Grand national

There’s no doubt this horse is something special

Aidan O’Brien is a superb trainer. You name it: he has won it. The Derby nine times, the Irish Derby 15. The 2000 Guineas ten times, the Irish 2000 on a dozen occasions. This year he passed the worldwide total of 400 Group One or Grade One victories. He is an innately modest man who always credits every member of his team and suggests the big decisions are made by ‘the Lads’ of the Coolmore operation, John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derek Smith, et al. But that doesn’t mean Aidan cannot be extravagant in praising his winners, notably the progressive youngsters: the multi-billion dollar operation that is Coolmore is, after all,

A 100-1 shot for the Grand National

My late father, who was the kindest man I have ever encountered, introduced me to horse racing when I was a small boy. Although he died all of 33 years ago, I still remember his advice to me when betting on the world’s most famous horse race: ‘The best form for the Grand National is… the Grand National.’ He was convinced that very few horses were capable of both jumping the unique Aintree brush fences and truly staying the marathon trip, which is now 4 miles 2 and a half furlongs. So he concentrated his bets on horses that had done well in the race the year before. A few

The glorious return of the Grand National crowd

How wonderful after three years to have the crowds back to enjoy the glorious concoction of skill, bravery, razzmatazz and tear-jerking emotion Aintree’s Grand National meeting always provides. Having begun my working life on the Liverpool Daily Post in the days when developers’ greed nearly destroyed this national treasure, I relish my annual pilgrimage. Competition is almost as hot as at the Cheltenham Festival but somehow it comes without the angst. ‘You feel like it’s a party,’ said trainer Dan Skelton. ‘You are part of a carnival. I don’t drink but those who do tell me that they do that well here too.’ ‘Cheltenham is about pressure,’ said Grand National-winning

My tips for this season and a look back at our Flat Twelve

There are Flat people and there are jumping people. People like the late Captain Tim Forster, trainer of three Grand National winners, Ben Nevis, Well to Do and Last Suspect, who once declared: ‘One day I’m going to stand for Parliament. If I get in my first Bill will be about abolishing Flat racing and the second about doing away with hurdlers.’ People like Trevor Hemmings, the billionaire with the flat cap whose later life became a quest for Grand National winners in his green and yellow quartered colours, a quest in which he succeeded with Hedgehunter, Ballabriggs and Many Clouds. Sadly the kindest of owners died last month and

My top tip for the Grand National in 2023

Want to know the winner of the Grand National in 2023? You heard it here first: when the ante-post books open, get in early on Kitty’s Light, trained by Christian Williams and to be ridden, I hope, by Jack Tudor. Being married to a racing scribe is a bit like being an angler’s wife: you hear rather too often the tales of the one that got away. Mrs Oakley is so inured to my hard luck stories that she tells all her friends they can be sure that any horse I recommend will finish second. But after Sandown Park’s jump racing finale last Saturday, she conceded my point and consolingly

Hats off to Rachael Blackmore

Sporting heroes in our modern world have an extra burden to carry. Within seconds of their triumph, with the adrenaline still pumping, somebody is going to thrust a live microphone in their face and demand: ‘What does it feel like to have been the first person of Asian lineage to surmount six metres in the pole vault, to have been the first Lithuanian to have won the Sahara Rally, or the first transgender non-swimmer to have crossed the Channel in a self-propelled bathtub?’ It is the sort of ordeal that led former jockey Mick Fitzgerald, whose wise post-race analyses these days as a pundit are models of profundity, to declare

Does horse-racing have a future?

Asked, after his Imperial Aura’s impressive win in the Northern Trust Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, if he had been worried about one particular challenger in the race, Kim Bailey wryly replied: ‘Of course I was worried. I’m a racehorse trainer.’ Trainers now have a lot more to worry about. When we finally resume racing — and few expect it to be after the six weeks originally announced — how many of the 14,000 racehorses in training as the suspension was announced will be coming back? How many owners whose businesses have suffered from Covid-19 will see paying bills for forage, farriers and vets’ attentions as a priority