Hometown Boy recovered from a scare at the final flight to give trainer Stuart Edmunds a second winner at the Grand National Festival in 24 hours when landing the EFT Systems Handicap Hurdle at Aintree.
The six-year-old, ridden by Ciaran Gethings, was clear of the pack when he blundered at the last and gave away a few lengths.
However, Gethings soon got Hometown Boy back on an even keel and the 6-1 favourite kept on gamely to lift the prize.
Always prominent throughout in this extended three-mile contest, Hometown Boy had led before the third-last obstacle and was in control until he hit the top of the final flight.
J’Ai Froid was beaten three lengths in second place, with Tea Clipper four and three-quarter lengths away in third and Ashtown Lad a further two lengths back in fourth.
Edmunds, who had taken the last race on Friday with Rowland Ward, said: “To be fair this was a long-term (plan). We wanted to come here, but wanted a prep run so went to Kempton beforehand.
“It was a bit of a gamble as he was also in over two and a half-miles, but we thought there were one or two more speedier types in there. He galloped through the line, though, and he couldn’t pull him up.
“I couldn’t repeat what I was thinking at the last! If he was a tired horse his legs would have gone to jelly.”
He added: “There’s nothing else for him this season and I think he’ll be a nice novice chaser next season – he’s schooled plenty over fences at home.”
Happygolucky gained compensation for finishing second at the Cheltenham Festival with a smooth victory in the Betway Handicap Chase.
Kim Bailey’s seven-year-old had to settle for second place behind Vintage Clouds in the Ultima, but he came back strong to take this £31,500 first prize.
He was always travelling well in the hands of David Bass and was in a good position in the early stages, as Kilfilum Cross and Lalor set the pace.
When it came to the business end, Happygolucky (11-4 favourite) proved the strongest from the final fence and held Johnbb by two and three-quarter lengths. Spiritofthegames stayed on for third place, two and a quarter lengths away.
Bailey said: “We were beaten fair and square at Cheltenham by a revitalised horse, but we were staggered we did get beat. That was a great performance today. He’s a novice, but he’s very professional.
“I think we’ll be limited in terms of options for the rest of this season, but we are running out of time, it will be nice if he can come back here this time next year (for the National).
“He jumps so well and seems to stay, (but) I think you could run over shorter on softer ground.
“To start off next year there are the early races at Cheltenham, but if it’s soft we could think of the Paddy Power, maybe the Ladbrokes Trophy.”
Knappers Hill (8-1) stayed on well in the closing stages to land the Grade Two Two Weatherbys hstallions.co.uk Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.
The five-year-old, trained by Paul Nicholls, took his unbeaten record to three when scoring by half a length under Megan Nicholls.
Peking Rose put in good late gains to fill second place, a length and a quarter ahead of the winner’s stablemate Stage Star.
The winning rider said: “That was amazing – I’m on cloud nine. I can’t believe what has just happened. I spoke to Rachael (Blackmore) before I came out and she says she was shaking like a leaf and I feel like that now.
“It’s awesome. I’m delighted. Who would have thought I’d have been riding at this meeting? I had a great time pointing then turned to the Flat. I’m just so happy. Dad and the team have really helped and looked after me and when he mentioned about riding some of the bumper horses I was snapping his arm off. You can’t help but be excited riding young gorgeous horses like that.
“I know I’m babbling on, but I’m quite speechless at the same time. It’s awesome. Any bigger meeting whether it is over the Flat or jumps is huge. To be riding on Grand National day is like anyone’s dream. To have a winning chance, let alone be able to ride the winner is just amazing. It’s my first ride in a graded race.”
She added: “This horse has been fantastic. He was my first listed winner and he has now given me a graded winner. Mr Barber and Mr Vogt who own him have been huge supporters of the yard but me as well and to repay them is just incredible. My legs are going underneath me. I’m just ecstatic.”
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