I thought it was a brilliant national and a great win for Rachel but I think there has to be some soul searching into why we are so behind the Irish. To have one GB horse out of the first 11 must warrant investigation. They seem to be streets ahead of us and the gap is widening.
I wonder whether breeding has something to do with the number of leg injuries/fatalities we are seeing lately. Im sure a lot of NH horses now come off the flat or have mainly flat breeding, far more than back in the 60s,70s and 80s. Its just a theory but a lot of todays jumpers seem to be a lot lighter boned and finer in appearance than they used to be. Ive definitely noticed more breaks happening when the horse is in between the fences rather than as a direct result of falling
The Irish jockeys and staff have had quite a rigmarole to get over. I work for an Irish trainer so although I am UK based I have still had to adhere to a lot of the same procedure to go into the Irish Zone with them. For both Cheltenham and Aintree we had to have a covid PCR test 24-72hrs before arrival, then be quarantined in an 'Irish Zone' with no contact with the UK horses, trainers or staff. The Irish staff had to have a second covid test before leaving the races, then isolate for 5 days on their return to Ireland (I think the jockeys are exempt from isolation under the Elite Sport rules). Then they have to have a third test before the end of their 5 days isolation to enable them to return to work on their yards. The rules in the Irish Zone were pretty tight - we were essentially locked in for a week. Without alcohol!!!
At Aintree the Irish Zone was actually at Haydock. So all the Irish trainers, jockeys and staff (including Ruby) stayed at a hotel in Haydock, and our horses were stabled and exercised at Haydock Racecourse and travelled into Aintree only on the day they were racing. We were transported from the hotel to Haydock racecourse via a Jockey Club shuttle bus to ensure we had no contact with the locals.
Ruby was presenting Aintree actually from Aintree, but had to be in a room on his own with no contact with the UK presenting staff.
We had an amazing time thanks. As you can imagine there was quite the atmosphere when everyone got back to the hotel after racing on Saturday! All four of our runners were amongst the 15 Grand National finishers, and I had one to lead up in the national, so all in all it was a pretty good few days.