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Aintree Meeting 1st - 3rd April 2004

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Monty's Pass wins Grand National 2003


Cowboy wins Aintree shoot out
Rhinestone Cowboy answered those critics who labelled him a 'bridle horse' in style on Saturday when landing the Martell Cognac Aintree Hurdle.

The Jonjo O'Neill-trained gelding finally won the big hurdle race (2:55pm) that he had promised to do under a patient ride from the amateur J P Magnier. Coming from fourth at the final flight, the eight-year-old passed Intersky Falcon (fourth), Westender (third), and then outbattled former champion Rooster Booster to justify 5/2 joint favouritism to land the £150,000 contest by three-quarters-of-a-length.

The well known green and gold hooped colours of J P McManus were carried to victory by Aintree first-timer Mark Walsh on Puck Out. The combination crept into the Martell Cordon Bleu Handicap Hurdle (1:45pm) around the home turn, touched down in front two out and went away to win readily by four lengths from long-time leader Fundamental.

There was another classy performance from 15/8 favourite Well Chief, who enjoyed a comfortable two-and-a-half length success in the Martell Cognac Maghull Novices' Chase (2:20pm) under champion jockey Tony McCoy. Travelling well off a strong pace set by Emperors Guest and Mister McGoldrick, he swept through two out and Thisthatandtother could only chase him home in second place.

After the euphoria of Ginger McCain's fourth National win, with Amberleigh House, the amateurs were in the spotlight in the Martell Cognac Novices' Handicap Chase (4:35pm). In a race full of drama Keltic Bard and David Dunsdon just managed to evade a loose horse approaching the last to go on and land the £19,256 first prize at 12/1, with The Bandit following him home and Our Armageddon a slightly disappointing favourite in fourth.

The closing Martell Cognac Champion Standard National Hunt Flat Race (5:10pm) was taken by 33/1 chance Diamond Sal, for trainer Mary Reveley, who held off Young Scotton in a tight finish to bring the curtain down on an Aintree Festival that will live long in the memory.

Well the Chief once again
Arkle Chase winner Well Chief confirmed himself a class two-miler with an impressive success in the Martell Cognac Maghull Novices' Chase.

Martin Pipe's five-year-old (15-8) was given a confident ride towards the rear by Tony McCoy and the pair made smooth progress to take it up at the last.

He jumped it well and came home two and a half lengths clear of main market rival Thisthatandtother, with Mister McGoldrick five lengths away in third.

Thisthatandtother (2-1) had crashed out early in the Arkle at Cheltenham but jumped much better and was up with the pace from the off.

Well Chief, on the other hand, was at the other end of the field with McCoy seemingly determined to deliver his challenge as late as possible.

Thisthatandtother made a slight mistake three from home and the writing was on the wall after the second-last as Well Chief came there full of running on what was only his third start over fences.

Mister McGoldrick had led the field turning for home and his third went some way to making up for his last-fence fall in the Arkle.

Moscow flies in
Deposed champion Moscow Flyer began his climb back to the top with a scintillating win in the Martell Cognac Melling Chase at Aintree on Friday.

The Grade 1 contest (3:10pm) was run at a furious pace, but the 10-year-old and his pilot Barry Geraghty never encountered a moment's worry over the 2m 4f trip, jumping superbly and justifying Evens favouritism with a superb six length success. Runner-up Isio lost no caste in defeat after stepping up in class and having 13 lengths to spare over third-placed former dual winner Native Upmanship.

The Martell Cognac Topham Chase (3:45pm) produced a marvellous spectacle over the Grand National fences, with 33/1 chance Cassia Heights producing another win over the big fences for Jim Culloty (who won the 2002 National on Bindaree) and trainer Steve Brookshaw (who trained Lord Gyllene to land the 1997 National). In a thrilling finish, Cassia Heights had to pull out all the stops to hold off the challenge of Longshanks and Scotmail Boy, who had led until the elbow. Favourite Joly Bey had been travelling well in front when falling five out.

After a quiet Cheltenham, Nicky Henderson was back among the winners at Aintree when old man Lord Of The River landed the opening Martell Cognac Ember Inns Handicap Chase (2:00pm) at 9/1, under a great ride from Paul Carberry. The former Martell Cognac Grand National winning jockey took up the running a long way from home and backed his charge's stamina in seeing off Midland Flame by seven lengths in the £40,000 contest.

Royal Shakespeare sprang a 25/1 surprise with a battling success in the the Premier Convenience Stores Top Novices' Hurdle (2:35pm). The Steve Gollings-trained five-year-old made it three wins from three starts, showing a marked improvement to beat some very good novices under Robert Thornton, holding off long-time leaders Contraband and Tony McCoy by a neck.

There was another shock in the Martell Cognac Sefton Novices' Hurdle (4:20pm), when 14/1 shot Accipiter got the better of long-time leader Grey Report to give Tom Best his biggest career win from the saddle, and 1969 Grand National winning trainer Toby Balding another big winner at the track.

The renewal of rivalries between Royal & SunAlliance Chase first and second, Rule Supreme and Royal Emperor did not go as anticipated in the Martell Cognac Sainsbury's Mildmay Novices' Chase (4:55pm). Both had departed by the 11th fence, and with D'Argent also pulled up it was left to Simply Supreme to justify his grand tag and land a wide margin win in a race where only three of the 11 runners finished.

Tiutchev tames Cup rivals
Tiutchev foiled First Gold's attempt to win a third Martell Cognac Cup with victory in the hands of Tony McCoy at Aintree.

The Martin Pipe-trained 11-year-old drew alongside the pacemaking First Gold after the second-last and quickly drew clear to land the £87,000 first prize. Hand Inn Hand was third.

As expected, First Gold - the winner in 2001 and last year - went straight to the front.

He could not shake off the pack, however, and several horses came to challenge him in the straight.

None was going better than Tiutchev, and the 11-2 shot went on to beat the 6-4 favourite by three and a half lengths. Hand Inn Hand (6-1) was a similar distance away back in third.

The victory took Pipe back to the top of the trainers' championship in his battle with Paul Nicholls.

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