Screaming Colours continued Ireland’s domination from Cheltenham when taking the Boulton Group Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter.
William Durkan’s raider from County Dublin had just the one run since finishing fourth in this race 12 months ago, and targeting the long-distance handicap chase reaped a handsome dividend this time.
Conditional jockey Conor Orr, who claims 3lb, brought his mount into contention in the straight with four fences left and began to bid for honours with El Paso Wood and Truckers Lodge, the winner in 2020.
Screaming Colours (12-1) had every chance two out and held a definite advantage over the final obstacle. He was ridden out to take the glory by 10 lengths from the staying-on Young Dev (10-1), with last year’s winner Time To Get Up, the 11-4 favourite, in third.
El Paso Wood, an 80-1 outsider, ran a massive race to finish fourth, while there was drama as the field set out on the last of their three circuits when Achille and his jockey Hugh Nugent parted company on the flat.
Orr said: “He loved that soft ground and I knew I had plenty of horse all throughout the race. He can go there fresh or he can have a couple of races and he will just be spot on, the lads will have him spot on.
“We came here hopeful, especially when there was that little bit of ease in the ground. We wanted the rain as he went well here last time but it dried out a little bit. We were very confident coming here this time with the rain.
“It’ll be brilliant for William, they’re not a big team, it’s mainly family. It’s brilliant for me to get the chances for them and to repay them.”
Durkan’s son, Neil, said: “It’s superb, we were here last year and we were a little bit unlucky with the way the ground dried out. When the rain came on Wednesday we were delighted to see that, a lot of people complained about it but it was perfect for us.
“He’s an 11-year-old in a nine-year-old’s legs and skin, he’s so lightly raced. He’s just one of these horses that gives you everything, he was just galloping all the way to the line. He never gave up once.
“We had a little injury, a setback with him and he’s not run since Cork in October, but to be fair he’s given 100 per cent.”
The Durkan name is a famous one not only in Ireland, but in racing worldwide. Durkan’s late son, John, famously bought Istabraq to go jumping for JP McManus, before tragically dying from leukaemia.
Asked what he would have made of the victory, Neil Durkan added: “He’d have a wry smile on his face and probably be disappointed he wasn’t here to ride him himself.
“It’s a bittersweet day because when he crossed the line John’s not here to enjoy it.”