RANDOX GRAND NATIONAL FESTIVAL: GERRI COLOMBE MAKES UP FOR CHELTENHAM DISAPPOINTMENT WITH SUCCESS IN GRADE ONE AIR CHARTER SERVICE MILDMAY NOVICES’ CHASE
Friday 14th April
Gerri Colombe (4-6 Favourite) made up for his short-head disappointment when defeated in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase with success in the Grade One Air Charter Service Mildmay Novices’ Chase.
Winning trainer Gordon Elliott said: “We were happy the whole way but he is a good horse. We were disappointed we got beaten (at Cheltenham) as I think we were the best horse in the race and that proved it today. He is a horse to look forward to next season. We are looking to the future now, Cheltenham is over. The horse was good today, but he hasn’t done much wrong in his whole career.
“I was happy the whole way as he travelled well everywhere. I was actually happier that we got a lead for longer (when Galia Des Liteaux skipped clear). That’s the dream in this game (the Gold Cup). He looks like he has all the potential and is one to look forward to. Davy has been a big part of my team since I started training and we’ve been friends since we were 16 or 17 years of age. I didn’t want him to finish on the note that he did at Cheltenham. I wanted him to finish on a high.”
Brian Acheson, the winning owner, said: “The best horse on the day won the race at Cheltenham. Every day is a learning day with him but he has won eight of nine now.
“Davy is a good guy and he has been a friend for a long time. Take nothing away from Jordan Gainford as he is a wonderful jockey but I’m delighted for Davy.
“The two horses going off gave him a target to aim at. I was worried about Paul Townend and Bronn. Our jumping wasn’t as sharp that day (at Cheltenham) he was just a bit switched off. We learnt from that day. He has won three Grade Ones so he has done alright.
“Hopefully he will be a Gold Cup prospect. The champion Galopin Des Champs is a wonderful horse. He was the one horse I wanted to win the Gold Cup as it made up for what happened in the Turners.
Davy Russell, the winning rider, said: “That was great, but Jordan [Gainford] is foremost in our thoughts - he’s done such a marvellous job with this horse, and I’m just lucky enough to be sound and able to ride him. We’re all thinking of Jordan, and obviously he won’t take long to come back. It’s a pity for him, but I kind of needed it now! It was great to get it.
“I’ve ridden the horse at home but never in a race before, but jeez, he was on song today. He travelled and jumped; I could do whatever I wanted. I didn’t want to go chasing down the back, but I could have if I’d wanted. The longer I waited, the better he was getting. I’d loads of options - I had run through loads of different scenarios in my head: make it, make stamina count… It just worked out. The one plan I wanted was a reasonable gallop with a lead, and that was great.
“He’s a lovely horse and he’s going to be so good, but the step up from novice to senior is huge, and there are a couple of very good horses around. But we have a very good horse to play with; we’ll just enjoy today.
“He’s gone through the point-to-point ranks; he’s done all the building for us to be able to enjoy these days. It’s great to be part of it.
“Gordon was the instigator [in Russell riding at Aintree] - I was finished. He wasn’t happy with me finishing the way I had finished - I was done and finished - again - and he wasn’t happy. He said he wanted me to ride here, and that’s great.
“You’re all your life trying to please trainers and owners and put yourself out there and let them know you are the man, or woman, person for the job. All your life you are chasing that and chasing that. It’s a tough sport - there are no pats on the back, at all. You’re up, you’re down, you’re in, you’re out, and that’s it, but you never get a pat on the back. You’ve got to keep moving on to the next day, and when someone as high-profile as Gordon gives you the pat on the back or the kick in the backside that you need, that’s the part of your career that you have to make it work. I’m lucky enough that for the past couple of years Gordon has been behind me all the way, and the huge team of staff at home. It’s all of them - he can’t make decisions without them.”
Harry Cobden, rider of runner-up Complete Unknown: “He did very well. We were always flat out but he stays very well. He’s got a big handicap in him next year.
Trainer of the runner-up Complete Unknown, Paul Nicholls, said: “He did well against a very smart horse. He can jump better than that, and he’ll be a lovely horse for good handicaps like the Coral Gold Cup and the Welsh National next season. He probably likes the ground a bit softer. When they go a bit slower he just travels, but today he was almost on his limit most of the way around. I loved the way he galloped to the line, and I was pleased with him.”
