By Racinguk.com staff
It wasn't quite the dream result, but Bryony Frost finished a memorable fifth aboard Milansbar and was left buzzing by the Grand National experience.
"He has run a brilliant race," she said. "It was a great event to be part of and you can be so proud of your horses and what you have asked them to do.
"Down by Valentine's the second time round, he just started to come underneath me a bit and I had to give him a minute, as it's a long way home.
"We went a lovely, even gallop and I rode him in his own space. I hope he sleeps as well as I will tonight.
"Our scariest moment was at the first. I was thinking that he jumps so well, that he might over-jump, and he was right down on his nose.
"Then we got into a rhythm and he was in my hands all the way. He missed one before the Canal Turn, but he was fifth and that is an amazing feat."
Davy Russell is currently holding court in the media centre, laughing his way through how it feels to be a Grand National-winning jockey.
He said: "When we were parading on the way to the start, I heard the commentator say 'And here's the oldest jockey in the race', I thought 'Jaysus, I'd better not turn up next year'.
"When you've had 14 attempts like I've had, you kind of think 'This is just impossible to win' but I got a bit of confidence from Saint Are last year, who gave me a great spin in third, and felt that maybe it might actually be possible."
Russell continued: "At this time of year, you get the first cut of grass in the spring and at home we used to push all the grass together and make up a Grand National-style fence and ride over them, so I've actually won the Grand National a thousand times! It was about the only time I wanted to help cut the grass."
He might never win a popularity contest, but Michael O'Leary will be heading home with another Grand National under his belt.
O'Leary's relationship with the race underwent a bit of a bumpy spell last year when he attacked the handicapping of a couple of his horses, but it's a good job he had a change of heart because he ran five, and with a mile to run, three of them were still in with a definite shout.
"This is a freak result - another freak result!" he said. "I won it two years ago and I didn't think I could possibly win it again for another 20.
"I'm most pleased of all for Davy Russell. He's not at the end of his career, but he's 38 and he wanted to win this race. Gordon had won it before, I'd won it before, but this is everything for him."
Most strikingly of all, it's an Irish 1-2-3-4, a total clean sweep, continuing the theme of their dominance at the Cheltenham Festival.
The trumpets are out, the National Anthem has been sung. It's finally time for the parade of horses in front of the stand to begin. We won't be going off on time, but we're not too far away... unlike Richard Johnson, who's probably fast approaching the Crewe exit of the M6 by now.
The betting market has remained surprisingly static in the last few minutes, with Total Recall still at the head of the betting and Tiger Roll and Annibale Fly reasonably solid in behind. It's Seeyouatmidnight who is probably the best-backed horse in the final minutes, but there's no sign of an unexpected monster Monkerhostin-style gamble coming from nowhere.
Henry de Bromhead reveals after the race that it was Sean Flanagan's decision to move Identity Thief up to three miles and 'hunt him around and switch him off'.
Flanagan therefore gets the plaudits, not just for the plan but for its execution, as he gave Identity Thief the perfect pouncing ride, switching him off and picking off his rivals one by one in the manner of Paul Carberry.
The victory opens up new avenues next season for Identity Thief, at one point touted as a potential superstar two-mile hurdler before losing his way and experiencing a disastrous spell over fences.
On the other hand, it poses new questions about Sam Spinner, who never looked entirely happy from the start. Might a set of cheekpieces help to focus his attention on the task in hand because the talent is surely within...
Earlier today, we had four or five horses disputing favouritism at around 12-1, but we have a clear market-leader now with Total Recall having assumed a clear position at the head of the market at around 10-1 with most fixed-odds firms.
Perhaps the indications that the ground isn't quite as testing as may have been feared are encouraging his supporters, as I think good to soft is probably better for him than soft or heavy, or perhaps it's just the weight of money from the legions of friends and family of Lar Byrne who make up the Slaneyville Syndicate.
Everyone has a Grand National story like this one. Well, a bit like this one...
It's #grandnational day which means my mum is telling everyone she meets about the time she won on a 100/1 horse, sent my da to the bookies to collect her winnings and didn't see him for three days.— shane telford. (@MrShaneReaction) April 14, 2018
Steve Mellish reports on Racing UK that he timed Diego Du Charmil's victory at just 12 seconds outside standard, in his words 'the fastest time of the week' and a definite indicator that the ground is drying out ahead of the big race.
