North Yorkshire trainer Ann Duffield looks back at Cheltenham – and forward to the Grand National.

THE last fortnight in horseracing has been as busy as ever. Cheltenham roared its way into our living rooms and, for those who travelled to Gloucestershire to join forces with the other 67,760, they were not disappointed.

As always, it was the most wonderful spectacle of top class national hunt horses clearly ready for the challenge, their “primed to the minute” jockeys and the adoring stable staff who cherish the very bones of the horses in their care.

The highlight for me has to be Sprinter Sacre’s amazing win in the Champion Chase. After all the great chaser’s been through, I don’t mind admitting I was moved to tears.

Trainers are notoriously the worst tipsters but I was also delighted to have started my Northern Echo column last week by nominating a Cheltenham winner with Thistlecrack in the Ryanair World Hurdle. Djakadam, my selection for the Gold Cup, also ran a great race to be second to the imperious Don Cossack.

While Channel 4 did a reasonable job of covering the meeting, there were still plenty of unhappy viewers complaining that most of the coverage on each day took up to 20 minutes before they actually saw a horse.

Most of us remember with a warm heart the days when terrestrial TV showed racing from the inside, covering some of the most moving stories about the horses and the people involved with them from the very small grass roots upwards.

Channel 4 bosses, who chose to change a winning and popular format, have paid the ultimate price by losing the job and we can only hope the new team taking over with ITV in 2017 will learn from Channel 4’s mistakes.

HOT on the heels of Cheltenham, it’s the Grand National a week on Saturday and, as a scouser, some of my earliest memories of racing are going to Aintree to see the great race.

This year, I like the look of two – Kim Bailey’s The Last Samuri and Irish Raider Carlingford Lough. I can’t wait.

FRANKIE Dettori has been in the headlines after announcing he is “aiming for five more years at the top”.

Frankie, 45, is undoubtedly one of the nation’s favourite jockeys and certainly he is one of the very best.

It was great to see him claw his way back up there after a seemingly long spell out in the cold when losing his job as Godolphin’s main man and hitting the headlines for a variety of other unfortunate issues.

The cream always rises to the top and it wasn’t long before we saw him do what he does best again.

NEARER to home, I'm delighted to see that Darlington-based trainer Michael Dods’ stable jockey Connor Beasley, known as the “miracle man” after suffering life threatening injuries after an horrific fall last Summer, is making a return to race riding.

Most jockeys are as tough as teak and Connor is no exception. Hopefully, he and team Dods’ team will be back together again in the winners enclosure very soon. I wish them well.

AT home we kept the flag flying for the “Good Friday open day” after Middleham trainers announced that they would remain closed this year due to an Early Easter and racing at Musselburgh.

Thankfully, a reliable source informs me that next year’s Good Friday event “will take place” and, after being sorely missed this year, I’m sure it will be bigger and better than ever.

We welcomed about six hundred people over the course of four hours, helping to raise over a thousand pounds for Macmillan Cancer Support.

It was a spectacular day with bright sunshine and our visitors thoroughly enjoyed meeting the horses and seeing our water treadmill in action.

George and I, along with all the staff, had fun meeting everyone and chatting about racing and the season ahead, while our syndicate representatives for Middleham Park Racing, ICM and Grange Park Racing all managed to attract some new owners who now have much to look forward to this summer.

Talking of Middleham Park Racing, I was delighted they scored with Birrafun on her handicap debut the all-weather at Southwell the other day. Hopefully, there’s a lot more fun to come!