Day Two of the Randox Grand National Festival is Ladies Day and although we couldn’t welcome racegoers in person at Aintree our Grand Day In competition did allow racing fans the chance to dress up at home to win prizes in our special competition.
As excitement builds ahead of Saturday’s big race there was plenty of quality racing on offer for those watching at home on ITV and Racing TV.
Here’s five things we learned …
O’BRIEN DELIGHTED AS FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES CLAIMS GRADE ONE
Joseph O’Brien insisted he will not be making plans for Fakir D’Oudairies just yet, despite his talented six year old cruising to an 11 length victory in the Marsh Steeple Chase at Aintree.
After finishing second in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last month he and jockey Mark Walsh went one better here, breezing past long-time leader Master Tommytucker to secure the honours in the 2m 3f contest.
Speaking away from the track, trainer O’Brien said: “I thought it was a great performance from the horse and Mark gave him a great ride. He has been a really consistent horse all of his life.
“He has been second in four Grade Ones since he won his previous one so it is nice to get another on the board at this level with him. I’m delighted for JP (McManus), Frank Berry and all the team.
“I thought he jumped very well today. He made a little mistake early on but he soon got into a nice rhythm and Mark gave him a fantastic ride.”
Jockey Walsh added: “He deserved his day in the sun - he’s been running great all season, so I’m delighted he got his head in front. He had a hard race in the Ryanair at Cheltenham and Joseph has done well to freshen him up, and he’s done it well today.
“I’m looking forward to Any Second Now in the National tomorrow. You can make all the plans you like for the race, but anything can happen, as we know. The ground is on the slow side of good.”
HENDERSON’S CHANTRY HOUSE BACKS UP FESTIVAL WIN
Chantry House capitalised on Espoir De Romay’s fall at the penultimate fence to claim his second Grade One victory inside three weeks.
Nicky Henderson’s seven year old eventually took the Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase by 32 lengths, following up his victory in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last month in style.
And Henderson said: “Like any horse that has been to Cheltenham then come on to Aintree it is tough. It is funny how he was having quite a good blow down there but they have gone quick. The aim of today was to see if he stayed three miles. They went quick enough today and we established today that it is the case that he is a three miler.
“That will definitely be it for now. He has had a tough race today. Even though he could ease down at the end they have still gone a ferocious gallop.”
Asked if he thought he would win when Kim Bailey’s Espoir De Romay was still leading, the Seven Barrows trainer replied: “I can’t really say, but Nico was reasonably confident he was creeping to the other horse. I feel sorry for Kim as his horse had put up a great exhibition and set a very strong gallop.
“That would be the plan (top staying races next season). You’ve got to admire the horse as any horse that can go to Cheltenham and follow up here has got to be pretty good. The horse has got a great temperament and a lovely attitude to life. He is a very good horse.
“He might have been lucky twice and I hope he hasn’t used all his luck up as he has got a long and bright future in front of him. I like using the Intermediate Chase at Sandown as a starting point for these types of horses but I think we could end up starting him off in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.”
MULLINS CELEBRATES SON PATRICK’S LANDMARK WIN AT HOME
Trainer Willie Mullins watched his son Patrick win his first race over the iconic Randox Grand National fences on TV back home in Ireland, then described it as “nerve racking”.
Patrick, 31, partnered Livelovelaugh to victory in the Grade Three Randox Topham Handicap Chase after an injury to Paul Townend last weekend ruled him out of riding this week.
His father, trainer Willie Mullins, was not at Aintree to see it but said: “It was amazing. I’m just absolutely over the moon. I’m delighted Rich Ricci let Patrick have the ride and I’m delighted for Patrick. I’m delighted for everyone in the stable. A really big thank you has to go to Rich though.
“It was nerve racking, but wonderful at the same time. Once he got over the last you could see he had a little bit in hand. It was just something else. That was Plan A to be very prominent.
“With all the false starts I thought it might just mess things around but Plan A went to plan. The plan was to let him get out there jumping the fences and see where he found himself.
“Turning out into the country he was very good at his fences. Patrick didn’t need to interfere with him and when Patrick needed assistance from the horse he gave it back at the end. It is tough on Paul Townend too but unfortunately these things happen.”
Successful jockey Patrick Mullins said: “Ever since I was a kid, I watched horses do that and thought what a thrill it must be. I just wanted to go round again on him - I just sat there, he did most of it, to be honest.
“I had it in my head I wanted to go quick over the first four, give him a bit of a breather round the bend up to the line down to Bechers, and then let him jump around there, cross the Melling Road and slow it down a little but not too much.”
SUPERSTITIOUS FAHEY STAYS BEHIND IN IRELAND AGAIN
Belfast Banter and trainer Peter Fahey landed their second big race in just three weeks as they followed up victory at the Cheltenham Festival by winning the Betway Top Novices Hurdle.
The six year old won the McCoy Contractors County Hurdle at The Festival exactly three weeks ago and followed that up at Aintree to win Fahey and jockey Kevin Sexton their first ever Grade Ones.
Fahey chose to watch the race back in Ireland, as he did for Belfast Banter’s Cheltenham victory. Speaking from home in County Kildare, he said: “I decided to stay away and not come over as it was lucky for us at Cheltenham. It was a brilliant performance and Kevin (Sexton) gave him a great ride.
“These faster run races really suit him big time. He was wrong at the weights with a few of them but we thought we would take our chance and see how it worked out.
“I said to Kevin before he went out to ride him with a lot of confidence and try and ride him to be placed. There was no pressure on him as if we finished in the first three we thought it would be a good result, but he travelled and jumped very well. If you look back through his form though he never runs a bad race but I suppose the good ground has helped him a good bit.”
TRONADOR PROVES ONE FOR IRELAND IN OPENING RACE
Ireland’s only runner in a field of 22 won the opening race on Day Two of the Randox Grand National Festival, the Grade Three Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle.
Tronador and Jack Kennedy took the 2m 4f contest by two and a half lengths from Evan Williams’ Dans Le Vent and Lisa O’Neill, representing winning trainer Denise Foster, said: “He ran a cracker in the Boodles two years ago, and he wasn’t beaten overly far.
“He was fresh and well before this and travelled over really well. He only sneaked into the bottom of the handicap, so while we were expecting him to run well, we weren’t really expecting him to actually get into the race.
“He looks like he’s progressive at the trip, so fingers crossed there might be something else in him this season. Jack said the ground is riding lovely. This is our only runner today; we’ve got four in the National tomorrow.”
Winning jockey Kennedy said: “That was brilliant - all went very smoothly. He jumped well, got a lovely run through and won well. I thought we were going to go a lot quicker, to be honest, but we settled down and just went a nice even gallop.
“That helped my lad, because he can be behind the bridle, so it helped him stay in the race. I think he wants this sort of spring ground, and only in the past two weeks we’ve had that weather to get this ground. He’s a nice horse for these spring festivals.”