x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Fatalities mar Hales' day at Aintree

Neptine Collonges wins thriller in steeplechase but Synchronised and According To Pete were put down.

Neptune Collonges, ridden by Daryl Jacob, centre, passes Becher's Brook and goes on to win the Grand National at Aintree Racecourse. Scott Heppell / AP Photo
Neptune Collonges, ridden by Daryl Jacob, centre, passes Becher's Brook and goes on to win the Grand National at Aintree Racecourse. Scott Heppell / AP Photo

AINTREE // The Grand National may have provided a thrilling finish that saw Neptune Collonges edge out Sunnyhillboy in the closest race in the history of the four-mile, four-furlong contest but the race was marred by the death of two horses.

After three thoroughbreds were put down at Meydan Racecourse on Dubai World Cup night last month racing once again finds itself in a difficult position.

Synchronised, a hero a month ago for winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup, suffered a fatal injury in his bid to become the first horse to complete the double in 78 years. According To Pete was another to sustain a lethal fall.

For John Hales, the winning owner, it was a victory tinged with sadness but embroidered by joy. Neptune Collonges helped to heal a 14-year-old emotional wound after the death of Hales’s dashing grey One Man, a horse that won 17 races for him but died in action at Aintree in 1998.

“You owe me Aintree,” Hales said, in floods of tears. “When he crossed the line I thought he might have got it. And then I thought, ‘thank you Aintree’ – you all know why.

“It split the family coming here. My wife was 50-50, my daughter couldn’t face it. She has gone show jumping and is overcome with emotion. We’ve nothing against Aintree. We love coming here and this year we’ve come up trumps.”

Haleshad stated before the race that he was set to retire Neptune Collonges after the Aintree marathon.

“I just wanted him to get round safely,” he said. “I never dreamed we would win it. I can’t believe it.”

It was a race that was never short of drama. Ruby Walsh, the Irish jockey, missed the ride aboard On His Own due to a horror fall on Zarkandar in a previous race. Tony McCoy, the 16-times champion jockey, was unshipped before the start by Synchronised.

Following two false starts there were only 23 runners left standing from 40 starters after 17 fences.

At the 28th obstacle it appeared that Katie Walsh, one of two female jockeys in the race, would make a successful bid to become the first woman to win as Seabass looked full of running. At the 30th and final fence, however, she was swamped to finish third as winning jockey Daryl Jacob denied by a nose Richie McLernon on the runner-up.

sports@thenational.ae