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The Randox Grand National at Aintree went ahead this year after missing out in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Taking place behind closed doors for the first time in its history, the meeting went ahead on perfect “good to soft” ground with the clerk of the course doing a terrific job to ensure superb jumping ground.

It was an incredible few days of action, with top-class racing and here are my top 10 highlights for beth.bet subscribers

Rachael Blackmore

Rachael was exceptional at Aintree and the pinnacle of the meeting was her epic win in the Randox Grand National on Saturday, becoming the first ever female jockey to take the trophy riding ‘Minella Times’. This was the good news story that racing needed after a troubling season. Blackmore demonstrated all her expertise, patience and accuracy over the fences to come home in style on the well-backed winner. In the last month alone, she has won The Champion Hurdle, The Ballymore Hurdle, The Champion Bumper, The Ryanair Chase, The Triumph Hurdle & The Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. Racheal was also the leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival, and with her Grand National win has earned her place in racing history.

Henry de Bromhead

Henry de Bromhead is a trainer who has enjoyed an unbelievable season, winning The Gold Cup, The Champion Chase & The Champion Hurdle as well as saddling the first & second home in the Grand National. His modesty and brilliant placing of his horses is a real feature of his emergence up the training ranks, and he can now be regarded as one of the top trainers in Britain & Ireland (with an incredible team of young improving horses who seem sure to make an even bigger impact over the next few years).

Clan Des Obeaux

Paul Nicholls had endured his first blank Cheltenham for nineteen years as a trainer, but typically bounced back in style at Aintree. ‘Clan Des Obeaux’ was a real highlight, running out a facile wide margin winner of the Grade 1 Betway Bowl on Tuesday, propelling Nicholls back to the top of his game with a very positive ride from Harry Cobden. He is likely to come back for another tilt at the King George in December at Kempton and will be very much the one to beat again on Boxing Day.

Joshua Moore

Moore is one of the most underrated and under used jockeys in the weighing-room, and his ride on ‘Editeur du Gite’ to win the The Red Rum Handicap Chase on Thursday was one of the best of the meeting. Setting a strong pace, jumping superbly and pulling out more on the run in, it was a breathtaking display, and the horse is sure to go on to better things while the ground continues to ride on the faster side through the spring and summer.

Monmiral

This horse landed the Juvenile Hurdle for Paul Nicholls on Thursday in really impressive style, jumping and travelling strongly before storming clear to rout the useful and proven performer ‘Adagio’. He is very much a chaser on looks and that is likely to be the plan next season, undoubtedly one of the most exciting young horses in the Paul Nicholls stable (and now 4/4 in the UK over hurdles). 

Tiger Roll

The veteran eleven-year-old ran simply in the wrong race at Aintree. He should have been defending his Grand National crown (bidding for a historic third victory like ‘Red Rum’ in days gone by), but his owners opted instead for him to run in the Betway Bowl (where he was a huge drifter, never went a yard and finished well beaten). This was a classic case of running a horse in the wrong race, and he hardly has time on his side if he comes back for the big race in 2021 aged 12.

Over the top from Cheltenham?

In the past, punters always felt that backing horses who had faced hard races at Cheltenham was a fatal mistake coming into Aintree and I certainly know many bookmakers who had a theory that anything that had won at Cheltenham was well worth taking on at Aintree just a few weeks later. This theory proved right in some instances, however wrong in others. All of Colin Tizzard’s horses ran abysmally but the reverse was true for horses like ‘Chantry House’, ‘Belfast Banter’ & ‘Happy Go Lucky’ all came to Aintree to show class and to claim their victories.

Watering the Ground

Punters are often fearful when a course announces they are watering the course, and this was certainly true for some in the lead up to Aintree. The weather was unusually dry for the Spring; however, the Clerk of the course got the balance completely right producing good, safe, good to soft jumping ground (and as a direct result there were some terrific spectacles with the horses all able to give their running on ideal ground). This is to the immense credit of the clerk and an example to others around the country. Very often a day’s racing can be blighted by incorrect going descriptions with the ground often over watered or loose (as a result of attempts to try too hard to artificially produce the ideal ground).

My Drogo

Dan Skelton is currently chasing the jockey’s championship for his brother Harry, and this cracking young performer was one of the most impressive winners of the week on Saturday. He stormed clear to land hefty market support down to 11/8 favourite on the day (having been available at 7/2 earlier in the week and 2/1 in the morning) and looks a really exciting top-class prospect. Dan reported afterwards that he is going to be a staying chaser in time and will start off straight over fences next season. One of the most exciting young horses in the UK, and along with ‘Monmiral’ he is one to follow in 2021/22. 

Shishkin

Nicky Henderson’s brilliant novice did not impress everyone when winning at the prohibitive price of 1/8 on Saturday, but perhaps he can be forgiven for feeling the side effects of a hard held win in the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival. He is now on target to go to the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in 2022. An unbeaten 5/5 record since going chasing, he is a fantastic prospect to follow next year (and one who might be sent off a bigger price than he should be after this workmanlike Grade 1 win).

An interesting statistic evolving from the Grand National this year is that 22 Brits took on 18 Irish in the race. The Irish had 12 out of 15 finishers and of those 25 that failed to compete, 19 were British trained, so this did really show their dominance this season at both 

One element that was missing this year was the unbelievable roar of the crowd in the final furlong of the race – let’s hope next year the 150,000 expectant spectators are allowed to return to this hallowed ground and the thrill of the race can be enjoyed once more.

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