.The Goddess we name in Earthly terms Aintree delivers that what she deems is the due of her subjects. In some years she is disappointed with us and we are delivered of disappointment and heartache. Yesterday, under a clear blue window to allow her fellow gods an unspoiled view of the sport, she delivered for the faithful to enjoy a spectacle only the divine could mastermind.
For Brian Hughes and Nico de Boinville the day, I dare say, was an unmitigated disappointment. The first fence is not where any jockey chooses to leave the service of thanksgiving. Next year, perhaps, Aintree will look more kindly on them. Not that Hughes and de Boinville can look upon their season with anything but contentment.
So 38 horses galloped on to Bechers, a steeplechase fence that remains handsome and proud even without the savage bite of its incisors. Is there a more thrilling sight in the whole of the known world than 38 thoroughbred horses ridden by 38 brave and colourfully clad riders approaching a site of significance and legend with the gusto and immoveable desire of pilgrims in want of a glimpse of their maker? No, there is not. It is why the Grand National is the greatest sporting event on planet Earth.
Perhaps a similar number sailing over the Canal Turn with the pomp of ceremony or with the exuberance of youth horse and rider in glorious symmetry scaling the mightiest Chair in all Christendom as if on the landing side there was to be found the answer to the meaning of life. Though for this life-long follower of the Goddess the truly memorable sight is that of horses enjoying the freedom of jumping the most inviting fences ever devised.
Life, if only for the one day, was worth living yesterday as the Goddess delivered a feast for the eyes.
And though done for all the right reasons, Man’s fussy insistence on every horse being dismounted after the race and being taken to a cool-down area took away the spectacle of the victor returning in triumph. The lack of homage to the new hero was an anti-climax. What Red Rum would have thought of it Heaven only knows. I suspect he will discuss the matter with the Goddess at the earliest possible moment.
I.T.V., too, though on a more human scale, delivered a spectacular show. Their first ever Grand National went almost without a hitch. Next year they will present a more coherent review of the race, I suspect, and in the excitement of the finish I am sure the commentator will not make the same mistake as he did this year in confusing Katie Walsh with Robbie Dunne. It almost goes without saying that these days Robbie Dunne is always close at hand between the last fence and the elbow.
A.P., though was the jewel in the crown. Why he seems so more relaxed alongside Ed Chamberlain and Oli Bell than he was when Channel 4 had the contract only he can know but his wit, insight and humility is a both a bonus to I.T.V. and a great ally for the presenters.
Yesterday was more than One For Arthur and one for Scotland but one for the devotees of the Goddess Aintree and for Aintree herself. May we always please her and may she always reward us with the beneficence of the sport she so lovingly presented to us yesterday.
GOING TO THE LAST
A HORSE RACING RELATED
COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES
SOON TO BE PAPERBACK.