Richard Johnson: It’s only a matter of time before a female wins the Grand National [H&H VIP]

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  • Many Clouds winning the Grand National shows that the quality of the race is as high as it’s ever been.

    It’s always been an amazing race — it’s the most valuable in the jumps calendar — but to have a horse that ran in the Gold Cup and won the Hennessy, and is only eight, take the spoils shows that the quality of horses running is getting better and better. It was brilliant for the connections.

    It seemed like a huge crowd there on Saturday, there was a great atmosphere and the Aintree team has done a good job at getting the National back where it belongs — as a massive sporting event.

    The fences rode well and the track was in excellent condition. There were plenty of spills — if you don’t jump the fences big enough you’ll get caught out — but the horses are able to pick themselves up and recover. It’s the element of danger that makes it a spectacle but equine welfare is paramount. They’ve improved it a lot and I think they have the balance just right now.

    Not to plan

    The highlight of the meeting for me was Duke Of Lucca’s win on Saturday, when he won the Betfred Handicap Chase for the second year.

    The National didn’t go to plan for me, but in that race it is often the way.

    Balthazar King (pictured) and I came down at the Canal Turn, and as H&H went to press he was still in equine hospital in Liverpool and it looked as though he had broken a few ribs. He’s a tough old bugger though, so fingers crossed he’ll be back home soon.

    He’s an amazing jumper and maybe he just took a bit of a liberty. He brought down Ballycasey, who then bowled into him and it’s hard to know whether the fall or whether the impact of the other horse caused the injury.

    Fair play to Ruby Walsh, who was on Ballycasey; he helped me and Balthazar and then directed the rest of the runners around us on the second circuit by waving the flag. Having the run-out chutes [which were part of new safety innovations] enables horses to bypass the fence, allowing horses and riders more time to recover on track if we fall. I was lucky enough, just a bit squashed.

    I fell on three out of five rides the day before so I went through the mill a bit at Aintree.

    Getting a good tune

    It was a great result for Sam Waley-Cohen winning the Topham on Rajdhani Express. Sam is now the winning-most jockey over the National fences, which is quite an achievement, especially for an amateur. He says he’s lucky to have good horses, which helps, but he obviously gets a decent tune out of them, too.

    Nina Carberry and On The Fringe were also impressive in the Fox Hunters’, after taking the Foxhunter last month at Cheltenham. It’s only a matter of time before a female wins the Grand National. Katie Walsh won the Irish National last week, which was a great achievement, and the success of these women jockeys is great for racing.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 16 April 2015