Haydock Park’s Grand National Trial failed to provide any clues towards April’s showpiece, as Rigadin de Beauchene and Emperors Choice sealed a 1-2 for in-form trainer Venetia Williams.
The race, which is seen as a curtain raiser for the big event at Aintree, has failed to yield the winner of the National in its last twenty renewals, and only six horses of the fourteen runner field had Grand National entries this time around, with those without ambitions for the Aintree showpiece taking the spoils.
Last year’s runner-up Rigadin de Beauchene took the stern three-mile, five-furlong trip in his stride and put in a battling effort in testing conditions to go one better this year, pulling clear of stable mate Emperor’s Choice to secure a first win in the race for trainer Venetia Williams.
Winning jockey Robert Dunne was particularly thankful to the owners, who kept faith in the jockey despite him no longer being attached to Williams’ yard.
He told Channel 4 Racing: “I’m not attached to Venetia’s yard so I can’t thank the owners enough for keeping faith in me and thankfully I was able to pay them back.”
Of those with entries for the National, the best performer was the David Pipe trained Our Father, who seemed to struggle with his mark of 11 stone 8 pounds and plugged on for fifth. Top weight Across the Bay put in a disappointing effort for Donald McCain, eventually unseating, whilst the winner of this race last year, Well Refreshed, was pulled up.
The meeting provided a competitive card, with several exciting finishes, and it was a fairy-tale atmosphere at the track when the Sandy Thomson trained Seeyouatmidnight capped off an extraordinary run by winning a Grade 2 hurdle, just three months after winning a low grade event at Hexham as a 66-1 outsider.
The Grand National meeting begins at Aintree on Thursday 3 April, until Saturday 5 April.