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Aintree, 14 April, 2007



606: DEBATE
Text 81111 with your thoughts on the action, especially if you are at Aintree, e-mail aintree@bbc.co.uk or contribute to 606

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By Phil Harlow

1828: The last race was abandoned after a nasty incident involving Graphic Approach running through the rails into the crowd.

Graphic Approach is believed to have suffered concussion in the incident.

The horse, which fell at Becher's Brook during the Grand National, collapsed with heat stress, forcing the 1700 race to be delayed by 45 minutes.

"This horse has got heat stroke and has been laid down for some time now," said Aintree managing director Charles Barnett.

"It was an extremely difficult situation, and following discussions with both owners and trainers of the runners, it was decided to abandon the last (seventh) race.

"We would like to apologise to racegoers and the owners and trainers involved, but I am sure that everyone will understand that the welfare of a horse who is being treated - and the horses taking part in the final race - must always be our number one priority."

Vets at the course suspect the horse has concussion, and he is believed to be on his way to an equine hospital to be thoroughly checked out.

1822: The last race is abandoned after a nasty incident involving Graphic Approach.

It seems that when loose, the Grand National horse careered through the rails and into the crowd.

Three officials suffered minor injuries in the incident, with television pictures showing one battered and bruised man taken away on a stretcher with blood coming from his mouth.

1700 John Smith's Novices' Handicap Chase
1 Private Be (Mr J Guerriero) 12-1
2 Bob Hall (Mr J T McNamara) 9-4 Fav
3 Time To Sell (Mr R P McLernon) 20-1

1745: The 1700 Novices' Handicap Chase finally gets under way, well behind schedule.

1736: The screens are up on the course, with vets and worried-looking men in suits attending to a stricken horse. No word as yet as to which horse it is.

There are still two races to run at Aintree, but there is no sign of any action just yet.

1725: Aintree is a slightly calmer place than an hour or so ago, with thousands of discarded betting slips visible all over the shop.

1705: For the record, here are the other finishers (in order, from sixth to 13th): Numbersixvalverde, Longshanks, Puntal, Hedgehunter, L'Ami, Clan Royal, Gallant Approach, Kelami.

1700: A good result for the bookies with virtually all the favourites struggling to make an impression.

So did anyone come up trumps with Silver Birch? Or back Philson Run for a place at 100-1?

1644: "It's an unreal feeling - he was easy to ride," adds jockey Robbie Power.

"Every time he saw a fence he pricked his ears and took it on. All I had to do was steer."

1638: Silver Birch is the sixth Irish winner in the last nine years. It's fair to say that the Gordon Elliott-trained former Welsh National winner was not one of the fancied horses at Aintree.

Incidentally, 13 horses finished the race. That's bad news for the punter who bet £20,000 a point on the spreads on 16 or more horses completing the course.

1636: "It's unbelievable - I can retire now," winning jockey Robbie Power tells BBC Sport.

1615 John Smith's Grand National Chase (4m 4f)
1. Silver Birch (R Power) 33-1
2. McKelvey (TJ O'Brien) 12-1
3. Slim Pickings (B Geraghty) 33-1
4. Philson Run (D Jacob) 100-1
5. Liberthine (Mr S Waley-Cohen) 40-1

1632: 33-1 shot Silver Birch - another Irish horse - wins the Grand National with a brave, brave run in the final straight to pip the fast-finishing McKelvey while Slim Pickings runs out of steam.

1631: Dun Doire is out of the running. Slim Pickings is in the lead now with Silver Birch in second.

1630: Leader Bewleys Berry crashes out to let Liberthine into the lead.

Ballycassidy is also out of the running.

1629: Idle Talk falls at the 19th.

1628: Monkerhostin is one of the casualties of the first circuit.

1627: Ballycassidy and Bewleys Berry are also in close order behind Naunton Brook at the head of the field.

1625: Jack High departs the action with a fall at Becher's Brook.

Outsider Naunton Brook is the early leader by four lengths after 11 fences.

1624: And they're off - and immediate drama as one of the favourites Point Barrow goes at the first.

1622: A second attempt doesn't quite come off. "Now stand still" shouts the starter like an angry teacher.

"Do as you're told. Go back. Now stay there. How many times do I have to tell you?" Priceless.

The crowd are getting restless though.

1620: The horses all charge the tape, and have to be recalled as the tape gets caught up in a few of the runners.

1618: The starter is up on the gantry, with a nice brown trilby on. Let's hope there's no 1993 repeat... I hope that's not tempting fate.

1613: Monkerhostin, available at 25-1 this morning, is backed into joint favouritism alongside Point Barrow and Joes Edge at 8-1. The other big money seems to be for Longshanks who is now at 14s.

1611: The horses are in the right order now as they are led up to the start line. Top weight and 2005 winner Hedgehunter leads the way, with Ruby Walsh in the saddle.

