AINTREE’S English Grand National Meeting had taken on extra significance for me this year as we had a rough time at Cheltenham and a poor result in the Grand National might have meant no turkey on the table at Christmas.
As it was I enjoyed something of a roller coaster ride in Liverpool with four favourites obliging on the Friday meaning that we experienced multiple bet mayhem and an absolute bloodbath!
However, famous show jumper Harvey Smith’s wife Sue saddling a 66-1 winner in Auroras Encore in the main event meant that I was able to leave England on my scheduled flight rather than hitch hiking back to Dublin. I heard a few after timers saying that there were reasons for backing Auroras, but in reality you needed to be a soothsayer to find him and it was one of those results where you couldn’t really even ask people afterwards if they backed the winner out of politeness.
A bit of a lull racing wise now between Aintree and Punchestown although Leopardstown hosts a fine card on Sunday featuring the Ballysax Stakes and the Guineas Trials.
But it’s hard to know what’s going to run in those at time of writing so I’m concentrating on lower fare starting with Phebes Wish who I’m hoping will turn up in Friday’s 6f handicap at Dundalk. This horse wouldn’t be the biggest but I was impressed with the way in which he battled under an inspired Gary Carroll ride to win over course and distance last week from Sassaway by half a length.
If everything I backed tried as hard as this fellow, this would be an easy game and try as he did, the runner-up just could not peg back the winner despite hassling him as soon as they entered the final furlong.
Although this contest is a slightly higher grade than he won in last time, backers know that they are likely to get a good run for their money from the selection who has been first or second on six of his 11 starts and three times from four runs at Dundalk.
Ken Condon’s Strait Of Zanzibar was a bit of a surprise winner at Dundalk last Wednesday after a couple of sound beatings but the form of his third last run before that had worked out very well indeed.
The four-year-old was a close fourth on that occasion in a race won by Russian Soul, who has subsequently been placed six times including on four occasions in Dubai, while runner-up Captain Joy has been making hay at Dundalk completing a hat-trick at the North-East venue.
Strait Of Zanzibar’s last win was his first triumph since landing a Listed race as a juvenile, but like this week’s other horse selection, I loved the way that he battled for his victory after being one of the first off the bridle.
He has come a long way down the weights and I think that he will be well suited by the extra furlong on Friday.
Selections: Friday Dundalk 8.20pm - Strait Of Zanzibar; Friday Dundalk 9.20pm - Phebes Wish