Petit Mouchoir is getting himself noticeably stewed up on his way to the start. In particular, he took a dislike to the tunnel that connects the parade ring to the racecourse, whizzing around in circles for a bit before Davy Russell could get him to head out.
Now that he is at the post, he looks more settled, but he is a bit of a law unto himself and the task now will be keep a lid on him in the race itself.
Time to declare an interest. As an owner with Phil Kirby's team, I know how much it would mean to him and the whole yard to win a Grade One - and even more so a Grade One on Grand National day.
Phil first mentioned the idea of going for this race before Christmas and so far his plan has worked out perfectly. She's had a successful season, mixing fences and hurdles, but don't think for one minute that's because she has issues with her jumping - she is a brilliant jumper of a fence.
Realistically, I'm shocked she is as short as she is in the betting to beat Petit Mouchoir. She has plenty to find on the formbook. But the stable are absolutely flying at present and, purely personally, I would absolutely LOVE to see Lady Buttons win this.
Black Op has the potential to be some horse if he can learn to jump properly - he easily lost a length to Lostintranslation when landing on all fours over the last, but showed impressive resolution to go back past in the final strides and deny the Tizzards another winner.
Noel Fehily was denied a ride in the Grand National when Minella Rocco was taken out of the race, but gets a big winner on the day aboard a horse who is a smart prospect.
"He deserved a race like that after the way he ran behind Samcro at Cheltenham - he's a very, very tough horse and he had to dig deep," said Fehily. "He jumped brilliant early. When he's in behind early, he's very neat, it's just that when he finds daylight he starts to look around and loses respect for them."
Presumably, the stable form of Tom George is a big factor, but the market support for On The Blind Side is strong. He's a horse with a very tall reputation and now a solid 6-4 favourite to give Nicky Henderson a sixth Grade One winner at the meeting.
It's amazing what a winner can do for confidence levels. I listened to David Pipe being interviewed about Vieux Lion Rouge's Grand National prospects and he didn't sound that confident. Now, he's in the winner's enclosure, there's a new-found sense of optimism over Vieux Lion Rouge's prospects of seeing out the National trip.
"He's very well and I do think that being that extra year older and stronger is going to give him a good chance," says Pipe.
Scudamore is even more optimistic, saying: "I'm going to ride him like I think he will stay because I think he will. There have been plenty of instances in past Grand Nationals of horses seeing out the trip better on their second or their attempts at the race. I don't think the ground is an issue for him at all and I think he's got every chance."
By and large, it's been a quiet season for David Pipe, but that's a well-timed winner as Mr Big Shot justifies market support to land the opener for the same connections who will be represented by Vieux Lion Rouge in the big one.
Tom Scudamore has just performed a ridiculously theatrical punch of the air for winning what is essentially just a handicap hurdle - you get the feeling that was a much-needed victory for the team, on what is after all one of the most-watched days of racing all year long.
One of the prizes that you might not be aware is up for grabs today (unless you're a hoof fetishist) is the award for the Best-Shod Horse, presented each year by the Worshipful Company of Farriers.
The winner last year was Charlie Sands, who shoed Drop Out Joe, and completed a remarkable double when also winning the same 'Best-Shod' prize at the Badminton Horse Trials. Impressive stuff.
I can't stop myself from watching videos of old Grand Nationals. This is the only sporting event in the world that has this strange effect upon me.
Rutherfords has been hampered, and so has Castle Falls. Rondetto has fallen. Princeful has fallen. Norther has fallen. Kirtle-Lad has fallen. The Fossa has fallen. There’s a right pile-up... Leedsy has climbed over the fence and left his jockey there... and now, with all this mayhem, Foinavon has gone off on his own! He’s about 100 yards in front of everything else.”
My friends and family are always telling me I should get out more.
They may well have a point because I’ve just ventured outside the Media Centre and bumped into the delightful Lystra Adams.
