04/05/2014 11:49AM

Aintree Racecourse: Pineau De Re takes Grand National


Jockey Leighton Aspell had a plan for riding Pineau De Re in Saturday’s $1.66 million Grand National over 4 7/16 miles at Aintree Racecourse in England.

Aspell, who once retired from racing and later made a comeback, did not want to reach the front too soon in the grueling steeplechase race over 30 fences. So, he waited 3 1/2 miles into the race before asking Pineau De Re, who took the lead two fences from the finish. Pineau De Re responded to the patient approach and pulled away to win the Grand National by five lengths as a 25-1 shot in the field of 40.

Balthazar King, a 10-year-old gelding who was 15th in the 2013 Grand National, finished second, 1 1/4 lengths in front of Double Seven, the 10-1 co-favorite.

“I was very conscious that I didn’t want to be in front too soon,” said Aspell, 37. “He’s a small horse, so he finds jumping hard enough. When I got a bit of daylight, I knew I’d be fine because that was my only worry, a lack of daylight. Once he was in the daylight, he really enjoyed that part of the race.”

There were 18 finishers. Only 39 started after 40-1 Battle Group refused at the start but was declared a runner. Teaforthree, the 10-1 co-favorite, unseated jockey Nick Scholfield on the first of the two circuits. Long Run, the winner of the 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup, fell on the first of the two circuits.

Pineau De Re won the Ulster Grand National at Downpatrick Racecourse in Northern Ireland in April 2013 but had only one win in 10 subsequent starts – a three-mile handicap chase at Exeter Racecourse in England in January. He was third in a three-mile handicap hurdle at the National Hunt festival at Cheltenham on March 13.

Saturday’s Grand National was Pineau De Re’s first start at four miles or farther. By the French-bred stallion Maresca Sorrento, Pineau De Re races for trainer Dr. Richard Newland, 50, and was his first winner in the Grand National. Pineau De Re, owned by former amateur rider John Provan, has won 7 of 35 starts.

Aintree announced an hour after the race that all 40 runners and riders returned without injury.