But for an outstanding hunter chaser, Will Biddick would have ridden a winner over Aintree’s Grand National fences.
Instead, with 18 seasons of race-riding behind him and seven national championships, Britain’s winning-most point-to-point rider heads back to Aintree tomorrow hoping to land a prized first victory over the big spruce-covered jumps. He partners Sametegal in the Rose Paterson Randox Foxhunters’ Chase for trainer Paul Nicholls.
Looking back on his Aintree record, Biddick says: “I thought I was going to win the Foxhunters’ Chase [in 2015] on Pacha Du Polder, when we led at half-way and were still in front going to the final fence, then On The Fringe came past.”
On The Fringe, who was ridden by Nina Carberry, had already won that season’s Cheltenham Foxhunter Chase and he was to complete a big-race treble with victory in Punchestown’s Champion Hunters’ Chase. He went on to land the same three races again in 2016, an unprecedented feat.
Reflecting on his Aintree record, Biddick says: “I’ve had just about every number and letter around Aintree, including when riding in races like the Becher and Sefton Chases, which just makes me more determined to win over those fences. I think I’ve got a real chance this week, but now it’s down to the horse.”
Sametegal, who is 12, has faced the Grand National fences twice, completing the course each time in the Sefton Chase, including when third in 2017. This season he beat the Biddick-trained Porlock Bay in a hunters’ chase at Wincanton, but was then surprisingly beaten himself at Fontwell by Ben Clarke’s The Galloping Bear.
Biddick says of his mount: “He’s been around Aintree before and seems to enjoy it. In order to qualify for the race he had to run twice quite quickly and it could be that the Fontwell run came too soon after he beat Porlock. As we know, he beat a very good horse that day, although Porlock Bay was held up to get the trip because we wanted to see if it was worth going to Cheltenham. He was out to win, but we would have learned nothing if we had gone flat out from the home turn and then walked across the line.”
With 23 declared runners, tomorrow’s race will be another exciting one to view and ride in. Biddick says: “I expect they will go the usual good rattle over the first few fences and the Chair, and then settle down when they turn away from the stands. The line of fences down to Becher’s Brook usually rides fine – it’s more challenging when they turn for Valentine’s and then the Canal Turn. That part of the course always feels like the biggest, but it’s okay if you’ve got your horse into a rhythm.”
Biddick’s weekend plans include riding at Mollington on Saturday and Cothelstone on Sunday. In the meantime one of the most important amateur races of the year is focussing his attention. He says: “I’ll do my best, and hope Sametegal does his.”