Although in National Hunt racing all roads can seem to lead to Cheltenham, there’s something that little bit special about Aintree.
Cheltenham is done and dusted for another year and everyone’s that little bit more relaxed. Everyone’s excited, everyone’s here for a good time. And alongside that, there’s some cracking racing.
This year Grand National day dawns bright and sunny. And today is extra special for me as my father, Bryan, has a runner in the Aintree Legends race, a charity race run in aid of the Bob Champion Cancer Trust. And the race has already raised £100,000 for the charity.
Aboard South O’The Border is Carl Llewellyn, who won the Grand National on Party Politics (1992) and Earth Summit (1998). He’s up against the great and the good of Aintree history — including H&H racing correspondent Marcus Armytage, Jim Culloty, Graham Thorner and 63-year-old Charlie Fenwick who’s flown in from America — with a 21-strong band of loyal supporters — especially.
To have a runner on National day is amazing. And the fact it is in a charity race means it’s slightly less nervewracking as I’m secure in the knowledge that Southy just has to contend with a 1m5f on the flat — rather than come up against fences as tall as me.
It’s an exciting race, Southy and Carl do us, and themselves, proud, putting in a rallying run to finish second, beaten by Tony Dobbin and Fortuni by 7l. It’s an excellent start to the day and being in such a famous winners’ enclosure, even though not in first place, on National day is a complete thrill.