Jacqueline Coward: Celebrating Aintree and mourning the loss of Whitwell-on-the-Hill [H&H VIP]

  • I’m really looking forward to Aintree this year and in a way, it’s a shame the fences have been altered because it will lose part of its spectacle.

    On the plus side, it will hopefully reduce the number of injuries to horses and jockeys and that’s got to be the most important thing.

    This will be Aintree chairman Lord Daresbury’s last year after a whopping 25 years. He was a successful amateur himself and has 4 sons who have all ridden over the Aintree fences.

    His attention to detail is second to none and he is always looking for feedback from jockeys, whether amateur or professional. All opinions are greatly valued to ensuring everyone, including spectators, have the best day.

    I’ve ridden around Aintree twice now and was 5th the first time and 3rd the second time. Both were horses I’d never sat on before, but they were fantastic.

    The first occasion was in 2006 on Junior Fontaine when my uncle David Easterby had him, and the second time was in 2008 with Holy Joe when he was with Venetia Williams. It makes me feel very old looking back that long ago!

    The atmosphere at Aintree is terrific and it’s like riding on carpet, because the ground is so well looked after.

    It takes a certain type of horse to manage the Aintree course and, in my experience, you certainly don’t want big, bold jumpers. Instead, you need good jumpers who are clever and can shorten up and chip in a stride when required.

    The extravagant jumpers are prone to having the odd mishap over the bigger fences, whereas the clever guys are nimble and quick enough to get you both out of trouble.

    On a last sad note, the Middleton meeting next weekend will be the last point-to-point held at Whitwell-on-the-Hill, which has been the home of the prestigious 4-mile Grimthorpe Gold Cup since 1929. It really is a fantastic course and I encourage anyone to visit for this last time. Hopefully, a new home will be found for the Grimthorpe Cup.

    Jacqueline’s column was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (3 April, 2014)