Racegoers will have the opportunity to see some star names before the action even begins on Sunday afternoon (23rd October) at Aintree, Jewson Halloween Family Day, when several now-retired racehorses will be strutting their stuff as part of a showcase of their new careers.
A handful of horses under the care of the charity Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) will be taking part in a Training Clinic in the Aintree Equestrian Centre once the gates open at 11.30am.
Amongst them is the hugely-popular Might Bite, whose highlights during his career included victories at the Cheltenham Festival, in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park and in the 2018 Grade One Betway Bowl at the Randox Grand National Festival.
Might Bite now enjoys a second career in Equestrian Sport and alongside several other former racehorses he will be taking part in a clinic, where he will have the opportunity to show off his new skills under the watchful eye of Eric Smiley – a former Irish Olympic Equestrian athlete and now RoR instructor.
Meanwhile, another legend of the turf will be making an appearance once the racing gets started, as the 2016 and 2020 Becher Chase winner Vieux Lion Rouge will be paraded after the second race named in his honour – the Jewson Widnes Vieux Lion Rouge Veterans' Handicap Chase.
Trainer David Pipe still looks after Vieux Lion Rouge at his Pond House base in Somerset and the 13 year old is something of a legend over Aintree’s iconic Grand National fences, having jumped more than any other horse. The son of Sabiango successfully negotiated the fences a record 254 times during his 10-year racing career, a run which included a remarkable 242 fences being navigated in a row.
Vieux Lion Rouge will travel up with his Pond House stablemates before being given star treatment, parading before the race and being on hand to join in with the presentation afterwards – provided his excitement doesn’t get the better of him!
Sulekha Varma, who is Clerk of the Course at Aintree and serves as the Head of Racing for Jockey Club North West, revealed her delight at being able to host the horses at the weekend.
She said: “There are lots of small elements which makes racing so great, but we all know that the real stars of the show are the horses themselves and it’s wonderful to be able to have some greats of the game at Aintree on Sunday.
“The fantastic thing about Jump racing is the fact that the horses generally have a longer career than their Flat counterparts, meaning that fans of the sport are able to build up an affinity with them over several years – and they are always given a fantastic welcome by racegoers when they return to their old stomping grounds.
“RoR is a fantastic charity which does some amazing work and they show that while a horse’s racing career may be over, they still have so much to offer. Sunday’s showcase will feature some household names alongside some slightly less-known names and while Might Bite is undoubtedly the star attraction, it should show that racehorses make wonderful companions and are highly skilled when it comes to the Equestrian side of things.
“We’re also thrilled to be able to welcome Vieux Lion Rouge back to Aintree. With his remarkable record of two victories in the Becher Chase and four completions of the Grand National course, it’s pretty safe to say that there is no horse with a record that can stand up to his and I’m sure he’ll get a warm welcome from everyone who’s coming racing on Sunday.
“I believe that this will be his first day out since his retirement and he will be travelling up with his stablemates from David Pipe’s yard in Somerset. So while we have plenty planned in terms of honouring him on the day, a lot will all depend on whether he can resist getting too excited on the day!”