As Aintree’s Grand National Day loomed large in the North West of England, many punters flocked to Bangor-On Dee for Grand National Celebration Day on Saturday 9th April, in preparation for a showing on the big screen at 5:15pm of what many deem to be the world’s greatest horse race. Of course, this wasn’t the only race of interest! With six races on the card, including the feature race of the day at 2:33pm, the Weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk Handicap Chase, racegoers had lots to be excited about at Bangor-On-Dee with thrilling finishes and big-priced winners aplenty. Ground conditions were Good (Good To Soft in places) with dry weather and sunny spells in the afternoon.
Race 1 – JCL Insurance Brokers Handicap Hurdle (Class 5, 4yo+)
It paid to be in a prominent position during the first race of the day as Vintage Fizz prevailed at odds of 4/1 for Yorkshire-based trainer Jedd O’Keefe, having tracked the leaders throughout. The early pace was set by previous course winner Beach Break and the Kerry Lee trained Not Sure, but as the runners swung into the home straight, Charlie Hammond steered Vintage Fizz to challenge the leaders two from home. Despite an awkward jump at the final flight and a late rally from Not Sure, Vintage Fizz merely had to be pushed out to win by a cosy ¾ of a length, adding yet another winner to a career-best jumps season tally for Charlie Hammond. Line Of Descent, the 11/4 SP Fav, finished a well-beaten 10th of 12 finishers. A worthwhile trip from Yorkshire for the winning connections!
Race 2 – Weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk Handicap Chase (Class 4, 5yo+)
There was late drama in the feature race of the day at Bangor-On-Dee, as the Gary Hanmer trained 7/2 shot Costly Diamond attempted to run out at the seventh fence and spectacularly unseated the Champion Jockey-elect Brian Hughes from the saddle when leading the field. With the field reduced to five runners, the Alastair Ralph trained Billingsley was sent to the front by Jay Tidball and looked set to secure victory jumping the final fence…but would it be a meeting at Bangor-On-Dee without a McCain winner?! Theo Gillard clearly thought not, as his patient riding style paid-off nicely when Cenotice swept aside Billingsley 100 yards out to win going away by 3 ½ lengths at odds of 9/1. Another jockey having a career-best season, Gillard has ridden more than 30 winners during 2021-22, at a strike rate of around 15%; congratulations Theo on a fantastic season in the saddle!
Race 3 – Alfa Aggregate Products Novices’ Handicap Chase (Class 5, 5yo+)
In the third race of the day, another locally-trained horse triumphed when Oliver Greenall’s gelding Oceans Red stayed on to win at odds of 13/2 under amateur jockey Mr Toby Wynne. More bad luck for Gary Hanmer and Brian Hughes played a major part though as Hughes delivered the 85/40 SP Fav Daranova to challenge Oceans Red at the final fence, only for his mount to blunder and unseat him when looking set to fight out the finish. This left Oceans Red to claim the spoils by 2 lengths from John Groucott’s previous course winner On The Platform. Oliver Greenall has now trained over 30 winners for two consecutive seasons; well done to the team at Stockton Hall Stables in Malpas!
Race 4 – Wilsons Accident Repair for the Clive Clifton Memorial Trophy Novices’ Handicap Chase (Class 4, 4yo+)
Five runners went to post for Race 4, but only 6 ½ lengths covered the field as they crossed the line after 2 miles and 4 furlongs. With his mount having his first run after a wind operation, this was no issue for Theo Gillard, who gave Bob’s Bar a positive ride from the front to ensure that he and Donald McCain were at the double, coming out on top at odds of 4/1. Despite losing his right fore shoe mid-race and diving through the top of the final fence, Bob’s Bar held on gamely by ½ a length to record his second career victory, with the rallying Harry Du Berlais back in second place, and the weakening 2/1 SP Fav Dawn Raider a further 2 lengths back in third place. Having lost his 5lb claim back in January, this win takes Theo Gillard another step closer to losing his now 3lb claim as an apprentice jockey; a superb breakthrough season for a very talented young jockey!
Race 5 – Anthony Brooke Rankin Maiden Hurdle (Class 4, 4yo+)
The fifth race saw another horse lead from pillar to post, as Dedanser ran on strongly to win at odds of 16/5 for Brian Hughes and Donald McCain, giving the trainer a treble on the day. Having led for most of the way, Dedanser’s only real challenge came at the penultimate flight when he and the Alastair Ralph trained In Our Dreams went clear of the eventually well beaten 11/10 SP Fav Tigerbythetail. However, the determined attitude of Dedanser, coupled with a late mistake at the final flight from In Our Dreams, was enough to get the job done by 4 ¼ lengths. With Brian Hughes soon to be crowned Champion Jump Jockey for the second time, he is also under 10 winners away from achieving 200 winners in a season. Good luck for the remainder of the season, Brian!
Race 6 – Watch The Grand National @ 5.15 “Junior” National Hunt Flat Race (Class 5, 4yo+)
Racegoers were treated to a pulsating finish to the final race of the day in the National Hunt Flat Race for Juniors as Bertie B prevailed at a huge price of 18/1 for trainer Clive Boultbee-Brooks. Having stayed prominent for much of the contest, Mr Tommie O’Brien delivered Bertie B to challenge for the lead 2 furlongs from home, soon followed by the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained The Kniphand who made strong headway from the rear of the field. Bertie B edged to the lead a furlong from the finish, and managed to stay on strongly to just hold on by a neck from The Kniphand, with a further 3 lengths back to Trick Of The Tail in third place. Bertie B’s success marked another win in a successful season for Clive Boultbee-Brooks, who has trained 4 winners from just 11 runners this season alone. Bertie B’s familiar silk colours, owned by Boultbee-Brooks, have also been carried to success with popular chasers Johnbb and Sebastopol in recent years. Congratulations, Clive!
Just over a quarter of an hour after the concluding race on the card, racegoers gathered to watch the 2022 running of the Randox Health Grand National. The winner came in the shape of the Irish-trained 7-year-old Noble Yeats at odds of 50/1, ridden by amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen and trained by Emmet Mullins. This provided Sam Waley-Cohen with his 7th win over Aintree’s Grand National fences since the turn of the century (a modern record) and a poignant win on his final ever ride as a jockey. Everybody at Bangor-On-Dee wishes Sam a long and happy retirement!
Race report by Adam Perkins