David Casey, assistant to Bronn’s trainer Willie Mullins, said: “He seemed to run OK, I’m not sure how much further away or closer we were compared to Cheltenham, but he ran well and jumped well. He made quite a bad mistake down the back, it didn’t affect his chance of winning but he ran well. We’ll see in terms of places, it would only be Punchestown for him now so we’ll see how he is.”
1.45pm Air Charter Service Mildmay Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 3m1f
- Gerri Colombe 4/6 Fav
2 Complete Unknown 8/1
3 Bronn 7/2
Distances: 7½l, 3¼l, 4l
Race two was the William Hill Handicap Hurdle and went the way of 8-1 chance Fennor Cross.
John McConnell, the winning trainer of Fennor Cross, said: “It’s easy really isn’t it this game! Cheltenham was a bit of a mess, we’d hoped to have given him a run at Musselburgh and he had an issue before Christmas so we didn’t get that fourth run to qualify for the handicaps. I already had him in the Supreme, so I probably ran him in one of the best renewals of the race for a good while. He would have run respectably except he made a bad mistake three out. In fairness Simon (Torrens) looked after him and we always thought going up in trip might suit him, as even when he was winning he was off the bridle a long way out.
“I thought two and a half would suit him so it’s gone really well and Ben (Harvey) has given him a beautiful ride again. He seems to handle most ground, I don’t think he wants extremes, but he handles soft and he handles good and he’s turning into a proper horse now. I don’t know what we’ll do now but I think we’ve unfinished business on the Flat too over a mile and six and two miles. He’s a big horse who’s only just coming into himself, so it’s brilliant for the syndicate and everybody at home.”
Ben Harvey, rider of the victorious Fennor Cross, said: “It’s great to be here and I can’t thank John and the owners enough for putting me up. We fancied him coming here, and it was great that he duly obliged.
“It’s only his fifth run over hurdles but I had a lovely run. We knew he was a really tough horse and he’d love a fight, so we weren’t worried about going down the inner. He never missed a hurdle and although he got there plenty soon enough he toughed it out really well and won nicely at the line.
“He would have been going faster than he’d ever gone in the Supreme (when making a significant mistake) but he’s always been a very good jumper so that was never a worry coming here today.
“He seems to be very progressive since he won his maiden hurdle and the way he ran today you would think that three miles wouldn’t be a problem one day. I wouldn’t be afraid to step him back into Graded company.
“It was my first ride here today. I didn’t ride him at Cheltenham but John said he’d take 5lb off him today and I’m glad it worked out.
“my 36th winner now. I only turned professional at Christmas so it’s great to have had a Cheltenham winner (Seddon in the Magners Plate) and now an Aintree winner already. It’s a decision I’m not regretting and hopefully there’s more to come.”
Paul Gilligan, trainer of the second Buddy One, said: “It was a super third in the Martin Pipe and that was another great run. We lost nothing in defeat and we are absolutely over the moon with him. He is a great horse to deal with. He is consistent and he will get his big day.
“I’m glad for John McConnell as well as he is a good guy so fair play to him. I’ve entered him in a Grade One at Punchestown. We will go to Punchestown whether that is for a Grade One or a handicap I’m not sure. It is nigh on impossible to win a Grade One but you can’t beat them if you don’t take them on. Two and a half miles is his trip but I would say he will be a lot better over a fence over three miles. I was really happy with his jumping today. It is a nice bit of prize money we have picked up but it’s not about that. If you can get into this enclosure at Aintree it is great. We will go to Punchestown and probably leave him off for the summer.”
Jack Gilligan, rider of the runner-up Buddy One, said: “We always knew he was a nice horse, and we knew he’d run a bit better than his odds are, and we’re thrilled with him. We just came up against one again today - we’ve been unlucky, but he’s been giving us great days out the whole time, so we’re delighted with that. I’m not too sure what he will do next; that will be up to Dad and the owners. I’m just happy to keep riding him and leave it up to them!”
2.20pm William Hill Handicap Hurdle (Premier Handicap) 2m4f
- Fennor Cross 8/1
- Buddy One 8/1
- Sonigino 18/1
- Tritonic 22/1
NR: Benson, Playful Saint
Distances: 2l, ¾l, 4½l