1605: The jockeys are all aboard their mounts now as they slowly circle around a few yards short of the startline. The nerves will be really jangling now, but most of the horses seem to be taking it in their stride despite the warm weather.

1604: The punters are still keen on Monkerhostin, with the price coming into 11s.

1600: Legendary punter and owner JP McManus relives some of his former winners, with the first coming when he was still at primary school!

"It's the race we all want to win - it's great to be here and have an interest," he tells BBC Sport.

"My first winner was a long, long time ago - I think it was Merryman when I was nine or 10."

McManus has two horses - L'Ami and Clan Royal - in this year's race and says he's happy with their form.

1557: The 40 jockeys are coming out for a photocall.

1553: The money is coming in for Monkerhostin, who is being cut to 12-1 on the course.

1550: The horses are coming up to the parade ring. Clare Balding points out how some of the runners have Vaseline on their legs just to help them ease over the demanding fences at Aintree.

1547: Monkerhostin jockey Richard Johnson is also keeping himself nice and relaxed as the jockeys get a "five minutes" warning in the changing room.

"It's his first time over the fences here - but we're not worried about his stamina," says Johnson.

"He's almost got the best form in the race in normal races but Hedgehunter is the one you'd want if you had a choice."

1545: The Carberry brothers, Paul and Philip, sound in good form as they prepare for the big one.

Philip: "If Paul doesn't bring me down I won't bring him down!"

Paul: "I'd say he'll have to look after himself out there - I've enough trouble taking care of myself."

1540: From BBC Sport's Honest Frank at Aintree:
Senior handicapper Phil Smith, who allocated the weights horses will carry in the Grand National two months ago, has revealed who has risen since then on his ratings.

So, Hedgehunter has top weight of 11st 12lbs, while Joes Edge and Le Duc are at the bottom on 10st 2lbs.

Smith assessed the horses in February, and told BBC Sport the ratings which have changed significantly two months on.

Those which are higher now include: Simon (9lbs), Billyvoddan (5lbs), Joes Edge (5lbs) and Homer Wells (3lbs).

That's good news for supporters of these horses, as they are technically"well in" at the National weights.

Less positive news for those who would be lower: Bewleys Berry, Livingstonebramble, Ballycassidy and Celtic Son.

One other pointer that Evertonian Smith, a former teacher who is handicapping his ninth National for the British Horseracing Board, made was that no French-bred horse has won since 1909.

Possibly a bad sign for L'Ami, Monkerhostin, Royal Auclair, Kelami, Celtic Son, Clan Royal, Kandjar D'Allier, Liberthine, Puntal, Sonevafushi and Le Duc.

1525 John Smith's Extra Cold Handicap Hurdle (3m)
1. Albertas Run (N Fehily) 9-2
2. Lyes Green (L Aspell) 10-1
3. Refinement (A P McCoy) 9-1
4. Penny Pictures (T Scudamore) 40-1

Jonjo O'Neill's horse Albertas Run takes the spoils in the last race before the Grand National after a brave battle with Lyes Green in the home straight.

Spare a thought for the bookies everyone - that's the second favourite to win today. No? Oh, suit yourselves.

1525: We've got our first proposal of the meeting - Andy Pearce, Jessica loves you and wants to marry you. She's gone for the slightly unusual route of getting Clare Balding to ask on her behalf on national TV.

The grown-up version of "my mate fancies you"....

1523: For those of you who take the BBC pundits' predictions seriously, Clare Balding is tipping Joes Edge with Ballycassidy her fancy for a place.

1450 Baltika Beer Aintree Hurdle (2m 4f)
1. Al Eile (Timmy Murphy) 12-1
2. Gaspara (Tom Scudamore) 11-1
3. Afsoun (Mick Fitzgerald) 13-2
11 ran.

Timmy Murphy produces a well-timed ride to guide Al Eile to the Aintree Hurdle for the second time in three years.

The seven-year-old had shown little form all season and missed the Cheltenham Festival after reportedly being under the weather.

But he looked comfortable after taking the lead two from home, beating Gaspara by a length-and-a-half.

Asian Maze fell away late on after leading for most of the race while favourite Detroit City put in another lacklustre display as he trailed in last.

"We have had an horrendous winter, nothing went right. It is great to see him back," says winning trainer John Queally.

1442: Cilla Black, Coronation Street's William Roache and gravel-voiced rock goddess Bonnie Tyler are all interviewed on telly ahead of the big race. It does not get better than that.

I presume they all reveal their top tips but I cannot concentrate as I am trying to think where I was the last time I heard "Total Eclipse of the Heart".

1438: From BBC's Honest Frank at Aintree:
Jockey Andrew Thornton, who rides Simon in the Grand National, says he is hopeful the horse can finish in the first four. "He has a chance, he is in the top 10 in the betting and I would say he must have a little chance."

