Grand National 2019: Foxhunters’ Day Review

The opening day of the Grand National Festival is Foxhunter’s Day which sees the amateur jockeys race over the Grand National fences. 


To view larger images please click on a thumbnail and scroll through. Photographs by Tony Ward.

Katie Mockridge and her friend were attending all three days of the Grand National Festival.

Karen and Christopher Bacon own a hairdressing salon and have been coming to Foxhunters’ Day for 12 years.

Victoria Kirby and her husband are heavily involved with the Halcombe Hounds, who were paraded on the course during the day.

Helen Exley was attending the day as a guest of friends.

Claire Spaw and Ann Carding were on a girls’ day out and this was their 5th year at Foxhunters’ Day.


Randox Health Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase


A former polo groom who begged her boss to allow her to train a point-to-pointer paid him back in spades when saddling Top Wood to win the Randox Health Foxhunters’ Chase in his colours.

The boss in question, Johnny Weatherby, chairman of racing administrators Weatherbys, and The Queen’s representative at Ascot, was at Aintree to witness his Top Wood, trained by Kelly Morgan and ridden by Tabitha Worsley, land the £45,000 race.

Top Wood (14/1) who has been placed in the two most recent runnings of the St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham, brought his stamina to bear when rallying after the Elbow to regain the lead from runner-up Burning Ambition (11/2) and win by two lengths. A further 11 lengths back in third was Road To Riches (20/1).

Morgan, who is based at a yard owned by Weatherby near Oakham in Rutland, is the sister of another licensed trainer, Laura. Their brother, Tommy, is a talented trainer of pointers, while their father, Kevin, also trained.

The winning trainer had barely any sleep the night before the race after it was discovered Top Wood suffered a stone bruise – her night-time vigil involved bathing his foot in buckets of ice.

She said of Top Wood: “People have called him a monkey in the past, but he’s not. He’s incredibly brave and really stuck his neck out today. I could barely watch the finish. He jumped the first two and got into a bit of a rhythm – he’s the type of horse who you know early in a race how he’s going, and if he’s jumping and travelling he will be hard to beat.

“Straight after Cheltenham we decided to come here. He’s 12 now so what did we have to lose? When it started raining today everyone was running from it, but I was virtually dancing in it. He loves the soft ground and the more rain that fell, the more I felt he could go well.

“We got to know Tabitha two years ago when she took a spare ride for us on Decade Player at High Easter and won on him. I’d looked her up and thought she looked like a good rider and our association has grown from there. Today I just said ‘get a good start, let him pop away and see if he’s enjoying it’.

“He’s such a strong traveller, but everybody seemed to think we were mad to drop him down in trip. I never had that in mind and pointed out that he seems to get everything off the bridle at Cheltenham. He travels that strongly and he’s not a slow horse – the only question was whether he would take to the fences. The other horse [Burning Ambition] came to him, but I knew our horse would be as brave as a lion and wouldn’t go down without a fight.

“I started at Johnny’s seven years ago as a part-time polo groom. At that time Johnny had a few pointers with a guy just up the road and one day I said to him, ‘Can I train a couple – why can’t I have a couple at home?’. He laughed and put it off for a year, then one day he said, ‘You can train and ride old Valance, and I’ll have a bit of fun with that,’ and it went from there. He won first time out with me on board – that was about five years ago.

“We have just five horses in, all owned by Johnny. I took out a full licence in October.”

Weatherby said: “It’s unbelievable – that was a fantastic training performance by Kelly, and Tabitha gave him a great ride.”


Tabitha Worsley enjoyed a dream first ride over the Grand National fences when partnering Top Wood to success in the Foxhunters’ less than 18 months after breaking her back in a fall in a handicap hurdle at Ludlow.

Worsley, who is 24 and has had 26 winners in point-to-points and 14 now under Rules since cutting her teeth on the pony racing circuit, still has rods in her back and shoulder but they are clearly no hindrance and her rallying two-length win on the Kelly Morgan-trained winner came only 24 hours after she had won a handicap hurdle at Market Rasen for the trainer’s sister Laura Morgan.

She said: “I got back from breaking my back about three months after the Ludlow fall and I was due to ride in a handicap chase here on National day last year but then broke my collar bone about a week before. So last year wasn’t my year, but this year certainly is.”

