Tiger Roll might not go down as the best horse to win a Grand National, but he added the biggest jumping prize of all to what was already a pretty unique collection of trophies he's put on the Gigginstown sideboard, beginning with the Triumph Hurdle. Fittingly, his Aintree success was also a career-best effort for the eight-year-old who took his rating from 149§ to 155. Whilst inclined to run the odd stinker in the past, Tiger Roll’s record is increasingly hard to knock, and he loses the ‘squiggle’ attached to his rating after another gutsy display, this time to hold on by just a head from the rallying Pleasant Company (152 from 145?).
Gold Cup runner-up Might Bite was the top jumper in action during the Grand National meeting, though he didn’t need to improve on his current rating of 171 to return to winning ways with a sparkling display in the Bowl. The main improver here was third-placed Clan des Obeaux (162 from 160), the youngest member of the field at just six, and still one with untapped potential.
Clan des Obeaux’s stable-companion Politologue gained his second Grade 1 success in a fine campaign for Paul Nicholls. This wasn’t the first time that he’s profited from Altior’s absence this season, but it required some improvement (166 from 163) on his part to turn the tables on a slightly below-par Min from their meeting at Cheltenham last month.
Nicholls’ other Grade 1 success of the meeting came in the Maghull Novices’ Chase when Diego du Charmil (157p from 148p) showed further improvement to upset the odds-on Petit Mouchoir. The other big novice chases went to horses who were both beaten in the JLT at Cheltenham, with Finian’s Oscar (152+ from 150) coming from a seemingly hopeless position to win the Manifesto and Terrefort (156p from 154) stepping up in trip to land the Mildmay. The latter has now won three out of four over fences since joining Nicky Henderson and is still only five.
Before leaving the chasers, there were some smart performances in the handicaps. Ultragold (148§ from 143§) won the Topham for the second year running, off a 5 lb higher mark this time than twelve months ago, while first-time cheekpieces clearly had a beneficial effect on Red Rum winner Bentelimar (145 from 137). However, Thomas Patrick (146p from 143p) has to take the main plaudits, continuing his rapid rise for Tom Lacey since making his Rules debut over hurdles just last October. The six-year-old made it three out of four over fences in the Grade 3 staying handicap, making all under Richard Johnson, and can go on to better things next season.
The main development in the hurdle ratings to come out of Aintree was Identity Thief (160 from 149) – fourth in the Champion Hurdle last month - reinventing himself as a stayer in the three-mile Liverpool Hurdle. Placed horses Wholestone and Sam Spinner didn’t run up to their best here, and the Stayers’ Hurdle form took another knock earlier at the meeting when the runner-up from that race, Supasundae (now 160 from 163), was beaten at short odds by L’Ami Serge (remains on 161) who had ideal circumstances in the Aintree Hurdle, outstaying his main rivals.
Nicky Henderson had a particularly successful Aintree, and while Apple’s Shakira failed to atone for her Triumph Hurdle defeat in the Anniversary Hurdle, stablemate We Have A Dream (150p from 145p) who’d had to miss Cheltenham, put up the best performance by a British-trained four-year-old to win that contest, taking his unbeaten record to five since joining Henderson from France. Runner-up Gumball (140 from 130) belatedly fulfilled earlier promise, he too running his best race.
Lalor had been a 33/1 winner of the Grade 2 bumper at last year’s Grand National meeting and was something of a surprise winner again when getting off the mark over hurdles with an improved effort (146 from 131) in the Top Novices’ Hurdle. Black Op had been down the field in that same bumper last year, and had already shown plenty of ability over hurdles when chasing home Samcro at Cheltenham. He didn’t need to improve (remains on 152) to go one better in the Mersey Novices’, though runner-up Lostintranslation (147 from 140) made him pull out all the stops. Both of those have a good future over fences, as does Santini (149 from 147p) who resumed his progress after defeat at Cheltenham under a more positive ride this time to beat the mare Roksana (141 from 135p) in the Sefton Novices’ over three miles.
14-1 Lalor wins the Betway Top Novices' Hurdle pic.twitter.com/CweWsZKPx0— ITV Racing (@itvracing) April 13, 2018
Guineas trials take place in Britain this week, but the wraps have already come off some classic contenders in both Ireland and France in recent days. Aidan O’Brien had three of the four runners in both the 2000 Guineas Trial and the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown. Gustav Klimt (122p from 112p) had a truncated juvenile campaign, but was impressive in the Guineas Trial on his first start since July, and it’s unlikely Ballydoyle will have a better candidate for Newmarket next month. Derby hopefuls lined up in the Ballysax where Nelson (117p from 112p) beat Delano Roosevelt (113p from 108p), as in a previous encounter last year, while Ryan Moore’s mount The Pentagon (remains 114p) could manage only third behind his stable-companions but may have needed the run.
O’Brien was out of luck with his three runners at Longchamp on Sunday where the top performances came from the unbeaten Wootton (116p from 108p) and Olmedo (remains 116) who were separated by just a head in the Prix de Fontainebleau. They're due to clash again in next month’s Poule d’Essai des Poulains.