3.45 Ayr, Tuesday, January 7  In the Like Racing TV on Facebook Intermediate Open National Hunt Flat Race (3.45) at Ayr on Tuesday, Ribble Valley is likely to encounter slower underfoot conditions than when quickening clear to win a similar race over course and distance by 7 lengths, eased down, on his racecourse debut in November but, that one slight imponderable aside, looks to have plenty going for him. When stepped up Listed level at Cheltenham just over two weeks later, the son of Westerner – who, incidentally, has a 31% winners-runners ratio on soft going – clipped heels with a rival after half a mile, but was outpaced before staying on late to finish sixth of nine, beaten 10¾ lengths. Even so, that form remains respectable in the context of this lesser contest and, with the prevailing soft going possibly more of a help than a hindrance, a return to the winners’ enclosure would be no surprise.

 

Indeed, one of the other penalised runners in the field, Corrieben Reiver, paid Ribble Valley a compliment when winning at Newcastle last month, having finished third of eight, beaten 13 lengths, behind the selection on his racecourse debut. Alistair Whilans’ five-year-old is 7lb better off at the weights, which should mean that he can, at least, make more of a race of it with Ribble Valley this time. Nevertheless, with professional jockey Brian Hughes retaining the ride on Nicky Richards’ six-year-old – who, of course, remains open to any amount of improvement on just his third start – Ribble Valley remains one to be on the right side for the time being.

 

Selection: Ayr 3.45 Ribble Valley to win

Aldaniti  It’s often said that there’s always a story to be told about the Grand National winner, but, perhaps, none quite so compelling as that of Aldaniti and his jockey Bob Champion. The form book records that, in 1981, Aldaniti, who was sent off at 10/1 second favourite, won the Grand National by 4 lengths from 8/1 favourite Spartan Missile, but the race result was merely the final chapter of a fairy tale that had begun two years earlier.

 

Owned by the late Nick Embiricos and trained by the late Josh Gifford in Findon, West Sussex, Aldaniti was talented, if injury-prone, steeplechaser. In 1979, he had been placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Scottish Grand National at Ayr before fracturing a hock-bone at Sandown Park in November, which led to another lengthy layoff.

 

Stable jockey Champion, meanwhile, had been diagnosed with testicular cancer in July, 1979, and had undergone a punishing course of chemotherapy. However, both horse and jockey recovered sufficiently to be reunited in the Whitbread Trial Chase at Ascot in February, 1981. Despite starting the outsider of eight, at 14/1, Aldaniti won with something in hand and, two months later, took his chance in the Grand National.

 

The rest, as they say, is history. Carrying 10st 13lb, Aldaniti landed steeply at the first fence and was untidy at the last, but jumped impeccably in the main to record what had appeared, just months earlier, a hugely unlikely victory. Aldaniti and Champion returned to Aintree again in 1982, but parted company at the first fence. Nevertheless, their almost miraculous win in 1981 remains one of the greatest moments in the illustrious history of the celebrated steeplechase and is commemorated by the 1984 film, ‘Champions’, which starred Aldaniti as himself and the late John Hurt as Bob Champion.

Secretariat  Secretariat is one of the most famous – if not the most famous – American race horses of all-time. In 21 career starts, Secretariat finished with a record of 16-3-1. The American thoroughbred was trained by Lucien Laurin and debuted in 1972.

Secretariat’s debut race occurred on 4 July 1972 with jockey Paul Feliciano riding in the saddle. Despite a strong start, Secretariat could only manage a fourth-place finish after being bumped by a fellow runner. Eleven days later, Secretariat recovered from his first race to win in his second start. Secretariat would later collect wins at the Sanford Stakes, Hopeful Stakes, Futurity Stakes, Laurel Futurity and the Golden State Futurity to finish out his rookie year.

The stallion’s incredible collection of wins set him up for a tremendous three-year-old season. The year started out with Secretariat becoming syndicate owned. He became the most expensive syndicated horse in the world at $6.08 million as fears of his owner Penny Chenery being forced to sell the horse increased.

On the track, Secretariat ran his first race on March 17 in the Bay Shore Stakes. The race ended in a win for Secretariat and jockey Ron Turcotte, who had taken over the saddle in the middle of the 1972 season. The Gotham Stakes was won by the duo, but just as easily as Secretariat had won twice already, the stallion lost at the Wood Memorial in his final preparation race for the Kentucky Derby. The horse’s stamina was questioned due to his loss. However, weeks later, Secretariat put those questions to bed as he won the Kentucky Derby in a record time of 1:59 2/5.

The Kentucky Derby was the first jewel in the Triple Crown and it wasn’t long until the other two were attained by Secretariat. His Triple Crown win made him the first horse in a quarter century to accomplish the feat. Following his tremendous feats of 1973, Secretariat was retired and began life as a stud.

In October 1989, Secretariat was put down after acquiring a hoof condition known as laminitis. Despite dying as a result of the affliction at the age of 19, memories of Secretariat’s incredible career persist. Secretariat’s image was even put on a US postage stamp to commemorate his incredible Triple Crown win in 1999.

12.45 Musselburgh, Monday, November 26  Unfortunately, unseasonably fast ground has led to a dearth of runners up and down the country on Monday, but Musselburgh has fared best, numerically. In the opening Border Safeguard and Security Experts Handicap Hurdle (12.45) at the East Lothian course, it’s interesting that Vale of Glamorgan trainer Tim Vaughan sends both Eric The Third and Fields Of Glory on the 400-mile trek north to contest a race worth just over £3,500 to the winner.

 

The hat-trick-seeking Eric The Third appears the more obvious winner, especially with Charlie Price – former Arabian Racehorse Champion Novice Jockey – taking off 10lb on his return to the smaller obstacles. Indeed, the Mountain High gelding hasn’t run over hurdles since winning a similar race at Uttoxeter, off a 22lb lower mark, in July. He has, of course, won three of his five starts over fences in the interim and, while he must translate his apparent improvement back to this sphere if he’s to win off his revised hurdles mark of 102, he’s still favourably treated when compared with his chase mark of 115. He steps up to 3 miles for the first time, but goes well on top of the ground and must have a decent chance of winning his sixth race of 2018.

 

Vaughan, who has a steady, if unspectacular, 10-60 (17%) strike rate at Musselburgh over the years, also saddles Fields Of Glory, ridden by Alan Johns. His case is less compelling, having finished tailed off on his reappearance at Newton Abbott, by he’s by no means impossibly handicapped on his best hurdling form and, trying a new trip in a first-time visor, might just be worth a small, each-way saver.

 

Selection: Musselburgh 12.45 Eric The Third to win 6/4

Armistice Day

We had no shortage of heroes in World War I, but the extent to which horses were unsung heroes during this time too, cannot be underestimated. An estimated 8 million horses were killed during World War I. They have been vital to supply lines, delivering medical supplies, ammunition, food and water.

The above photo is a touching tribute by 650 soliders (taken by officers of the Auxiliary Remount Dept No.326 in Camp Cody, New Mexico, 1915.) to horses that died during the war. Many soliders at the time drew close bonds with horses much in teh same war they did with dogs that were also part ofthe war effort. These aspects of the conflcit appear to be all but forgotten due to the passage of time.