Worsley, who is the fifth female rider to win the Foxhunters’ and walked the course in the morning with former jockey Brian Harding, added: “The rods will probably stay in forever, but they don’t stop me. They were always quite upbeat after my injury, and although they said it would be six months, I worked towards three months.

“It’s unbelievable to win here, and so good to reward them (the Morgan sisters and owner Johnny Weatherby) for sticking by me through all my injuries. To reward them on a stage like this is really special.”

Of Top Wood, she said: “He gave me a dream ride, and although Burning Ambition went past me quite quickly I could feel him start to fight again, then once he got rolling I was always confident he would get back to him.

“He’s a little legend. He’s not very big but he has a lot of heart. He’s a game little horse and he’s a nippy little horse. You don’t get too many feelings like that. There’s only the Cheltenham race that’s bigger (for an amateur).”




1.45pm Devenish Manifesto Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)


Newmarket trainer Amy Murphy scored her first Grade One winner when 4/1 shot Kalashnikov, ridden by Jack Quinlan, won the G1 Devenish Manifesto Novices’ Chase by a length and a quarter from 7/4 favourite La Bague Au Roi.

Murphy said: “Unbelievable! I am hugely proud of our team. We only have 10 jumpers, so to produce a horse like that – I’m delighted for them. To have three runners here today… I couldn’t do any of it without them behind me.

“What a ride from Jack. He rode him like he was the best horse in the race and pounced late. I promise you – I know I bang on, but this horse is top-class and we’ve seen that today. We’ve had a couple of things go wrong this season but today he at his very best.

” It’s great to get my first Grade One winner for my father [Paul, who owns Kalashnikov].

“I think I lost my shoes twice out there but somehow I’ve survived!”

Jockey Jack Quinlan also enjoyed a career-first G1 win with the victory. Quinlan, who is 28 and a son of Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer Noel Quinlan, said: “I’m lost for words really. You work all your life for this. This makes all the mornings and late nights worthwhile.”


2.20pm Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1)


Pentland Hills (11/4) backed up his win in the G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with a game success in the G1 Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.

Trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Nico de Boinville, the four-year-old son of Motivator travelled with menace throughout the two-mile contest and responded willing in the closing stages to master long-time leader Fakir D’oudairies (5/2), trained by Joseph O’Brien and partnered by Mark Walsh, to score by a neck.

Pentland Hills, formerly trained on the Flat by Chris Wall, is unbeaten over hurdles for the Seven Barrows maestro, having also captured a maiden hurdle at Plumpton in February on his first start for the Lambourn handler.

Pentland Hills is the latest horse since Defi Du Seuil in 2017 to win both the JCB Triumph Hurdle and G1 Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.

Britain’s champion Jump trainer said: “Pentland Hills has had has three races in not much more than five weeks but he was tough there – he travelled well through the race and had a battle on, but he toughed it out. I am thrilled with him and he has been an absolute star all the way through.

“He made a right mess of the first at Cheltenham, when I thought Nico was going to come out through his ears. I thought ‘Henderson, you are an idiot, you cannot run a horse at Cheltenham with only one run under his belt – that’s was happens with no experience’ and actually he was brilliant from then on. He was so quick and clean through today as well.”

Nico de Boinville expressed his delight after the success, saying: “It was a great performance. Although we’ve gone a good gallop, it still got a bit messy in mid-field and he’s really toughed it out. I probably went a bit early – that last hurdle is a furlong and a half back [from the winning post] and you really don’t want to be in front until after it. But what a gutsy horse he is, and what a great bit of training. Three runs, three wins and two Grade Ones in five weeks.”


2.50pm Betway Bowl Chase (Grade 1)


Willie Mullins took the G1 Betway Bowl for the first time since Florida Pearl scored for him in the £200,000 contest in 2002, with Kemboy, ridden by Ruby Walsh.


The seven-year-old unseated his jockey at the first fence in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month, but beat Clan Des Obeaux here by nine lengths in an impressive performance.

Mullins said: ” He never put a foot wrong from what I could see, but they are awful conditions. I was worried when we have had a race on the chase track already that it would have opened the ground and might not have suited Kemboy, but it looked like he had no problems seeking out that trip and further.

“You have days of good luck and bad luck. We had bad luck at Cheltenham and things worked our way today.”

