At five o’clock yesterday morning trainer Gary Moore started feeding his runners for the afternoon. In a glorious quarter of an hour before three o’clock Vino Griego won at Ascot ridden by his son Jamie and then his younger son Josh drew splendidly clear in the Betfred Grand National Trial up at Haydock. It was just reward for a family whose labours make those of Hercules look the easy shift.
Having fed the horses yesterday, Gary set about mucking out four boxes before riding out with Jamie on first lot at 6.30. By then Josh was already heading north in the horsebox taking Well Refreshed on the 200 mile trek north to Haydock from the Moore yard near Horsham in Surrey, but not before he had breezed a sprinter called Dorothy Dancing up the all weather in the dark. “She will win on Wednesday,” laughed Jamie at Ascot. “The horses are all in great form at the moment. And so are the people.”
No horse better reflects this heightened morale than Vino Griego who was following up a good win at Cheltenham three weeks ago with an even more convincing one yesterday. “I don’t know what it is,” said Jamie, “for he had gone 18 races over fences before winning at Cheltenham and when I rode him at Market Rasen in November I thought he was one of the meanest things I would ever sit on. Yet here he was cruising through the race and coming home really gamely.”
Moore Senior disputed suggestions supposedly coming from his daughter Hayley that a dramatic change of training routine had been responsible for Vino Griego’s change of heart. “Hayley who?,” he retorted, “oh you mean my long lost daughter sunning herself in Hong Kong. What would she know about it!” More seriously he added, “Sometimes horses suddenly get their heads into gear. This morning he had cleaned his manger out half an hour after I had fed him. That’s a sign of a horse who is on good terms with himself.”
Up at Haydock Well Refreshed made it three wins in a row which might have been five or even six if he had not turned over with Josh Moore four races ago at Lingfield and unseated him six efforts back when first trying his hand at steeplechasing. His jumping was still not always fluent yesterday but his young rider showed admirable patience before moving purposefully through the field up the final straight. Only a fall could lose it at the last and despite a characteristically clumsy leap Well Refreshed came home 10 lengths clear of the giant Rigadin de Beauchene with Welsh National winner Monbeg Dude plugging on to be third nine further lengths away.
Well Refreshed is not entered in the Grand National itself and Gary Moore said he might not even run again this season but that Vino Griego might still run at Cheltenham for which some leading contenders were running the final trials yesterday. Best of these were Champion Hurdle candidate Zarkandarwho easily landed the odds at Wincanton and Cue Card who saw off a blundering Captain Chris to come home so strongly at Ascot that he is now as short as three to one for the Ryanair Chase.
David Pipe’s Cheltenham bumper hope Red Sherlock got home in a photo finish in the last race and Paul Nicholls Triumph Hurdle candidate Far West outsprinted the Nicky Henderson trained River Maigue in a farcically slowly run novice hurdle. But there was a big negative from last year’s Champion Chase winner Finian’s Rainbow who again weakened very disappointingly to finish last behind Cue Card and has to now be treated with caution.
Cue Card’s trainer Colin Tizzard had three winners across the day but the last word has to go to the workaholic trainer, former jockey, father of jockeys (we have not even mentioned oldest son Ryan) Gary Moore. “To see two of your sons win big races within 15 minutes is something you dream of,” he said. “You are petrified things could go wrong but are also sure that they are up to it. This has been one of the best days of my racing life and I have been at it a very long time. You need these days to make it all worthwhile.”