The Staffordshire lass turns heads wherever she goes and is the partner of David Fox, who owns Saint Are, runner-up in the Grand National in 2015 and third 12 months ago.
Asked what emotions she goes through, she said: “Oh my God, it’s nerve wracking because of the big fences. I scream from start to finish.
"When he came in third last year I was running up and down everywhere. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Will the now 12-year-old hit the jackpot today?
“This is not his ground, it’s a shame the sun has only just come out,” she said. “He likes it firm, not soft, just how I like my men!”
And with that I gulped, complimented Lystra on her wonderful outfit/nails and went back inside.
The compulsory jockeys' safety briefing is about to take place in the weighing room, but not everyone is totally impressed by having to sit through it all.
One jockey, who I spoke to earlier this week (and who asked not to be quoted) said: "For those of us who have ridden in the race a few times, it basically goes in one ear and out the other. I know why they have to do it, but why it has to be at midday, instead of an hour before the race, God only knows.
"They'll say 'Look after your horses, it's testing ground out there'. As if we didn't already know that. Then you have to sit around waiting for five hours, by which time you've forgotten it all..."
If, like me, you simply can't throw your money away quickly enough, here are two more special bets to consider (subject to all of the usual caveats about being able to get on).
There was a false start in the Topham yesterday. There were two false starts in the Grand National last year. There was a false start in 2014 (which, ridiculously, saw all the jockeys referred to the BHA) and I'm pretty sure there was one in 2015 too.
You know where I'm going with this. It's 6/4 with Betway that there is a false start again this year. It's not a great price, but it's not a bad one either.
The other market I've had a good look at is the number of finishers. Sporting Index put the spread at 12-13 and that looks about right to me, so Ladbrokes' 9-4 about less than 12 makes some fixed-odds appeal.
Everyone knows about the state of the ground and although it's dry now and forecast to remain dry for the rest of the day, it's overcast and neither breezy nor warm. I expect the going to be very attritional and I'd be confident that in the jockeys' safety briefing, the message of 'Make sure you look after your horses' will be very firmly communicated - the days when completing the course at any cost was itself seen as a glorious achievement are past. I'd be astonished if there are more than 15 finishers, with quite so many of them palpably questionable stayers.
It must be hard being an old boy like Raz De Maree.
No 13-year-old has won the Grand National since Sergeant Murphy in 1923, but faith in the Welsh National winner remains undimmed in some quarters.
Raz De Maree was a facile winner of the Welsh National in January and has not run since his six-length romp at Chepstow. He just went for a little canter, presumably to stretch out those ageing limbs.
Every single one of the last 27 Grand National winners bar one raced eight weeks or less prior to their Aintree success, but that is not the case with Gavin Cromwell's charge.
Raz is Cromwell's only second ever runner in the big race, so let's hope he knows what he's doing - colleague Andy Stephens has tipped him as his best bet in the race.
Forgot to mention in earlier copy (and this was before the bubbly) that Bob Champion is also extremely keen on Wholestone in the Ryanair Stayers Hurdle at 4.20pm.
Worth mentioning that Tommo, who has the scarf with his name eblazoned on it (see earlier post), reckons Bob is the "worst tipster in the world".
Right, I'm off for a wander around the course to see how the atmosphere is building. Back soon.
A lady with a tray of champagne is doing the rounds in the media centre.
This is where you find out the true professionals from those who cannot resist the lure of bubbles before lunch.
I hesitated briefly before accepting this liquid delight.
But it's purely for medicinal purposes, you'll understand. I've had a bit of indegestion and figure the champers will help settle that.
The legend that is Bob Champion is here in the media centre at Aintree and I’ve just had a quick chat with him about his thoughts on the big race.
Champion is better qualified than most to know what is required, becoming part of Aintree folk law with his victory on Aldaniti in the 1981 National.
He reckons Seeyouatmidnight is the one to beat in the main event; liking the fact he is fresh and that he is a thorough stayer proven on testing ground.
His each-way selection is I Just Know, the progressive Sue Smith-trained eight-year-old.
The one he cannot have on his mind is Blaklion. “He came there cruising last year but did not get home, why is that going to be different today on softer ground. And he’s had a wind op, I reckon only one in ten of those work.”
