Thursday 27 April 2017

Five things we learned on Day Two of the Grand National meeting

An actor dressed in period clothing pats the winning horse, All Sorts, in the winners' enclosure during the 1916 Irish Grand National re-enactment. Horse Racing - Fairyhouse Easter Festival. Fairyhouse, Co. Meath. Picture credit: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE
An actor dressed in period clothing pats the winning horse, All Sorts, in the winners' enclosure during the 1916 Irish Grand National re-enactment. Horse Racing - Fairyhouse Easter Festival. Fairyhouse, Co. Meath. Picture credit: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE

Five of the main talking points from day two of the Grand National meeting:

1. BACK WITH A BANG

After a very quiet start to 2017 Colin Tizzard bounced back to form with a 4,334-1 treble on day two of the Grand National meeting. His old favourite Cue Card ran his race on Thursday when narrowly beaten by a younger horse but Pingshou sprinted clear to win the Top Novices' Hurdle, Fox Norton looked imperious in the Melling Chase when racing over two and a half miles for the first time and Ultragold sprang a 50-1 surprise over the National fences in the Topham. Having had only six winners since January, after being talked of as a possible champion trainer in November when carrying all before him, this was a welcome return to form for the likeable dairy farmer.

2. POWER-PACKED

Robbie Power has been around the block a few times and it is already 10 years since he won the Grand National on Gordon Elliott's Silver Birch, but he has had a year he will never forget. With owner Alan Potts moving some of his string to Jessica Harrington he became associated with Sizing John and that partnership alone has won him the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Irish Gold Cup, while he also won the Coral Cup on Supasundae. Those wins helped him got the contract to ride all Potts' horses and with Tizzard housing plenty, his return to form came at the start of a fruitful new partnership.

3. A MIGHTY BITE

While there were plenty of words written about Might Bite's extraordinary win in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham, it was far more straightforward for him in the Mildmay Novices' Chase. Yet again Nico de Boinville adopted front-running tactics but unlike last month Davy Russell did not let him out of his sight on Whisper. While at Cheltenham Might Bite went for a wander on jumping the last and seemingly throwing the race away and into Whisper's lap, this time there were no such alarms, as Might Bite kept straight and true. A big leap at the last sealed the deal. Nicky Henderson now has a genuine Cheltenham Gold Cup contender on his hands and Haydock's Betfair Chase has been nominated as his first port of call next season.

4. NICHOLLS NEEDS THE NATIONAL

If Paul Nicholls is to retain his champion trainer accolade he simply must have one of his five runners in the frame to give him any sort of a chance of catching Henderson. With over £1million in prize money on offer in the big race Nicholls needs to get a large portion of it with Henderson picking up a one-two in the Mildmay Novices' Chase with Might Bite and Whisper, as well as Rather Be winning the opening Grade Three handicap hurdle. Add in several placed horses like Thomas Campbell, Beyond Conceit and O O Seven and the Seven Barrows handler is close to disappearing out of sight.

5. MORE TO LIFE THAN RACING

Sometimes racing's participants can get too involved in the game and take it far too seriously and when you hear stories like that of Richard Woollacott, who trained the final winner in Lalor, you realise there are far more important things in life. Admittedly those involved directly with the horses live with them 24/7 but Woollacottt could have been forgiven for having other things on his mind. Point-to-point jockey James McNeile died on one of his horses last week, one of the owners of 33-1 winner Lalor had also passed away recently and the trainer's two-year-old daughter was in hospital. That he was even on course to welcome back the promising winner tells you everything you need to know about the dedication of the participants.

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