Our columnist reflects on a day of high drama on and off the track at Sandown and Aintree including Defi Du Seuil's Tingle Creek win.
It’s 4.13pm and I’m writing this having left a bemused and confused Sandown Park.
Racegoers are still awaiting news of the stewards’ enquiry into the last race which was at 3.40. I have no problem in officials taking their time over deliberations and the BHA need to make sure they make the right call but what I can’t get over is the lack of information given out to those in attendance.
I had numerous people coming up to me asking what to do. Are my bets void? Can I go home and get a refund later? As far as I’m aware nothing went out over the tannoy to explain to punters what was happening.
Keeping paying customers informed has to be an area we improve upon in this country.
It was a sad postscript to a rollercoaster day on ITV Racing. It all started with the Randox Health Becher Chase and an incredible performance from Walk In The Mill, who was winning the race for the second successive season.
Yet again he was showing the importance of previous experience over those big Aintree fences and I loved seeing how well the old brigade ran behind him. Alpha Des Obeaux, Definitly Red, One For Arthur and Vieux Lion Rouge all emerged from the race with lots of credit.
The latter may only have finished ninth but he’s now jumped 204 Grand National fences without falling or unseating rider. That makes him one of the heroes of the day.
I was also very pleased for winning trainer Robert Walford. One of my heroes growing up was Captain Tim Forster. I loved his horses and have paintings of two of them, Dublin Flyer and Martha’s Son, hanging in the sitting room at home.
He was a notable pessimist and before subsequent winner Last Suspect headed to the start for his National, told owner the Duchess of Westminster to meet him behind the stands once they’d caught him after his inevitable fall.
Walford has a touch of that in his approach. He was describing his season as horrendous beforehand and said the only chance Walk In The Mill had was if the race was run in a swamp!
It was far from from that and the winner loved his return to Aintree. Presumably all roads will now lead back there in the spring.
The Becher Chase was a fitting tribute to Andrew Tulloch who was bowing out after 24 years as clerk of the course. It’s arguably the hottest seat in racing and the way he has helped to keep the National so popular in an increasingly sceptical society is something he should be very proud of.
The Many Clouds Chase was a bit of a non-event after the early departure of Might Bite but it was good to see Native River jumping with all his old enthusiasm. I’d love to see the Brooms target the National with him in April as he looks tailor made for it while Matt Chapman is convinced he’ll run a big race in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup, too.
At Sandown it was a day to remember for the Rucker family, Evan Williams and Adam Wedge after a big double highlighted by Espirit Du Large’s win in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase.
I’m not sure it was a vintage renewal but I was delighted for a very emotional winning trainer and his family who were all part of the triumph. You couldn’t meet a nicer man than Evan – he’s so open and accommodating to ITV.
What a Betfair Tingle Creek Chase we saw later on the card.
Waiting Patiently ran a huge race in third, Un De Sceaux was heroic yet again aged 11 but you have to take your hat off to the winner Defi Du Seuil.
This was his sixth Grade One victory and he’s the new kid on the block in the two-mile chase division. If they decide to bring Altior back in trip at least we have a proper match-up waiting for him.
Racing takes you to such highs but will always have the trapdoor to despair and my heart goes out to everyone involved with Houblon Des Obeaux. What a chaser he was, running in races like the Grand National, and Cheltenham Gold Cup. He won many big prizes and was a horse who loved his career. That was clear throughout.
I must finish by sending my warmest congratulations to Lydia Hislop, who this week won the HWPA Broadcaster of the Year gong. She’s someone who’s work I admire enormously and the award was richly deserved.
We did have some good news for team ITV Racing too with our nomination for a Broadcast Award. It’s not going to be easy to win against the likes of the Cricket World Cup final and Six Nations rugby but I love seeing racing in that company and on that stage.