|1. Silver Birch||33-1||R M Power||Gordon Elliott|
|2. Mckelvey||12-1||T J O´Brien||P Bowen|
|3. Slim Pickings||33-1||B J Geraghty||T J Taaffe|
|4. Philson Run||100-1||Daryl Jacob||Nick Williams|
|5. Liberthine||40-1||Mr S Waley-Cohen||N J Henderson|
|6. Numbersixvalverde||14-1||N P Madden||Martin Brassil|
|7. Longshanks||14-1||Tony Dobbin||K C Bailey|
|8. Puntal||80-1||Tom Scudamore||D E Pipe|
|9. Hedgehunter||9-1||R Walsh||W P Mullins|
|10. L´Ami||14-1||A P McCoy||F Doumen|
|11. Clan Royal||33-1||Mr J T McNamara||Jonjo O´Neill|
|12. Gallant Approach||33-1||J A McCarthy||C R Egerton|
A maximum 40-strong field went to post for the world’s most famous steeplechase, a race which remains the most coveted prize for many in the National Hunt calendar. The quality of this year’s contest was well up to standard, with the top horse, Hedgehunter, running off a mark of 158, and the bottom pair, Le Duc and Joes Edge, racing off 134.
Long gone are the days when plenty of runners lined up from out of the handicap proper. Significantly, though, eight of the first nine home 12 months ago, had less than 11st on their backs, and this time, the same pattern developed with only one out of the first eight carrying what many see as the barrier that is that 11st mark. Furthermore, the Irish won it for the sixth time in nine years.
SILVER BIRCH won the 2004 Becher Chase, but was a faller at the Chair in last year’s Grand National, having previously spent time on the sidelines with a leg problem. It may have been felt by some that conditions would prove too lively for Silver Birch, but on watered ground, which produced a carpet-like surface, he appeared to be in his element throughout, jumping well and getting into an easy rhythm, which is so important on this course. Asserting his superiority from the final fence, he tried to idle in front, but his rider kept him going in great style to last home. Considering this former Paul Nicholls-trained charge changed hands for 20,000gns at Doncaster Sales before joining Gordon Elliott, he has proved an inspired buy and his connections deserve the highest praise.
McKelvey, who appeared to be a little flat-footed when the field was finally despatched, after the runners took a long time to organise themselves at the tape, was given a patient ride. Gradually picking up the leaders in a strongly run race, he was in the chasing group coming back on to the racecourse proper for the final time, but it was not until later still that he really found his stride, and he finished strongest of all, albeit just too late to reel in the gutsy winner. This was a fine effort, all the more meritorious since it transpired he had broken down.
Slim Pickings ran admirably. He travelled strongly through the race, perhaps a bit too strongly and, although he looked a likely winner three out, he hit the last, handing the advantage tothe winner, and, while he battled home gamely, he could never find quite enough when it mattered.
Philson Run, a confirmed mudlark and long-distance specialist, ran a smashing race on ground many might have considered to be too lively for him. Unfortunately, as an 11-year-old, time may be against him bettering this National effort in the future.
Liberthine, winner of last year’s Topham, gave Sam Waley-Cohen an unforgettable ride, and vice-versa. Left in front at Becher’s on the second circuit, the only mare in the race failed to get home, but it was a gallant effort.
Numbersixvalverde, last year’s winner, was running off an 11lb higher mark this time and, although running creditably, could never land a serious blow.
Longshanks, trained with this race as an objective, and reappearing after an absence of more than four months, seemed to lack the stamina of the principals after running a mighty race for a long way.
Puntal, no stranger to the Grand National experience, turned-in another respectable display. Hedgehunter, winner and second in the last two years, found 11st 12lb too hefty a burden to shrug off as he nears the twilight of his career.
L’Ami ran well for a long way, Clan Royal got round in his own time, along with Gallant Approach, who was the last to finish.
Of those who didn’t complete, two horses deserve special mention. Simon, who travelled and jumped like a dream, had still not been asked anything like a serious question when he came to grief six from home. It is anyone’s guess just where he would have finished, but his connections can surely be excused for thinking that this may have been a glory-day that got away.
Bewleys Berry had jumped well and was in a lovely rhythm before crumpling on landing at Becher’s on the second circuit, when he still appeared to be full of running. It was a great shame that he was denied the chance to prove his worth.
Monkershostin frightened himself early onbefore refusing, and Eurotrek appeared to suffer interference at the hands of a faller before being pulled up.
Thisthatandtother ran a great race until coming to the end of his tether and blundering two from home, after which he was immediately pulled up.
Neither Billyvoddan nor Joes Edge appeared to find the necessary rhythm to play a part and both were pulled up without ever playing a serious role.
Idle Talk lasted well into the race, but eventually parted company with his rider when facing a tall order.
Point Barrow got only as far as the first fence, and Dun Doire, having trailed the field throughout, was pulled up.