MELISSA JONES: Reigning Always Waining retired

REMARKABLE Aintree history maker Always Waining, a horse which ran as “flat as a pancake anywhere else” according to his trainer, will not be returning for another crack at his favourite course as he has been retired. Rising 13, Wales’ three-time consecutive Topham Chase winner is shortly due to leave Peter Bowen’s yard in Pembrokeshire for his owner’s retreat in the Midlands. Twenty four runners are due to contest the Becher Chase this afternoon over the magnificent spruce fences, which the horse, purchased from one of racing’s poorest races called a claimer, devoured. Following wins in the Topham Chases of 2010, 2011 and 2012, Always Waining was finally allowed a go at the Grand National this year, but found the longer trip his undoing and he came home in tenth. Away from Aintree, where he also won over hurdles in four more runs at the course, he had the habit of finishing nearer last than first. His uninspiring form figures were probably the reason why for the Tophams he returned at double figure odds. But he developed some welcome consistency at the unique course, nimbly manoeuvring his way over the fences. One Topham Chase was hard enough to win, two was some feat, but three was the icing on the cake, said Bowen: “What he has done is quite amazing. He came alive at Aintree and loved those fences.” The gelding has set quite a record which other horses will do well to equal, given the unpredictability of Aintree. Analysing the Grand National run, in which Wales took second and third with Cappa Bleu and Teaforthree, Bowen said: “It was probably a bit too far for him but he still got round. “This year we were going to send him hunter chasing but he wasn’t eligible. It would have been nice but they have changed the rules. It’s great he has retired sound and healthy.” Bowen saddles Gullible Gordon and Ballybough Gorta in today’s Becher Chase, which is more than half a mile further than Always Waining’s favourite race. Of the bottom weight he said: “He does jump really well. If he takes to the fences he could be anything.” Like the Bowen pair, Rose of the Moon is a big price, but this grey gelding goes well fresh and is more unexposed than most in this field. Stamina is his strong suit and this challenge may eke out a few pounds of improvement, so he is the each-way call at 20-1. Sandown’s Tingle Creek card has lost its gloss with the defection of Sprinter Sacre, but Nicky Henderson has an able deputy in Captain Conan and he is taken to land the spoils. Sire De Grugy is favourite but finished second behind the Captain there in November 2012. The placings can be confirmed this afternoon. Claret Cloak is the selection in the Henry Viii Novices' Chase as he loves fast ground, jumps soundly and should be suited by the likely fast pace. Chepstow stages a seven race card which starts at 12.25pm. SELECTIONS: Sandown 1.50 Claret Cloak, 3.00 Captain Conan, Aintree 2.05 Rose of the Moon (e/w)

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