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Arzal, trained by Harry Whittington
The Foxley Media Group guides you through the first four races of this year’s Crabbie’s Grand National.
In the opening race at this year’s Crabbie’s Grand National, held at Aintree Racecourse, 6 year old Bay Gelding Arzal strides to victory in the festival’s opening race. Under the proud ownership of The Hennessy Six, Arzal was trained by Harry Whittington, ridden to victory by G Sheehan. Setting the pace of the Merseyrail Manifesto Novices’ Chase, Arzal maintained a healthy lead throughout the race, with Sizing John and L’ami Serge not far behind. Pushing on, Arzal strode to victory in the closing seconds.
Apple Jade, trained by Willie Mullins
Taking place shortly after, Race Two was the first race of this year’s festival to include a name that strikes fear into his fellow trainers - Willie Mullins. From the beginning, Azzurri took the lead, striding ahead with conviction. Mullins’ masterpiece, Apple’s Jade, follows behind, keeping a close eye on pole position. As the half way point of the race dawned, it almost seems a given that Azzurri would maintain the lead, ahead with a four length advantage. As the finish line loomed, Azzurri began to fade, leaving first position open, allowing Apple’s Jade to steal the victory, followed by Ivanovich Gorbatov and Azzurri, who crosses the line in third position after a strong race, a victory which was undoubtedly a delight for the Irish professional.
Cue Card, trained by Colin Tizzard
As Race Three dawned, Cue Card was the hot favourite, whereby spectators believed he was almost owed a victory to compensate for a recent dramatic fall in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Lining the stalls of the Betfred Bowl Chase, upon exit, Dynaste took a strong lead on the inside, with Mullins’ Don Poli positioned centrally. In a matter of minutes, Djakadam strode into the lead, rivalled only by Don Poli, hungry for a follow-up victory for Mullins after Apple’s led by example in the previous race. As Race Three dawns to a close, Cue Card, with ears pricked in excitement, bounds into the lead, winning by some distance in the end, with Don Poli scoring the silver - this victory marks Cue Card’s jockey, Colin Tizzard’s seventh Grade 1. Djakadam finished in a respectable third, having not fallen far from his leading start.
Annie Power, trained by Willie Mullins
Next came the Aintree Hurdle. Annie Power was the hot favourite to win, having demonstrated her ability mercilessly at Cheltenham a short while ago, obliterating her Champion Hurdle opposition. After two defeats at the Cotswolds, avid equestrian fanatics believed in the power of the eight year old mare, and Power by name, Power by nature, Annie didn’t let her supporters down. The Aintree Hurdle began with a bang; Nichols Canyon took an early lead in the opening flights, with Power galloping in a comfortable second. As the first circuit drew to a close, Annie Power took the lead, a position she held until the end, followed closely by My Tent or Yours, breaking up in the last furlong. Annie Power surges to victory unrivalled in the closing seconds, to take the Aintree Hurdle.
Speaking of the victory to The Mirror, Ruby Walsh commented “She was very, very good. She travelled really well. Her stamina is never going to be a worry.”