Best of the rest on Grand National day
A round-up of the rest of today’s racing on the Grand National day card at Aintree
Hinterland ridden by Noel Fehily in the Doom Bar Maghull Novies’ Steeple Chase during Grand National Day. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire
Punters cheer on their horses during the first race at Aintree. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Lac Fontana benefited from a typically power-packed Tony McCoy ride to clinch the Pertemps Network Mersey Novices’ Hurdle, the opening race on Crabbie’s Grand National day at Aintree.
The Paul Nicholls-trained five-year-old was the 9-2 favourite for the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One, stepping up in class and trip following a similarly determined display in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
With the champion jockey taking over in the saddle from the sidelined Daryl Jacob, Lac Fontana travelled powerfully but looked to have his work cut out when Splash Of Ginge committed at the top of the home straight.
Dell’ Arca and Wilde Blue Yonder were both in the mix, but it turned into a straight shootout after the final flight, with Lac Fontana eventually wearing down Splash Of Ginge to take the prize by a length and a half.
Nicholls said: “He stayed very well at Cheltenham so we thought we’d go two and a half miles on this ground.
“He’s tough. He made it hard for himself by missing the last two hurdles but he stayed on a little bit.
“He could end up being a good staying hurdler looking at him, he stays really well.
“It will be interesting next year.”
Alan King secured his third winner of the meeting as Balder Succes played a starring role in the Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase.
Winner of the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick and the Pendil Novices’ Chase at Kempton, Balder Succes bypassed last month’s showpiece meeting at Cheltenham to ensure he was primed for his trip to Liverpool.
With Next Sensation predictably setting a strong gallop from the outset, Balder Succes was waited with in the hands of Wayne Hutchinson before looming up ominously in the straight.
The 7-2 chance moved stylishly to the lead on the run to the final fence and a spring-heeled leap sealed victory.
Nicky Richards’ outsider Simply Ned ran a super race to finish second, beaten four lengths, with 11-4 favourite Trifolium back in third, just as he was in the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham.
Hutchinson said: “I got in tight to the ditch, but he was very good.
“I set sail and it was do or die — he was very honest and he’s come for me all the way to the the line.
“It just took me three fences to hit my rhythm, but when we steadied up going to the back his jumping got me going again.”
King said: “He was good today.
“He needed one at the last and got it, his jumping was great all the way round.
“It’s paid off not going to Cheltenham with him, he was fresh and well — I’m delighted.
“He could go Punchestown. He gets two and a half miles, but I think he’s better over two.
“Early in the season we thought we had to make the running, but we knew there’d be pace on today so we didn’t want to do that.
“Fences have made a man of him.”
Whisper wore down At Fishers Cross to grind out victory in the Silver Cross Stayers’ Hurdle.
At Fishers Cross was the 11-8 favourite following a fine third in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham, with Nicky Henderson’s Whisper a 4-1 shot, graduating from handicap company following success in the Coral Cup.
At Fishers Cross and Zarkandar disputed the lead from flag-fall and while Zarkandar dropped away tamely in the straight, to his credit, the market leader stuck to his guns.
However, Barry Geraghty was soon in his slipstream aboard Whisper, who set off bathed in sweat, and after a brief battle after the final flight, the Seven Barrows runner won the argument by a length.
At Fishers Cross was not disgraced given he jumped out to his right for much of the extended three-mile journey.
Having looked likely to be tailed off at one stage, admirable grey Thousand Stars made late headway to pick up minor honours in third.
Geraghty said: “He got himself into a bit of state beforehand and was over-hyped and over-revved and I thought for most of the way I had no chance, but he does stay.
“At Fishers Cross is hard to pass and even when I did I thought I was in trouble again, but in fairness to my lad, and considering the state he was in, he didn’t give up and stayed really well.”
Duke Of Lucca got the better of the rallying Vino Griego to come out on top in a pulsating climax to the Betfred TV Handicap Chase.
With Our Mick running with more enthusiasm than has been the case in recent starts at the head of affairs, there was a sound gallop from the outset and the front-running grey still had the advantage rounding the final turn.
However, Vino Griego loomed up ominously, with Duke Of Lucca and Gullinbursti also in contention.
Vino Griego was just about in front jumping the final fence, but 12-1 shot Duke Of Lucca reeled him in on the run to the line and got up in the dying strides to take the spoils by a head.
Gullinbursti and Kian’s Delight finished third and fourth respectively, while 5-1 favourite Victor Hewgo made a number of jumping errors early on and was pulled up by James Reveley with over a circuit to run.