The greatest steeplechase in the world was finally off at 4.10 p.m. having been removed from its traditional slot an hour earlier by the clash with the Royal Wedding which took precedence. As a spectacle, however, it had infinitely more to offer than the lumbering affair in Windsor.
Insistent rain at Anfield softened the going, a fact that caused money to pour in on Hedgehunter, promoting the Irish-trained gelding to become the 7-1 favourite at the off. He was closely followed in the betting by Forest Gunner, Clan Royal and last year’s winner Amberleigh House. Champion jockey Tony McCoy was going exceptionally well on Clan Royal leading the field by five lengths approaching Beechers Brook on the second circuit. This is the one prize still eluding the brilliant Irishman but 2005 was not going to be his year either. In a case of unbelievably bad luck, Clan Royal was forced out by two riderless, loose horses leaving Ruby Walsh on Hedgehunter at the front of the field earlier than anticipated. Undeterred, Walsh, winner on Papillon five years ago, urged his mount on to record one of the most comprehensive victories this race has ever seen. At the time, the favourite had put 14 lengths between himself and the rest of the field which was described as of the highest quality in three decades. 40/1 shot Royal Auclair emerged from the chasing pack to snatch second by a nose from 66/1 outsider Simply Gifted with a further four lengths to the Martin Pipe-trained It Takes Time.
The Carried Ford-ridden Forest Gunner came in a highly credible fifth, equalling the best placing by a woman jockey, while Amberleigh House trailed in tenth. A great race was over once more, this time thankfully claiming no casualties.