Brennan makes Own luck after Vautour's shock fall
Published 09/04/2016 | 02:30
Paddy Brennan is acutely aware of how races can be turned inside out in a second.
His chance of winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month disappeared the instant Cue Card crashed into the third-last fence, but yesterday it was the Irishman's turn for some better luck as he claimed a second of Aintree's showpiece races in unlikely circumstances.
Vautour was the 1/5 favourite for the JLT Melling Chase, which was unfolding according to plan for the first few furlongs until he got too close to the ninth fence and hurled Ruby Walsh to the turf.
Now Brennan and the Tom George-trained God's Own were not just playing for places but the £112,000 first prize and they eventually beat Al Ferof by two lengths, having escaped the attentions of the loose Vautour.
"It's a good example of the ups and downs of racing," said Brennan, who had enjoyed the restorative emphatic victory of Cue Card in Thursday's Betfred Bowl.
"I was in enough difficulty minding my own horse before what happened to Vautour.
"You don't wish that on anyone and, when he went down, all the jockeys went quiet - they were suddenly thinking they could win.
"Race riding is too serious - when something happens you move onto the next thing. Cue Card winning was unbelievable, but you wouldn't think this would happen. You have to enjoy these moments."
The popular and consistent Somersby was retired after finishing fourth.
Brennan described the Walsh as like "the Messi of racing", but what had looked a penalty kick on paper had repercussions in the fascinating running battle between Vautour's trainer Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls for the trainers' championship.
The lead changed hands several times and it seemed as if Mullins was about to establish a handsome advantage with Bellshill in the Doom Bar Sefton Novices' Hurdle only for Ballyoptic to fight back past him on the run for home.
Nevertheless, when Bacardys led home stablemate Battleford in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, Mullins pulled almost £55,000 ahead.
There should be further twists and turns in store, particularly with the Grand National's rich purse today and both trainers well represented.
As staying hurdle champion Thistlecrack took the Sefton last season, Nigel Twiston-Davies is likely to aim high with his winner.
The good times continue to roll for Cue Card and Thistlecrack's trainer Colin Tizzard with Native River becoming his latest Grade One winner in the Betfred Mildmay Novices' Chase.
More surprisingly, it was a first at the highest level this year for champion jockey elect Richard Johnson.
In danger of being surrounded at the top of the straight by a handful of Cheltenham winners, the solid stayer unleashed a sequence of fine jumps and extended away.
"No one knows why it comes and it goes, but most of them are in really good form, at the moment" said Tizzard. "Next year he's going to have to run in good handicaps off a high weight or take on Cue Card - I can't really believe I'm saying that."
Nicky Henderson is gathering some stars for the future and will have to decide whether to send
Buveur d'Air over fences or keep him for the top races over the smaller obstacles after a battling win in the Top Novices' Hurdle. Buveur D'Air was third to stablemate Altior in the Supreme at Cheltenham.
"That horse likes good ground and this fellow wants it softer so we should be able to keep them apart," said Henderson.
Despite needing almost all the run-in to prevail Buveur D'Air eventually got up under a strong drive from Fehily to prevail by a neck from the Willie Mullins-trained runner, with the latter's hot favourite Limini a further eight lengths adrift in third.
A day that threatened to be a complete washout for Mullins was salvaged after Bacardys gifted him a one-two in the concluding Weatherbys Private Bank Champion National Hunt Standard Open National Hunt Flat.
After seeing defeats for short-priced favourites earlier on the card, the Closutton handler had the smile put back on his face as, under the guidance of son Patrick, Bacardys (15/2) edged out stablemate Battleford by half a length.
Mullins said: "When I asked Patrick which one he wanted to ride, he thought Bacardys was unlucky in Cheltenham, so he went for him. There wasn't much in it and they're two lovely prospects."