malcolm Jefferson’s Cape Tribulation equalled the feat of the legendary Big Buck’s by pulling off a memorable Cheltenham and Aintree double – while his near neighbour narrowly failed to pull off the same feat with Triumph Hurdle hero Countrywide Flame.
Victorious in the Pertemps Final in the National Hunt Festival, Cape Tribulation’s win in yesterday three-mile Silver Cross Handicap Hurdle was even more impressive – the eight-year-old had to carry top weight of 11st 12lb in this 21-runner contest.
As well as making a mockery of Jefferson’s assertion that Northern horses are unfairly treated by the handicapper, the success showed that the Norton yard is still in fine form ahead of stable stalwart According To Pete’s tilt at John Smith’s Grand National glory tomorrow.
“Denis said he was never going, they went some gallop but he stays well. It’s some performance, he’s a good horse,” explained Jefferson after landing his first ever win at Aintree.
“He came into the race in some fettle, the lad who rides him at home said he felt better than Cheltenham. You begin to wonder if he’s gone because he’s normally so lazy at home and he’d been flying up the gallops.
“Denis gave him some ride today, I didn’t bring my binoculars but I could just keep seeing him and I knew where he was at. He made up his ground in a nice way and once he gets there he is tough.
“I hope it’s a good omen for According To Pete.”
Off an 8lb higher mark than at Cheltenham, an inspired O’Regan nursed Cape Tribulation into contention and moved up alongside the bottom weight American Spin, who was up making the running with Buena Vista throughout.
The 14-1 shot had to work much harder than at Cheltenham but prevailed by three-quarters of a length with six lengths back to Trustan Times and Ringaroses, placed in the race for the third year in a row.
Coincidentally, Jefferson’s second Cheltenham winner – Attaglance – reappears in today’s handicap hurdle at Aintree.
A very gentle trot from Jefferson’s yard is the Settrington stables of John Quinn who refused to be downhearted after his Triumph Hurdle hero Countrywide Flame was narrowly beaten by the highly-regarded Grumeti in a thrilling finish to the Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.
Quinn now has ambitious plans to campaign Countrywide Flame on both the Flat and over hurdles.“I’d say the first two have improved from Cheltenham as the rest were out of sight. They are two very good horses and maybe we’ll beat him the next day,” he said.
“He’ll have two months off, we’ll try and win a Flat race with him and hopefully win the Cesarewitch and then go on to the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in late November.”
Dougie Costello set out to make all the running on Countryside Flame and these audacious tactics looked a good move.
Turning into the straight, he had all his rivals off the bridle, including the eventual winner, who was hard at work a long way out.
The two came close together after the last but Robert Thornton kept Grumeti, the 11-4 favourite, up to his work and won by a length. Sadler’s Risk stayed on for third, some 21 lengths away.
The race was marred by Donald McCain’s Gottany O’s having to be put down on humane grounds after stumbling on the flat and suffering a serious leg injury.
However it was particularly fitting that McCain should send out Cloudy Lane to win the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase over the National fences on the day that Aintree unveiled a statue in memory of his late father Ginger who won the world’s greatest steeplechase on four occasions.
The 4-1 joint-favourite, ridden by Richard Harding and carrying the colours of Trevor Hemmings, collared Sam Waley-Cohen on Roulez Cool at the second last to land the spoils by two and three-quarter lengths.
The fallers included the other joint-favourite Gwanako, though there was widespread relief that there were no fatalities with the course under the spotlight following two equine deaths in last year’s National.
It helped that the field, for amateur riders, attracted horses of proven quality – Cloudy Lane won the 2008 Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster and sixth to Comply Or Die in that year’s National when the 7-1 joint favourite.
“He was the first horse Trevor Hemmings sent us and he’s won every race we wanted to win, Kim Muir, Grimthorpe, Red Square Final, Tommy Whittle, he’s won them all,” said McCain.
“He had a problem last year so we didn’t know what to do so we went this route.
“He loves his job and he’s like a four-year-old at home.”
Earlier Irish 50-1 chance Follow The Plan – ridden by Tom Doyle – silenced both the Aintree crowd and some of Britain’s top chasers in the Betfred Bowl.
Riverside Theatre, the 7-2 favourite and Ryanair Chase winner, was pulled-up a long way from home and the strongly-ridden Burton Port could only finish under AP McCoy.
Hunt Ball, who has risen an unprecedented six stone in the handicap this season following a Cheltenham success, was third.