Aintree: where there’s much to observe, including the horses!

By Kevin Hussey  Aintree is a profoundly interesting sociological phenomenon. It features a classic cross-section of the British class system, which is fascinating in itself, but it is mostly remarkable for the annual Merseyside binge of Thatcher’s children en fete – though what the great lady would make of it all is another question.      For the men, it seems obligatory to be either clones of the Lawrence Five or to wear dark suits and roam the enclosures in packs, like a convention of off-duty bouncers. Both cohorts sport severely cropped hairstyles which would not be out of place in the SS. They also appear to have an almost limitless capacity for beer and lager, which is quaffed at some speed while ogling the frolicsome fashion parade that wiggles by.      These ladies are adept in hanging on to gravity defying outfits, which seem to score points on how little material one can wear in public without coming to the attention of the law. Startling cleavages and raucous laughter – increasing in intensity as the afternoon wears on – are the foremost characteristics of  the  fiesta , but the girls’ choice of tipple is far more genteel than the lads, consisting mainly of small bottles of some explosive concoctions – apparently, and appropriately, advertised as ‘wicked’ on the TV.   A very good time is had by all. There is also some racing.   The great event itself is principally affected this year by the state of the ground. After one of the wettest winters in history, the north west of England is now undergoing an unaccustomed drought, which has left the going bordering on fast. The track is being watered, but the conditions are thought to work against some of the strong Irish fancies such as Numbersixvalverde and Dun Doire, though they will assist the course specialist, Hedgehunter. Point Barrow has latterly come in for much support, while Willie Mullins has a real National type in Bothar Na.   One very strong trend in the past has been for the winner to carry less than eleven stone, but perhaps this year will see a break in that pattern. Eurotrek is a seriously talented, if fragile, animal who has course form, has been specifically trained for this day and is handled by the majestic Paul Nicholls. If any one is going to buck the weight hoodoo it could well be he. Despite the ground worries, Dun Doire, has the classic profile for the race and it is no drawback to have Tony Martin and Paul Carberry as his assistants. These two against the field may reward an interest, while a reasonable very long shot is Le Duc.   The meeting in general is always compelling, with the renewal of Cheltenham rivalries and the emergence of those who missed the festival providing wonderful sport.   This week it may pay to look at the following. On Thursday Black Jack Ketchum bids to make up for his uncharacteristic blip in the Cotswolds, while Grand Bleu travels from France with a decent shot at upstaging Triumph horses in the 4-Y-O hurdle.   On Friday Taranis has the look of a Nicholls improver. On Saturday Twist Magic reappears after a desperately unlucky fall at the Festival and in the Aintree Hurdle Asian Maze attempts to recapture her imperious form of last year.   With luck there may be some profit for punters by Saturday evening. If not, one can always look at the crowd. * Kevin Hussey reports from Aintree exclusively for the Roscommon People in our next issue