If there was a message in the form book ahead of today’s 167th Grand National, it arrived special delivery for The Package.
Last month at Cheltenham the David Pipe-trained 11-year-old, having his first run for a year, finished an eye-catching third in a Grade Three handicap and yesterday the two in front of him that day, the winner Holywell and Ma Filleule, both romped home, by an aggregate 18 lengths. The Package was immediately cut from 20-1 to 16-1 for the National.
Ma Filleule was particularly impressive in the Topham Trophy over two and three-quarter miles of the National course, taking to the unique fences with aplomb. But the contest took a toll on jockeys, with Paul Carberry, Noel Fehily, Andrew Tinkler and Mikey Fogarty – all with National mounts – suffering injuries.
Carberry, taken to hospital for precautionary X-rays on his pelvis, is still likely to be able to partner Monbeg Dude, one of the National favourites. Fehily (Rocky Creek) and Tinkler (Hunt Ball) were both treated on course and both should be fit for today. But Fogarty, who suffered a back injury and also left the course in an ambulance, may miss his ride on Vesper Bell. None of the 10 horses who fell or unseated their rider in the Topham was injured.
How ever Tony McCoy fares today on Double Seven in his quest for a second National, further ahead he has the prospect of riding Holywell in next season’s elite races. In the Mildmay Novices Chase – taken in the past two years by two of the best in the staying chasing division, Silviniaco Conti and Dynaste – the blinkered seven-year-old put his rivals, including RSA Chase winner O’Faolains Boy, ruthlessly to the sword.
It was Holywell’s fourth win in a row; his 10-length defeat of one of Ireland’s best novices, Don Cossack, confirmed him as sharply progressive and he is now as short as 8-1 for next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup. “He’s a bit of a jack the lad,” said his trainer, Jonjo O’Neill “At home he bucks and kicks and generally messes around coming up the gallops.”