When Aldaniti won, the going was soft and Champion says such ground conditions do change the dynamics of the race.
He also says the early pace will be pivotal. If they go quick early, he imagines plenty not lasting home, especially if it does not rain before the race starts because he says the ground will become tacky and make for even more of a stamina test.
If he were riding this afternoon, he’d be taking an early pull and trying to conserve energy for when it matters at the finish.
Derek Thompson, a National ever-present since Red Rum won in 1973, is doing some work with Champion this morning and insists we plug the former jockey’s new book, out today, titled “Call Me Bob”.
Tommo, whose scarf carries his name in green letters (which will be handy if he ever loses it), said: “Give him a copy, give him a copy. His words are being read by thousands.”
So, to all six of you glancing at this, consider buying it. And if you do meet Champion, then call him Bob, obviously.
Among those out on the track early this morning were Ross O'Sullivan and Katie Walsh with their very live contender Baie des Iles.
I can't remember a horse whose price has crashed so quickly for this race - within a matter of hours at the start of the week, her odds had gone from 66-1 to 16-1 across the board, which is quite a move in a market that had been largely static for weeks, if not months. And that 16-1 is pretty firm today too.
How did the betting market overlook her chances for quite such a long time? It's hard to say, but I genuinely believe Katie Walsh has a massive chance of making history today. So, I think, does she.👇
Exactly how sodden is the soil at Aintree? It will undoubtedly be key in determining who is going to win at 5.15pm.
The general consensus of jockeys I asked yesterday after they had ridden on the Grand National track insisted it was “very soft” but that’s not very scientific, is it?
So let’s look at what the winning times are telling us.
On Thursday, the Foxhunters’ Chase took 17 seconds longer to run than 12 months previously, when the going was officially good to soft.
And yesterday, after more rain, it took Ultragold 5min 50sec to win the Topham. A year earlier he had won in 5min 28sec.
So it took him 22 seconds longer to win. That equates to 88 lengths.
I’d imagine a winning time in the region of 9min 45 sec - about a minute slower than when Mr Frisk won in a course record time in 1990 when the race was over a quarter of a mile further.
This has been one hell of a meeting for Simon Munir and, er, that other fella who I am convinced doesn't exist. Isaac Souede? Really? It's a bit like Marks & Spencer. Pool old Mr Spencer, too. It;s easy to gorget the second chap.
Anyway, Munir and Souede have scythed through the Grand National meeting and they rely on Gordon Elliott's Ucello Conti in the Grand National itself at 5.15pm.
The Aintree meeting started with the Dream winning the Juvenile Hurdle can Ucello Conti end the meeting with the biggest dream of all ?— Simon Munir (@simon_munir) April 14, 2018
The two men have struck in three Grade Ones here this week with Terrefort, L'Ami Serge and We Have a Dream and clearly Ucello Conti would be the icing on the cake.
Daryl Jcob has naturally ridden all three and you can hear his thoughts on Ucello Conti's chances form the jockey from our roving reporter Mike Vince below 👇
From the moment you get to within 10 miles of Aintree racecourse, there are reminders that this is an event like no other in the sport. Fully four hours before the first race - and eight hours before the National itself - you can already find yourself in a queue of traffic, and there was a quite ridiculous posse of bus-spotters lined up on the junction opposite the Old Roan pub hoping to take photographs of their favourite coaches and buses on their way to the course. (Imagine being both a bus and racing fan, this day must be as close as you get to heaven...)
If you're reading this, I'm presuming you're already a lover of the great game, and if you are, you are almost certain to have been already asked by some of your friends and family for a tip.
How to approach this challenge? I always try and offer up the name of a horse who I hope will at least still be going on the second circuit and this year's selection in that respect is Vieux Lion Rouge. If I had to pick one horse I thought most likely to be in the first eight, it would be him. He's fresh, he jumps round, he handles give in the ground. What's not to like? (Answer: Stable not flying, generally disappointing form this season, but that's why he's 33-1 I guess...).
You can listen to an interview with trainer David Pipe, who won with Comply Or Die in 2008, below 👇
Could this be the most open Grand National, ever?
The bookmakers seems as puzzled as punters and no runner this morning is shorter than 14-1. Remarkable.
Remember to ask for prices if you are having a bet.
The on-course bookmakers have a nasty habit of trimming odds nearer the start time.
I wish I was riding in today’s Randox Health Grand National, but my leg is an a moonboot so I will be watching on from Aintree with great interest and no doubt enjoyment.
The Grand National Festival and especially the race itself, has really grown from one year to the next in terms of popularity and it’s one of the great sporting occasions.
The first aspect to focus on is the heavy ground. I’m of the mind-set that this is National Hunt racing and National Hunt horses should be able to handle slow ground. It also makes it safer for the riders involved, so the ground isn’t going to detract from the race at all.
Aintree has black soil and it’s different to Cheltenham or Haydock up the road. It gets wet very quickly and can generate a huge amount of kickback. The rain punctures the ground and it really sucks you in. Stamina will matter more than it usually does and the days of a two-and-half-mile horse winning the Grand National have gone out of window.
That’s not because of the modification of the jumps; it’s because there are now measures in place to catch the loose horses in catchment areas, which is a great thing, not only for safety, but also because it means a truer test of pace. Previously, the loose horses used to be at the front of the field and it meant jockeys took their time to see what the loose horses would do and the pace would be slowed down as a result.
I am sucker for class when it comes to the National, but this year it’s going to take guts.
If it continues to rain it will inconvenience horses over 11 stone. Every 1lb above 11st is really going to count against you. If it got really soft, then you’d have to look at horses under 11st.
It’s funny in that when I started to ride in the National there was always a line of jockeys queuing to get into the sauna. Given the bottom-weight is 10st 5lb, no-one uses it now! Have the horses got that much better? I am not so sure.
Anyway, given my preference for class, and if the rain doesn’t get in too much, then I think Anibale Fly and Total Recall are the two to focus on.
They both ran so well in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. I think that form is head and shoulders above everything else in the race.
I know Total Recall well, given he’s trained by Willie Mullins, and he’s been in great form this season, winning the Munster National and Ladbrokes Trophy, what was previously the Hennessy, and was running a good race in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, before falling three out.
He over-jumped that fence, which he has tendency to do; he can go a bit high and go through the air. His jockey David Mullins was adamant he’d be involved, but then jockeys always have that optimistic slant! From my eyes, he had been off the bridle once or twice and I reckon he would have finished in or around Anibale Fly, who was third.
I don’t think running in the Gold Cup will inconvenience the pair. Hedgehunter was second in both the Gold Cup and the National and Many Clouds finished sixth at Cheltenham before winning the big race in 2015. And this year, there is four weeks between the two races.
The concern is if you come to Aintree as a bit of an afterthought, in that the horse has been trained to peak at Cheltenham after a long season, but I don’t think these two will be over the top.
So I’d side with Total Recall, but Anibale Fly won’t be far from him, if they both get round, but I do have a worry that their big weights could counter their class element.
Of course, I’ll be keeping a very close eye on Baie Des Iles, who is ridden by my sister Katie.
Her husband Ross O’Sullivan is very happy with the mare and she’s had a good preparation. She won the national trial at Punchestown in 2017 and then was third in the same race in February on very testing ground.
She’s a good jumper and hopefully Katie will have a good run on the day.
It is a grey day here at Aintree but not as cold, or wet, as on Thursday and Friday. We may even see the sun later, forecasters have predicted.
The ladies of Liverpool were heroic yesterday, when the majority wore outfits designed for 80 degree heat.
Very few in the sellout 50,000 crowd were wearing the jumpers, jackets, gloves, hats and scarves that their male partners chose to adorn themselves with.
That either means they have have fierce stubborn streaks, or that their men in their lives are none too chivalrous.
Regal Encore and Walk In The Mill have been ruled out of the Grand National this morning - so 38 will go to post for the big one.
The JP McManus-owned Regal Encore, who had been 33-1, is out because his blood anlysis is not normal. Walk In The Mill, meanwhile, is lame.
No reserves are allowed in the race after 1pm on Friday.
There has not been a smaller Grand National field since 32 lined up in 1999, when Bobbyjo won.
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