Lord Du Mesnil booked his ticket for another date on Merseyside with a gutsy display in the William Hill Grand National Trial at Haydock.
Second 12 months ago, Richard Hobson’s stable star led them all a merry dance from the outset – and showed stamina and guts aplenty at the finish.
Having seemingly put the race to bed two out, Venetia Williams’ Achille arrived late on the scene but Lord Du Mesnil and Paul O’Brien were not to be denied.
Relishing the thorough test and showing that the extra distance in the Randox Grand National will surely be no problem, the 8-1 chance pulled out more to win by half a length. The Two Amigos ran another creditable race to be third.
“That was a great performance today to carry 2lb more than last year, I’m chuffed to bits,” said Hobson.
“That’s the first time he’s had his ground this year – at Chepstow the ground had been covered for 10 days and was almost good to soft.
“When he gets in that rhythm he’s a hard horse to pass, his jumping is always great on the whole and Paul gave him a lovely ride.
“If it could just be soft for us, over four-miles-two that would be enough, but obviously anything quicker and it’s not going to be his race. I’ve always said the ground is the key to him.
“He’s got an entry in the Ultima (at Cheltenham), but I think we’ll avoid that and keep him fresh for the Grand National. He’s got a beautiful weight and we know he stays well. It’s not every year you have a Grand National horse.”
Hobson – for whom it was a poignant victory, as his father, Russell, a former trainer, died just two weeks ago – added: “Paul knows him inside out, it just hasn’t been his year up to now, the Sefton was too short and at Chepstow it wasn’t soft enough.
“He has overheated in the past, but he didn’t today. Paul got off as a precaution.”
The Nick Williams-trained Galahad Quest (12-1) had finished behind Marown when they last met but turned that form around with the favourite in the williamhill.com Best Odds Guaranteed Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.
The two had it between them up the long Haydock straight once The Ferry Master had dropped away, but it was Galahad Quest, who had arguably jumped better, who prevailed by two and a half lengths.
David Noonan was on board and said: “The first-time tongue tie has obviously worked.
“He jumped well in the main, it’s all experience for the future and hopefully he can have a nice career.”
Fergal O’Brien’s Alaphilippe (100-30) was an easy winner of the Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle and is set to head to Cheltenham.
Paddy Brennan was on board and while he acknowledged Sean Bowen on Young Buck appeared to be going slightly better when coming down three out, he fancied his chances.
“I think he’s very good. I know Sean was going well, but I felt my lad was just about to get motoring,” said Brennan.
“I’ve been around long enough to know what should be going (to Cheltenham) and what shouldn’t and he should, but for Fergal O’Brien’s stable today is a good day.”
The remarkable Bushypark (8-1) won for the fifth time this season in the Pertemps Qualifier.
Phil Kirby’s seven-year-old began his winning spree at Sedgefield off a mark of 83 and bar a defeat in an all-weather bumper last time out, he has progressed with each outing, taking this off 120 under Henry Brooke.
“He’s been brilliant, obviously we never expected him to keep going as he has, but he’s very straightforward,” said Kirby.
“We’d like to go for the (Pertemps) final, but we knew we had to come here and win well to stand a chance of getting in – hopefully he’s done enough. If it’s soft, we’d go. He’ll make a nice chaser for next year.”
Paul Nicholls’ Monmiral (evens favourite) was an impressive winner of the William Hill Juvenile Hurdle.
Given the ease with which he beat Nassalam he is arguably the best four-year-old in Britain, but he is not even entered in the Triumph Hurdle with Nicholls always favouring Aintree.
Bowen was on board and doubled up through the Nicholls-trained Bob And Co (11-8 favourite) in the hunter chase.