Saturday will be a day that lives long in the memory for jockey Harry Skelton after he enjoyed a Grade 1 double at Sandown, as crowds were able to enjoy top-level National Hunt racing for the first time since the Cheltenham Festival.
Skelton’s first Grade 1 win came aboard the highly regarded Allmankind, who was far too good for his rivals in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase, and that was followed by an imperious performance by Politologue in the Tingle Creek Chase.
“It means an awful lot,” said Skelton after partnering the grey Politologue to his second victory in the contest. “I rode eight winners one season and though the world was going to end. It’s a tough game, Paul [Nicholls] has always told me to be patient and the afternoon I’ve had now – every single hardship has been worthwhile.
“I spent a long time at Paul’s, we learned the game from Paul [Politologue’s trainer], and today I’ve come here and ridden a Grade 1 winner for my brother [Dan, trainer of Allmankind] and one for Paul.
“Everything I’ve put into my career has been worth it for this and I’m very lucky to be in the position I’m in now – so you’ve got to enjoy it.”
Lake View Lad springs surprise in Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase at Aintree
The betting market suggested that this year’s running of the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase was going to be a tight affair between favourite Santini and the formidable Native River.
However, the pair were outpointed by the Nick Alexander-trained Lake View Lad, in a race that saw nine fences omitted due to the low sun at the Merseyside track. The grey, sporting the colours of owner Trevor Hemmings, was a fitting winner of the race named after Hemmings’ late Grand National hero Many Clouds.
The Scottish trainer did acknowledge the role the bypassing of fences played in the gelding’s win and said: “I’m not sure he would have won had all the fences been in – and the handicapper should take that into account!
“I always wanted to have one chance against the Gold Cup horses and everything was perfect for him. It was the time to do it and it paid off, which was great. It’s been a day I won’t forget and I’m delighted for the horse.
“I never had him quite right last season and he hasn’t had a straightforward preparation this term either. It’s brilliant to have him right on the day, and it’s a result for Trevor.”
Earlier on Aintree’s card, the David Pipe-trained Vieux Lion Rouge confirmed his reputation as a course specialist over the Grand National fences when securing the Grade 3 Becher Chase for the second time.
The 12-year-old has now successfully jumped 223 of the iconic fences having also run in four Grand Nationals. It was back in 2016 that Vieux Lion Rouge first landed the Becher Chase.
Partnered by jockey Conor O’Farrell, the old-timer scooted clear to record a 24-length victory.
The jockey said: “He’s an old star who knows his way round and he was brilliant over the fences. There was plenty of pace on and I took my time and let him find his rhythm – he saw it out really well. There was a lot going on, but we managed to keep out of it and he galloped all the way to the line.
“To win it twice, and at his age as well, is fantastic. I’m delighted for David and Caroline [Tisdall, co-owner]. This is her favourite horse and she said to me beforehand, all she wanted was for us to come back safe.”
Dr Richard Newland, who sent out Pineau De Re to win the 2014 Grand National, was also celebrating on Saturday as nine-year-old Beau Bay captured the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase by five lengths.