No angler can rival the racehorse trainer when it comes to the one that got away, but there can be little doubt that the rod was bent double when two horses in particular slipped out of contention at Aintree on Saturday.
Ballycassidy, an 80-1 outsider, was still six lengths clear when falling at Valentine's Brook on the second circuit. He had another five to jump after that, and the big guns were still going well in behind, but Peter Bowen, his trainer, insisted yesterday that this was not the fall of a tiring horse. "Leighton Aspell said he was still going easily," Bowen said. "He was cantering. The thing is that he had jumped everything so well, he had got all the worst ones out of the way, but then he just met that one on the wrong stride."
Bowen has pencilled in the Scottish National for Take The Stand, who ran so well when second in the Betfair Bowl on the first day of the meeting, so he will reserve judgement on Ballycassidy's next move until he sees how he has taken his race. "The main thing is that he's fine, and lives to fight another day," Bowen said. "But you can take it we will be bringing him back next year."
It was still far too early to make any assumptions about Jack High when he left his back legs in the Chair. "But strictly on the book, wherever Numbersixvalverde finished, you would have thought that we would not be far away," Ted Walsh, his trainer, said. "Likewise the fourth horse, Nil Desperandum. The winner did it so well on the day that it would be hard to say we would have beaten him, but all you can say is that every line of form would have given him a chance."
Jack High was heavily backed before the race, ending up as 9-1 third favourite. "I was very happy with him to that stage, but he jack-knifed the jockey out the saddle," his trainer added. "He's fine this morning, just a bit stiff. He won't go to the Irish National, it's only next Monday, but if he's all right he will go back to Sandown for the Betfred Gold Cup at the end of the month."
That is a possible option for Innox, who fell at the very first fence on Saturday, but Clan Royal will not run again this season. He suffered a cut to his belly when blundering at the 19th but none the less managed third place.
The other joint-favourite, Hedgehunter, finished second giving 18lb to the winner, and Willie Mullins was justly delighted with his performance. "The horse has travelled home well and appears in good form," the trainer said. "We will just see how he is over the next week before deciding whether to run again, though I imagine the only race he would go for would be the Guinness Gold Cup at Punchestown."
As for the winner himself, he will be taking a well earned rest. Numbersixvalverde was on his way back to Co Kildare yesterday and his trainer confirmed that he was sound before departure. "He's in good order," Martin Brassil said. "That will be it for the season now, and we'll bring him back next year to try and do it again."
Now that the present Irish hegemony in jump racing has been extended at Aintree - only Clan Royal prevented an Irish 1-2-3 in a photo for third - more of the same will be expected when the focus switches to the Flat. George Washington, hot favourite for the Stan James 2,000 Guineas, worked after racing at the Curragh yesterday. It was a very conservative exercise in heavy ground, but he did show disturbing signs of temperament, being reluctant to leave the parade ring and ducking through a gap in the rails when hacking to the top of the course.
Nap: Native Title (Windsor 4.00)
NB: Blue Opal
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