Having finished a close third in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at the meeting last year, it has been a frustrating season for Debece, who had a couple of niggles before Christmas and therefore returned to Aintree this time around for what was a very belated seasonal reappearance.
Though it would have been lovely to see him win on his comeback, it was a hugely competitive Grade 3 handicap hurdle and, despite looking the likeliest winner entering the home straight and jumping the second-last a couple of lengths clear, he just got tired in the soft ground and faded between the last and the line to finish fourth.
Still, it was a fine effort and he appears to have taken the race very well indeed, so we will now look to give him another run over hurdles in a month or so before he heads out on his summer break. That could come in the Long Distance Handicap Hurdle at Haydock on Swinton Hurdle day, Saturday 12th May. Looking ahead to next season, I am really looking forward to seeing him over fences!
Point Of Principle was another to return to the meeting a year on, having finished a close seventh in the Grade 2 bumper a year ago, a race that worked out particularly well. He showed himself to be a smart novice when winning at Ascot in February and went well for a long way in the Grade 1 Sefton here, though he was a spent force after the second-last. A drop back to 2m4f may suit him better, especially on soft ground, and we may well look to give him one more run in novice company before the season comes to an end. He has provided his owners Oceans Racing with some tremendously exciting days out and looks a smart prospect to go handicap hurdling next term.
A wide-margin winner at Bangor in December, Bells Of Ailsworth had run the subsequent Midlands National winner close at Taunton on his next outing and we headed to Aintree full of hope that he could run a big race. Unfortunately, a false start seemed to affect his concentration and he was very slow into stride when they did jump off, losing all chance. It was a real shame and I felt very sorry for his owners Steve and Mick, but hopefully he can make amends next time. He could head to Uttoxeter for the Staffordshire Plate at the beginning of May.
Finally, a very fond farewell to one of our former stars, with Saint Are having been retired by his connections after being brought down in the National on Saturday. We were all hugely relieved to hear he had returned back to Tom George’s yard safe and sound after the incident and he fully deserves a long and happy retirement. We won’t forget the two big days he gave us at consecutive Aintree Grand National meetings, especially our maiden Grade 1 win in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle back in 2011, and that he went on to run in four Grand Nationals for Tom is a wonderful achievement and proof of what a tough, talented horse he is.