Ruby Walsh: “It’s great for the owners [Supreme Racing/Brett Graham/Ken Sharp] who are a huge syndicate and get a great enjoyment out of it. It’s big days like this you are in it for, and, while it’s a pity the sun isn’t shining, they won’t mind the rain.

“It’s lovely jumping weather. I love riding horses on slower ground – it’s so enjoyable. I was in my element out there – I’d call it yielding.”


3.25pm Betway Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1)


The Jessica Harrington-trained Supasundae captured the £250,000 G1 Betway Aintree Hurdle in attritional conditions at Aintree.

Ridden by Robbie Power, the nine-year-old son of Galileo kept on gamely in the closing stages to deny 5/6 favourite Buveur D’Air, trained by Nicky Henderson and partnered by Barry Geraghty, who was hampered by the fall of the Willie Mullins-trained Melon (8/1) three flights from home.

Supasundae was second in the two mile and four furlong event in 2017 and 2018, so Harrington was delighted that the gelding had finally landed the G1 event.

She said: “We didn’t come into this race with Supasundae with great confidence after what happened at Cheltenham. That was the first bad race he ran for us and I just don’t know what went wrong there. All I could put it down to was sticky ground and he just didn’t like it.

“However, today he kept coming back and finding for pressure. This trip is probably his best as he doesn’t seem to get three miles.

“Supasundae’s been second in this race twice and it was great for him to finally win today.” 

Robbie Power was full of praise for Supasundae who scored by a length and a quarter after being left in front sooner than ideal.

Power, who won Champion Hurdles of his own on the nine-year-old in Ireland last year, at Leopardstown and Punchestown, said: “Supasundae is very tough. He has won three G1s now and never gets the credit he deserves.

“He is just a really good horse, but he races lazily and does nothing flashily.”


4.40pm Close Brothers Red Rum Handicap Chase (Grade 3)


Trainer Henry de Bromhead was “absolutely delighted” with the performance of 11/2 Moon Over Germany, who made most of the running to land the G3 Close Brothers Red Rum Handicap Chase under Rachael Blackmore.

The eight-year-old son of Germany jumped with aplomb throughout the two-mile contest and produced a superb leap at the last to seal a bloodless 10-length victory over the Philip Kirby-trained Lady Buttons, the 5/1 favourite.

De Bromhead said: “Moon Over Germany had a couple of nice runs at home but, to be honest, he had been disappointing. I think, like a lot of ours, he has just struggled on better ground but has encountered soft ground today. He was obviously off a good mark because of it!

“We loaded the horses hoping that we would get a bit of ease in the ground, so it’s fantastic to get it, and it’s great for Philip and Anne Reynolds.

“I am delighted for Rachael. We are very lucky to be associated with her and very lucky to have her riding most of our horses.”

Rachael Blackmore scored her first Randox Health Grand National Festival success with the victory.

Blackmore said: “He was very impressive. He galloped and jumped and made it very easy for me. It’s fantastic for [owner] Philip Reynolds and his family, and it’s fantastic for me to get one here.”


G2 Goffs UK Nickel coin Mares’ Standard Open NHF Race


Alan King accepted at the start of the Randox Health Grand National Festival that The Glancing Queen was probably his only serious chance, but he was very sweet indeed upon her and she did not disappoint.

A good fifth against the males at Cheltenham last month, The Glancing Queen (5/1) proved different class back against her own sex, and although the winning margin over 6/4 favourite Minella Melody was only two and a quarter lengths she could be named the winner starting up the straight.

King said: “She’s a gorgeous mare and she seemed to come out of Cheltenham well so we came here. I adore her. She’s seriously good and she travelled the whole way.”

He added: “It’s no secret that this year my novice hurdlers are pretty ordinary but I think we’ve had 12 individual bumper winners and there’s lots to look forward to. She’s very much top of the pile, and she’s already a point-to-point winner. She jumps, don’t worry about that.”

Jockey Wayne Hutchinson happy to settle for this impressive winner.

He said: “I won’t lie – I did strongly fancy her. She’s pleased us with everything she’s done and is just a lovely straightforward mare. She’s a class horse and there’s plenty to look forward to.”

He added: “She has done really well through the season and has real strong form. She ran a mighty race to finish fifth at Cheltenham and just got trapped behind horses turning in.

“I thought she would handle the ground and that her ability would see her through, and it has.”

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