While one female jockey, Lizzie Kelly, left Aintree last night dreaming of next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, another, Katie Walsh, survived a late injury scare ahead of her Grand National ride on Wonderful Charm when she was unseated at The Chair in the Randox Health Foxhunters.
Kelly, who last year became the first of her sex to win a Grade One when Tea For Two won the Kauto Star at Kempton, doubled her tally when the same horse, a second- fence faller in the Gold Cup, beat the popular Cue Card a neck in the Betway Bowl after a long tussle up the straight.
“To fall off at the second in any race is never nice and to do it in the Gold Cup is taking it to another level,” said Kelly.
“The walk back to the weighing room was the longest in my life. I wanted to crawl back but these colours [orange] are quite bright and I couldn’t do that.
“Before the Gold Cup came into the equation we were always more confident he would run well at Aintree because all his winning has been on flat tracks.
"I wasn’t happy to start with, he wasn’t travelling, but then he started pulling my arms out and I thought, ‘grand, we’ll take a step back’. My lad’s as brave as lion – you only had to look at him at the last – I didn’t ask for that, he did it himself.”
She praised her mother, Jane Williams, who part-owns as well as trains the horse. “She said before the race, ‘I don’t know what you’re going to find today’. His tongue was hanging out and everything looked like it was wrong, but he’s had a long season. He’s a horse that keeps her awake at night.” When asked about the 2018 Gold Cup, Kelly replied: “And the 2019 and 2020.”
Much like Buveur D’air, who won the Betway Aintree Hurdle, J P McManus’s other winner, Defi de Seuil, kept up his unbeaten record for the season, though the 4-11 shot was made to work for it by Henderson’s Divin Bere in the Doom Bar Anniversary Hurdle. Nevertheless, the owner is also entitled to look forward to next season and beyond with both horses.
Jockey Barry Geraghty said: “He’s been brilliant all season but he was very good at Cheltenham. Obviously, he’s a horse with a future, but to come back and do what he’s done today and win again – I think that’s seven wins – he’s been busy. He’s very good and he can only improve with time, but it’s very hard for a juvenile to hold that level of form all season.”
Walsh was taken straight to Fazakerley Hospital, which is usually a bad sign, but a scan on her arm revealed no fracture and only bruising. “I’m as good as gold,” she reported from the hospital. “I’ll be riding.” She is the only female rider involved in this year’s race.
Her race was won by Dineur, who went one better than a year ago and got Mickey Bowen in on the family’s Aintree act. His father, Peter, has won the Topham four times while brother, Sean, has also ridden a winner over the course.
In other National news, Pendra was the only horse taken out at the 48-hour declaration stage after he was found to be lame, which means David Pipe’s Doctor Harper earns a run. Just A Par was bought at the Goffs Aintree Sale for £100,000 and will run in the colours of Richard Thompson.