroras Encore. Nick Schofield committed Teaforthree going to the second last but his big weight began to tell and he could find nothing extra as Auroras Encore swept past at the last fence and had the race in safe keeping from the elbow halfway up the run-in.
Cappa Bleu, which was ridden to get around, made up a good deal of ground from the Canal Turn to grab second place in the final strides from Teaforthree, with the Irish-trained Oscar Time finishing fourth ahead of the Dessie Hughes runner Rare Bob.
The ups and downs of the racing game were illustrated on Sunday when Ryan Mania took a heavy fall in a hurdle race at Hexham. The jockey had to be airlifted to hospital, but his injuries were not as serious as first feared. He should be back in action in a week or so.
Charles Byrnes was in buoyant form after he saddled Solwhit to capture the three mile Grade One Liverpool Hurdle to add to the World Hurdle which he had won at Cheltenham.
Having spent a long time on the sidelines due to injury Solwhit reappeared looking as good as ever this season. The step up in trip was no problem to him and Byrnes is eagerly looking forward to a clash with the Willie Mullins trained Quevega at the Punchestown festival.
The Curragh was a chilly place to be on Sunday, but punters gained some warmth from a number of pointers for some of the big races ahead in the coming months. Among them was the victory of the Aidan O’Brien-trained Moth in the seven furlong maiden for fillies.
Lightly raced as a juvenile, the daughter of Galileo clearly gave the right vibes at home as she was strongly supported in the betting market.
Tobann from the Jim Bolger yard set a steady pace with Moth settled off the pace. The latter gave way a furlong or so out, where Joseph O’Brien could be seen winding up Moth. The combination shot clear in the closing stages to win going away by four and a half lengths from Wannabe Better.
This was a serious display from the winner. Although she is not entered in the 1000 Guineas she is likely to be supplemented and could well go to Newmarket as the leading Ballydoyle contender.
O’Brien went on to complete a double courtesy of Ruler Of The World which was a workmanlike winner of the mile and two maiden for three-year-olds. Unraced as a juvenile due to a number of minor setbacks Ruler Of The World was never too far out of his ground. He responded well to the urgings of Joseph O’Brien to take the lead almost in the shadow of the post and beat Manalapan by half a length.
The Jim Bolger runner Hudson’s Bay was a warm favourite but ran freely and ended a disappointing fourth.
Bolger had better luck in the Listed race over a mile and a quarter when Parish Hall landed the spoils in good style in the hands of Kevin Manning. Having suffered a serious leg infection when being prepared for last season’s 2000 Guineas the Teofilo colt was lucky to survive.
While this is just a step in the right direction Bolger is adamant that his charge will improve for the outing. Parish Hall will reappear in the Mooresbridge Stakes before having a tilt at the Tattersalls Gold Cup towards the end of May.