Saturday, 9 April 2011

The race in brief

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Virtually the last sentence of the last blog post was: I like Ballabriggs. Who duly won in fine style, while I had not a penny on him. I had last minute doubts about whether he would stay, and he showed me what an idiot I was. The trainer's father, the doughty Ginger McCain, who trained Red Rum all those years ago, and is not a man of sentiment, had tears in his eyes.

I take my hat off to last year's winner, Don't Push It, who at the age of eleven, under the top weight of 11 stone 10, finished a brave third. And I was delighted to see Niche Market run so well. I had a little bit on him each way. It was a really impressive training performance by Paul Nicholls.

My lovely grey Scottish horse could not quite cope with the pace and the good ground. Although he jumped well all the way round, I got the impression he did not fall in love with Aintree. But he was not disgraced, and finished twelfth, and came home safe.

The dear veteran campaigners, Comply or Die and Hello Bud, felt their age under the hot sun and the fast pace. Hello Bud hunted round happily on the first circuit, and he jumped Beecher's Brook as if it were a training fence. Towards the end, he got very tired, and both he and Comply or Die were pulled up. They have both been wonderful horses on their day and I cherish the memories of their great leaps.

In a note of great sadness, Ornais and Dooneys Gate fell badly and had to be destroyed. There will be deep sorrow in the Nicholls' and Mullins' households tonight. My father lost a horse in the Grand National. His name was Earthstopper, and he ran a blinder, finishing a gallant fifth. After the post, he collapsed and died of a heart attack. I shall never forget that long drive home in the dark, to an empty box. For all the triumphs, there are the tragedies as well, and they remain engraved on one's heart.

National Hunt racing is a tough sport. There is no way to make it completely safe. A horse can break a leg on a Wednesday afternoon at Huntingdon just as easily as in the glare of the spotlight at Aintree. I know that some people get furious about it, and say the horses have no choice. In some ways this is true. On the other hand, they are bred for this, and they love it. There is no way you can get a big bold thoroughbred to do anything it does not want to. You will see horses who refuse to start, and no amount of booting by the jockey will persuade them to go if their old minds are set against it.

For all that I grew up in this business, and know too well the risks, there is always a shadow of melancholy cast by the thought of two beautiful creatures who will not come home. They give so much pleasure, and ask for very little in return. I salute them.


Some pictures, taken just now, in the evening light:







The hill:



  1. I recently got a weekend job in the Bookmakers so this was my first Grand National as a bookie and it was brilliant fun paying all the money out this afternoon! {my bosses probably wouldn't agree but oh well1}

    I absolutely loved reading this post while dinner cooks.

    Anna x
    {I didn't win a penny from my choices though!}

  2. I thought that Ballabriggs was going to collapse when he was whisked off so quickly ... it is a gruelling race and I don't know why I watch it. My nag, Niche Market, came in 5th so I won a few quid and the husband's hoss came in 3rd so we didn't lose anything!
    I see that there are mutterings about the BBC 'cover up' of the two horses who died (it is true that the scenes were edited out of the rerun) but I was pleased that Clare mentioned it at the end of the programme.
    Poor owners, trainers and lads that go home with an empty trailer ...

  3. I love watching the Grand National but I always wince when horse and rider take a fall. I pray that all will be well. Watching the rerun was very sad, two 'obstacles' and the unmistakable image of the greenish covers..tragic. It's a risk everyone in the equine world takes but so heartbreaking.

    I was glad that Claire mentioned it, she was clearly very upset and sincere.

    MG was rooting for Ballabrigs and I picked Oscar time, however we never got round to placing a bet!

  4. I have never been able to watch the Grand National live - only in replay and only then if no horses have been hurt. Between husband and me we currently own five ex-racehorses - one who was injured on the track (now fully recovered), one who fell out of love with the sport, and the others just didn't make the grade. They have all gone on to different careers away from the track.
    Personally I'd rather cut my own legs off than let a horse of mine run in the National and although I was about to temper that by saying something like - of course that's only my opinion and it's each to their own - I think I'll let it stand.

  5. I remember Earthstopper as I had put a bet on it to win. I only bet on The Grand National, if at all and I was so sad when I heard of what happened following the race. I was only 20 years-old at the time. I will never forget Earthstopper.


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