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The race that produces a 1000 stories and stops a nation!

Grand National2Having had the Lincoln and the delight’s from Dubai last week, we now have the the race that see’s the country stand still this weekend. The bookie’s shops will be chock a block in the morning with the once a year punter’s and their shipping order’s! It is the people’s race and unless your one of the “anti-national” brigade, it’s odds on that whether you’re a racing fan or not, you will have had a bet on the race at sometime in your life. I remember as a kid been encouraged to have 50p each way on a couple of horses by my dad and nana. Then dad wished he’d never asked as it took me forever to look through the card, my nana saying “pick a nice name”, or “what colour’s do you like?”, as I was trying to look at the runner’s like I knew what I was doing!

The Red Rum story and his amazing record in the race will never be surpassed, the Bob Champion and Aldaniti story was such a tearjerker, Mick Fitzgerald and his claim that his winning ride around the National fences on Rough Quest “was better than sex!”….there have been so many story’s both happy and sad in many a Grand National and last year there was one of sadness to some close friends of mine, as they lost their beloved According To Pete.

They had up until that point had an unbelievable week. Claire Balding had visited the North Yorkshire village where I was brought up and where the Nelson family had been a long established part of the local community. Everyone in the village you spoke to had invested a few quid on Pete, so his loss really hit the community.

I had visited the village the day after the Nelson’s had lost Pete and in the local pub at Sunday lunch, there was a very sombre atmosphere as if someone had passed away. The worst thing was, the BBC sent a reporter in the pub and were asking for opinion’s regards the National and the same old question’s, should it be banned? is the race cruel?

I thought, don’t get me started, as I would lose my head somewhat. Horse’s get injured unfortunately and having being involved with a sprinter that was fatally injured I know personally how it feels. But you are talking a small percentage of fatalities and as you will know through the ownership aspect of Post Racing, these beautiful animals are so well cared for, looked after and loved by those who look after them. It infuriates me when the loss of a horse at one of the major National Hunt festival’s find’s itself as one of the leading stories on the evening’s news programmes. They are just giving unnecessary fuel to the fire that the protester’s are burning.

Every year, we hear of competitors in the London Marathon having heart attacks, injuries and some unfortunately losing their lives but we don’t hear the cries of “ban the race” do we?

Congratulations to the four lucky member’s heading to the National with Rosies Lady tomorrow, I’m sure you’ll have a great time. Among the “legends” taking part are Mick Kinane and George Duffield who fought out a fantastic finish in the Leger Legends race at Doncaster last year. Whilst Duffield has been retired for a few years now and is claiming his pension at the age of 66, he’s not lost any of his competitive nature which he had throughout a riding career which even saw him win a handicap over a mile at Aintree on Streetcar for his long standing boss Sir Mark Prescott. Good luck to Jim Culloty on the pride of Post Racing, let’s hope Rosie lets Jim become a “best mate” even though she doesn’t like us men!!

Good luck to all of those riding both in the charity race and in the main card. Here’s to a safe run round in the National for both horses and jockeys.

Bearing in mind I look after a few of the girls, I hope Katie Walsh can steer SEABASS into first place having run a gallant 3rd last year. The first girl jockey to win the National would be a nice story for the 2013 meeting, hopefully the race will make the headlines for the right reason’s this year.

Looking ahead to the flat action on Saturday, there are all-weather meetings at Lingfield and Wolverhampton, plus a turf meeting at Newcastle. The meeting at Newcastle is wide open with some competitive handicaps on the card.

Tag Racing Club, which I manage, had that old favourite Almaty Express run a blinder at Wolverhampton on Thursday night, when finishing second to a well handicapped Irish raider. The night before, at Kempton, our trainer John Weymes got off the cold list with a winner in Silver Fawn so we hoped he would run well as he had been showing how well he was at home. The snow has been really bad in Middleham and the High Moor gallop is still under snow which is bad news for John as he work’s his string up there along with Neighbour Karl Burke. Almaty has been kept ticking over on the walker and in the lunge ring, as the weather has interupted John’s training programme for the yard so it really is a testament to the skills of John and his partner Kirsty, who both work really hard. Our other horse IMTITHAL runs in the 2.10 at Newcastle and while there are a couple of unraced horses in there and we have to give weight away due to her being a four year old, we hope she will go well and run well at a consistent level for the club. ALMATY EXPRESS is also declared to run later at night at Wolverhampton and he could easily take his place in the line up as he is so well, with the highly rated Rob Tart taking the ride. It could be a decent day for the Tag Racing lads & they are a great bunch and have had a great deal of success. Michael Metcalfe rides Imtithal, as he did Almaty on Wednesday. Michael is a very under rated lad, he claims three pounds and has ridden over 70 winners. He has a good racing brain and nice hands and as was the case with Almaty Express the other night, the race didn’t go to suit at the start but he got him in the right positions at the right times to make up for the start.

There is a Listed race at Lingfield which see’s the seasonal debut of the Richard Hannon trained VAN DER NEER and he should take all the beating if fully wound up. At night, under the floodlight’s at Dunstall Park, Kirsty will have each way claims on ALEZANNA in the 8.50 race.

Thankfully, thing’s are starting to pick up for the jockey’s and I am pleased to say that your hero from Musselburgh, Raul Da Silva, has come on board this week. So just like Post Racing, exciting times are ahead.

Have a great weekend.

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