Mac Tottie sparked dreams of a tilt at Grand National glory after enhancing trainer Peter Bowen’s excellent record over the famous fences in the Betway Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at Aintree.
The Welsh trainer has saddled four winners of the Topham Chase at the National meeting, with Dunbrody Millar’s 2007 triumph followed by the popular Always Waining’s hat-trick between 2010 and 2012.
Bowen also came close to winning the big one in 2007, with Mckelvey beaten three-quarters of a length by Silver Birch – and in Mac Tottie, he believes he has another contender for the Aintree spectacular.
A well-beaten last of four on his seasonal reappearance at Fontwell early last month, the eight-year-old appeared invigorated by the switch to the National fences, jumping well throughout for the trainer’s son James.
The well-fancied Senior Citizen loomed up looking a big danger on the run-in, but 20-1 shot Mac Tottie dug deep to see him off by a length – with Manwell a further 12 lengths behind in third.
“That was good. It’s the fifth time we’ve won round those fences – it’s been a lucky place for us,” said the winning trainer.
“I have no idea why they seem to take to it. We do a lot of loose schooling, and they seem to find their own way from there.”
Bowen added: “We just missed out in the National with Mckelvey, and hopefully this will end up being a National horse – I think he’ll stay.
“He came here in good form. Things didn’t go quite right for him last time, because he lost a shoe and didn’t really stride out after that.
“He could come back here for the Becher next month, but we’ll see how he is and speak to the owners.”
The winner rider was thrilled to claim his first victory over the National fences, adding his name to the roll of honour in a race his brother Sean has won twice for champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
“It’s unbelievable. To do it for my dad makes it extra special,” he said.
“I didn’t miss one fence. He’s only small, but he’s so neat and has got loads of scope.
“I got to the front way too soon, but the loose horse helped me out for a little while, and he probably kept a little bit up his sleeve.
“I’d ride any of dads’ horses over a National fence. It’s nice to come here and have the confidence in them to go and jump.”