Aintree: Tartan Snow's moment in the sun tainted by disaster

100-1 shot wins Fox Hunters’ Chase but all the talk will be of Battlefront’s death


However the reputation of this place is distorted, by its defenders or detractors, in any real world you know that each fairytale must be reciprocated by a nightmare.

On Saturday, a sport in torment will turn to Katie Walsh and Seabass and seek deliverance from a run of luck so macabre that it might pardonably consider itself cursed. Yesterday, however, the woman who hopes to become the first of her sex to win the Grand National found herself wretchedly inundated by the miseries she is charged to redress.

Having enjoyed an exhilarating reconnaissance of the big fences, in the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase, Walsh felt her mount weaken and quickly pulled him up. He had jumped brilliantly. Yet moments later he had collapsed, and he would never regain his feet. Like Seabass, he had been trained by her father, Ted. So it is that they approach their big day forging new steel from the searing intimacy of grief. The broader sporting parish, meanwhile, was left to ponder something grimly apposite in the wretched creature’s name: Battlefront.

Once again, those who had modified the National course in the hope of reducing its hazards had found themselves deceived. The first race over the modified fences seemed to unfold relatively innocuously, to the extent that traditionalists were disconcerted to see errant horses brushing gaily through the spruce. As after last year’s National, however, a chastening postscript would require officials to explain that even fatalities on the National course do not automatically reflect an unpalatable risk.

Mind you, to the millions who will volunteer their implicit assent by placing a bet, nor did this race offer much promise of venal gains tomorrow. It was won in the last stride by a 13-year-old, Tartan Snow, at odds of 100-1 – and the tricast, with placed horses at 33-1 and 40-1, proved so unaccountable that it paid just under £75,000.

Tartan Snow is trained in the Scottish Borders by Stuart Coltherd, who has 1,300 ewes against just a dozen horses. “We didn’t know how he would adapt to these fences,” he admitted. “So we just took it on faith and he pulled out everything. It’s unbelievable. I was up at 2am to tend to lambing, but I’ve got someone else to do the night shift so we can enjoy this. It’s what dreams are made of.”

Such are the daily emotional contradictions of life on the Turf. To those better versed in its ups and downs, indeed, a duty of exculpation can seem especially vexing when some of the best sport of the season gets relegated to a relative footnote. What a thrilling race they enjoyed, for instance, when a top novice measured himself against the seasoned elite in the John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle.

In the end, Zarkandar responded to a combination of blinkers, an inspired ride from the front by Ruby Walsh and the extra half-mile to stem the challenge of The New One by half a length – with Thousand Stars, again excelling round here, just behind in third – but the trainer of the runner-up could scarcely have sounded more satisfied had he won. “We’d won everywhere except the last hundred yards,” Nigel Twiston-Davies said. “So the drop back to two miles might help him. The champion hurdler has got to be worried.”

Zarkandar had been third to Hurricane Fly at Cheltenham last month but Paul Nicholls is persuaded that his fulfilment lies over this kind of trip and more. “The blinkers have worked really well,” the trainer said. “He can get a bit lazy in his races but they have kept him interested the whole way round. I thought he gave up a bit too easily in the Champion Hurdle, he was off the bridle [his jockey was having to push him along] in a matter of strides and I just thought he took the easy way out. His pedigree is all about staying, so that’s where we’ll go from here.”

Nicholls and Walsh had been obliged to settle for third in the Betfred Bowl with Silviniaco Conti, who had been going so well when falling in the Gold Cup. The favourite was on and off the bridle before closing up late behind First Lieutenant, who gave Mouse Morris a 62nd birthday present after providing one of three runners-up for his yard at the Festival.

First Lieutenant was given a ride of increasingly familiar flair by Bryan Cooper. “He’s a young man and it’s a young man’s game,” said the sage Morris. “This horse deserves his Grade One, he’s just a really good, honest horse. It was a toss-up between the Ryanair and the Gold Cup at Cheltenham. We went for the Ryanair and bumped into a very good Cue Card on the day. That’s the way it goes. The horses all ran well at Cheltenham, without blowing the trumpet.”

Another young rider to amplify his talents was Brendan Powell Jr, who won frantically competitive handicaps over both hurdles and fences. For the latter success he again teamed up with Colin Tizzard, as when riding a runaway winner at the Festival. “Brendan met the last on a young man’s stride!” Tizzard said approvingly. “There’s no way he was going to let him shorten up.”

After winning the last, Powell admitted: “Turning in, I thought to myself: ‘This can’t be happening again.’”

Young as he is, he may not know how many others had already expressed themselves similarly during the afternoon.

A poster by Durham Constabulary
Arts and Entertainment
books New York Times slammed over summer reading list
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine