Sire Du Berlais, winner of the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last month, was again successful at Grade One level at Aintree today when successful in the JRL Group Liverpool Hurdle over an extended three miles.
Gordon Elliott: “He’s unbelievable. At his age, to come back and do this again, we’re absolutely delighted. Mark gave him a brilliant ride, because he was flat to the boards the whole way, and he just kept holding him, holding him, holding him, and he kept picking up - it was brilliant.
“We didn’t do much with him between Cheltenham and here - the girls went to the beach with him a couple of times, he hasn’t really galloped much, we’ve just kept him happy and sweet.
“I’d say we’d put him away now and see if we can get another one out of him [next season]. He won’t go to Punchestown, I don’t think - you never know, we won’t say no yet - but he deserves a holiday. He’s the horse of a lifetime and we’re so lucky to have him.
“I did think we were in a bit of trouble today because we were so far out, but Mark kept picking up on him.”
Mark Walsh, the winning jockey, told ITV Racing: “He was never on the bridle at any stage. They went a really good gallop up front and just turning into the straight I was creeping closer and closer to them the whole time, and I thought ‘I might have a little squeak here’.
“Once he started passing horses up the straight, he just kept going. They were going plenty quick enough in front, then they came back to me and once he started passing horses, he just kept going.
“He made a mistake at the fourth last, I thought he was getting tired but I just kept rowing away and rowing away on him. Once they turned into the straight, I could feel him gradually picking them off. He’s a little terrier.”
Looking ahead to Any Second Now in the Grand National, he said: “The weight is the big worry for him now, so hopefully he runs his race and does us proud. Third time lucky, hopefully!”
Walsh went on to say: “He doesn’t know when he is beaten and he always tries his hardest. It was tough work for him for the first lap and a half. They went a really strong gallop and I was never travelling or happy anywhere. It was just when I turned into the straight that I thought I had a little squeak of getting on to the back end of them and I did. Once I passed one of them the horse just stuck his head down and galloped all the way to the line. He had a hard enough race at Cheltenham and fair play to him for coming back like that. You can’t really bully him, you just have to keep niggling away. Nico hadn’t moved on his filly (Marie’s Rock) and I got him going and I didn’t want to stop his run so he was in front plenty soon, but in fairness he put his head down and galloped all the way to the line. He has won three Grade Ones now so at some point he needs to be taken seriously.
“I was hoping he would replicate his effort from last year. They went a proper gallop and I was hoping that they would come back to me and luckily enough they did come back to me in the straight. He is a little terrier though and he always tries his hardest.
“It is testament to Gordon and all his team that he is winning Grade One races at the age of 11. He is winning these Grade Ones at this age and the way he is going he could win another.”
Tom Palin, representing Middleham Park Racing, owners of runner-up Marie’s Rock, said: “Well, she stays. That was the question we wanted the answer to and she absolutely does, and probably more. She’s run a blinder. There’s no disgrace in finishing second to Sire Du Berlais, the Stayers’ Hurdle winner and the winner of this race last year. He’s a very good stayer and we’ve clearly acquitted ourselves admirably in the staying division, with some very useful horses behind.
“She’ll be campaigned as a three-miler next season. We’ll work back from the Stayers’ and the races pick themselves - she’ll go to Newbury, then the Long Walk and so on. The beauty of it is that now she stays I don’t have to think about it.”
Nico de Boinville, rider of Marie’s Rock, added “They went hard. I think it’s a very fair result. Our mare has turned her own form around from Cheltenham and put up a really gutsy performance. You needed to stay in that, and it shows she does.”
Danny Mullins, jockey of the third-placed Flooring Porter, said: “It was a good run. He’s a right little horse. Fair play to Sire Du Berlais, one of the few Cheltenham horses who’s come here and backed it up and the Marie’s Rock has run a good race in second too.”
Gavin Cromwell, trainer of Flooring Porter, commented: “He’s run a good race and it all went fairly straightforward for him, there’s not a great deal to report. I’m not completely decided on whether that’s it for the season, we always had a race at Auteuil in mind for him so we’ll see.”
3.35pm JRL Group Liverpool Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m½f
1 Sire Du Berlais 8/1
2 Marie''s Rock 5/1
3 Flooring Porter 3/1F
Distances: 3¼l, 6½l, 7½l