Simon is owned by 87-year-old Mercy Rimell who says - presumably tongue in cheek - that she is only living to see the horse succeed.

Mercy is the widow of former trainer Fred Rimell who trained four different Grand National winners.

Thornton said: "Mercy is very forthright with some strong opinions on racing and life in general which when you are 87-years-old, you have every right to have."

Asked which other horse he would most like to ride in the big race if given the choice, Thornton said it would be Monkerhostin.

1415 John Smith's Maghull Novices' Chase (2m)
1. Twist Magic (R Walsh) 9-4
2. Fair Along (R Johnson) 7-2
3. Royal Shakespeare (R Thornton) 20-1
6 ran.

A good omen for Hedgehunter backers perhaps as Ruby Walsh rides Twist Magic to victory over the hurdles.

Punters going for the Liverpool-friendly name of Lennon are disappointed though, as the horses comes home fourth.

Walsh seems relaxed about the prospects for the 2005 winner.

"He's got a lot of weight," Walsh tells BBC Sport.

"He likes it around here and I like riding him so we'll see how it goes."

1402: The legendary Ginger McCain is on the box talking up his son Donald's chance with Idle Talk.

McCain, who took some horse - Red Rum, I think it was called - to victory three times at Aintree, says he can see a bright future for both trainer and horse.

"I genuinely think he's going to be a better trainer than his father - as you know his father was complete pillock," he tells a giggling Sue Barker.

"I think Idle Talk has got a very serious chance indeed. He's the right age at eight and he goes to the last."

True to form, Ginger's PC views get an airing after an innocent question about the redevelopment at the course.

"I just regret I'm not 30 years younger," he says with a glint in his eye.

"The girls (on Ladies' Day) were fabulous yesterday - it even brightened up an old codger like me!"

1356: It really is a glorious day at Aintree, with strong sun likely to firm up the ground even more in the hours before the Grand National goes off.

1345 John Smith's Extra Smooth Handicap Hurdle (2m)
1. King's Quay (D Costello) 16-1
2. Diego Cao (L Aspell) 25-1
3. Dancing Lara (P Kinsella) 50-1
4. Sunday City (T Greenway) 40-1
22 ran.

"It's a great thrill," said winning jockey Dominic Costello, who tips Hedgehunter for success later in the day.

A great result for the bookies in the first race - the punters will be hoping to hit back later in the day though.

1342: The 22-horse field for the first race of the day get ready to go off in a few minutes' time.

1339: The result you've all been waiting for - the most stylishly dressed racegoer award goes to a young fella by the name of Steven Wang.

Colleen McCoughlin
Colleen was a keen observer in the most stylishly dressed racegoer awards

Steven, sporting a blond barnet, huge shades and a cravat, pips several young ladies to the title.

Wayne Rooney's fiancée Colleen McLoughlin is on hand to offer her thoughts, and it turns out she knows the winner from school.

Interviewer John Parrott asks her why she is at Aintree rather than Villa Park, where Rooney will be running out for Manchester United in this afternoon's FA Cup semi-final.

"Erm, I'd rather be here," he says. And who can blame her?

1330: Joe's Edge trainer Ferdy Murphy looks nervous, but quietly confident as he come sin front of the television cameras to discuss the prospects for his joint favourite horse.

"Everything's gone very well for him," Murphy told BBC Sport.

"If we get a clear run we'll be very happy. He's much more relaxed than last year."

1320: One of the Grand National traditions is under way, with the parade of former champions including Lord Gyllene, Papillon, Red Maurauder, Monty's Pass, Amberleigh House and Bindaree.

1308: The latest odds suggest a fair amount of money has come in for Point Barrow, with the Philip Carberry mount joining Joes Edge as favourite at 9-1.

1258: Football Focus pundit Mark 'Lawro' Lawrenson is the first to get his prediction in - he's convinced the Donald McCain-trained Idle Talk is the horse to back.

1250: Afternoon everyone, the countdown to the most famous race in the horse racing calendar is very much on.

There are six other races at Aintree today, but all eyes are on the 40 runners who will go under starter's orders just before the 1615 this afternoon.

We'll be bringing you all the build-up to the big race from the BBC Sport team - including the inimitable Honest Frank - in Liverpool, and, of course, all the action and results from the other races.

So who is your money on?

For the record, mine is on Dun Doire to win (and I still hold out good hopes for him even if the ground might not be quite to his liking).

I also have a couple of cheeky quid on Cloudy Bays for a place, for no particular reason. And I've got Liberthine in the office sweepstake so I've got a few sets of colours to look out for.

But my record over the years is not the best. I did have Esha Ness in a sweepstake when I was still at school back in 1993, and that is about as close as I've ever come...



SEE ALSO
Grand National's Silver lining
15 Apr 07 |  Horse Racing
National finishes year-by-year
29 Mar 06 |  Horse Racing


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