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Davy Russell and Mark Walsh enjoy Grade 1 success at Aintree

Walsh won twice for Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott, while Russell triumphed with Elliott.

Mark Walsh and Davy Russell.
Mark Walsh and Davy Russell.

Updated Apr 9th 2022, 4:04 PM

DAVY RUSSELL AND MARK Walsh won the Grade 1 races at Aintree on Grand National Day, the Irish jockeys claiming the three prizes on offer.

Russell partnered with Gordon Elliott for the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle with the favourite Three Stripe Life, before Walsh secured a brilliant double, on board Gentleman de Mee for Willie Mullins and with Sire Du Berlais for Elliott.

Sire Du Berlais shocked reigning Stayers’ Hurdle champion Flooring Porter in the JRL Group Liverpool Hurdle.

A 16-1 chance for Gordon Elliott and Mark Walsh, Sire Du Berlais looked up against it as dual Cheltenham Festival victor Flooring Porter set out to make all in the Grade One in the hands of Danny Mullins.

All appeared to be going to plan for the 11-8 favourite as Mullins built up an early advantage before giving Flooring Porter a bit of a breather ahead of the run for home.

Thyme Hill and Molly Ollys Wishes tried their best to keep pace but could not go on as Flooring Porter kicked, leaving Sire Du Berlais the only credible challenger in the hands of Walsh.

The pair were locked in battle at the last, jumping in unison, although Flooring Porter landed a little awkwardly and had to be put straight again by Mullins, losing a touch of momentum in the process.

Sire Du Berlais eventually made that advantage count and while he did drift to the rail, slightly checking Flooring Porter in the process, he eventually came home a length and three-quarters to the good. Champ kept on for third, beaten 20 lengths, with Thomas Darby a head back in fourth.

sire-du-berlais-ridden-by-mark-walsh-left-on-their-way-to-winning-the-jrl-group-liverpool-hurdle-during-grand-national-day-of-the-randox-health-grand-national-festival-2022-at-aintree-racecourse-li Sire Du Berlais and Flooring Porter. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

Elliott said: “He’s tough. We thought he’d run well in the Pertemps at Cheltenham (11th) but that race just didn’t work out for him.

“That’s great, and I think the long straight really helped him as he got into a lovely rhythm and he jumped great.

“I don’t know about Punchestown, we’ll enjoy today and see what happens.

“I suppose it is a bit of a surprise but that’s the game we’re in. I’d say the better ground helped him.”

Flooring Porter’s trainer Gavin Cromwell was philosophical in defeat, with next year’s Festival and a Stayers’ Hurdle hat-trick on the agenda.

He said: “I thought he was a bit gassy and fresh going to the start and then again in the race itself.

“He got beat, but that’s racing, and he was a length and three-quarters down at the line.

“I hope we can bring him back to Cheltenham for another crack at the Stayers’ next season.”

Gentleman De Mee created a minor surprise as he lifted the Poundland Maghull Novices’ Chase.

jockey-mark-walsh-after-winning-the-poundland-maghull-novices-chase-on-gentleman-de-mee-during-grand-national-day-of-the-randox-health-grand-national-festival-2022-at-aintree-racecourse-liverpool-p Mark Walsh after winning on Gentleman De Mee. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

Arkle winner Edwardstone was widely expected to follow up his Cheltenham Festival success in this Grade One contest, being sent off the 4-7 favourite for Alan King.

However, he proved no match for the Willie Mullins-trained winner, who raced generously throughout for Mark Walsh as he took a big step up from wide-margin wins at Thurles and in a Navan Grade Three.

Third Time Lucki briefly looked like challenging after Harry Skelton did well to recover a lost iron, but he dropped away in the straight, leaving Edwardstone and Gentleman De Mee to slug it out.

There was only one winner though, as Gentleman De Mee kicked on again at the last, coming home four and a half lengths clear with Dan Skelton’s Third Time Lucki another 11 lengths back in third.

Mullins said: “I think the Arkle winner, having been to Cheltenham and we didn’t, maybe didn’t have the freshness we had. I was hoping our freshness might be the right card to play and it looked like that.

“Mark gave him a brilliant ride, he got him out, got him jumping and even gave him a breather when he made a mistake at the fourth-last. Mark felt he was always in charge.

“It looks like there’s more to come. We’ll see about Punchestown, we’ll see how he comes out of this. I think he’s a Champion Chase horse.”

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trainer-willie-mullins-at-aintree-racecourse-liverpool-picture-date-thursday-april-7-2022 Trainer Willie Mullins. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

Three Stripe Life finally claimed a Grade One victory in the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.

Gordon Elliott’s charge had finished second at the highest level on his three previous runs, chasing home Mighty Potter on the first occasion before finding Sir Gerhard too good at both Leopardstown and Cheltenham on his last two outings.

With Willie Mullins’ superstar not in opposition this time, Three Stripe Life was the 5-2 favourite in the hands of Davy Russell and made the most of the opportunity in this two-and-a-half-mile contest.

He was well in control jumping the last and while Might I tried to put up a fight on the run to the line, Three Stripe Life was just too good, coming home four and three-quarter lengths to the good. North Lodge was third, beaten a further three and three-quarter lengths.

Elliott said: “He’s deserved that, he’s a good horse. We bought him to be a chaser and if you look at him, that’s what he’ll go and do.

“He’ll definitely go chasing next year. He’s in at Punchestown, but he’s been busy enough so we’ll just see.”

Russell added: “These colours are very, very important to me, Kenny Haughey is a huge supporter of our yard. He’s been very patient with this horse and we’re so happy he’s delivered for Kenny.”

three-stripe-life-ridden-by-davy-russell-on-their-way-to-winning-the-betway-mersey-novices-hurdle-during-grand-national-day-of-the-randox-health-grand-national-festival-2022-at-aintree-racecourse-li Three Stripe Life ridden by Davy Russell. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

Earlier Party Business showed plenty of heart to fend off Ilikedwayurthinkin in the EFT Construction Handicap Hurdle, the opening event on Randox Grand National Day at Aintree.

Trained by Ian Williams and ridden by 3lb claimer Charlie Todd, Party Business responded to Todd’s every urging and eventually came home a three-quarter-length winner.

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