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Soaring Glory scales new heights in Betfair Hurdle

Jonjo O’Neill illustrated his knack for laying out a horse for a big handicap when Soaring Glory swooped to conquer in the Betfair Handicap Hurdle.

Under the trainer’s son Jonjo Jr, the 17-2 shot looked to be travelling by far the best approaching the final flight and when given the signal, he accelerated away on the run to the line.

Soaring Glory pulled three lengths clear of Fifty Ball, with Edwardstone a length and a half back in third and Annual Invictus fourth.

Buzz in fifth was the best of Nicky Henderson’s three runners as Mister Coffey ruined his chance by hanging in the closing stages, while 11-2 favourite Cadzand failed to menace.

O’Neill admitted he thought he had a good horse on his hands when Soaring Glory won at Chepstow on his seasonal bow.

The Jackdaws Castle handler said: “After Chepstow, he fell when going too easily in a bad race at Wetherby. He was not a natural jumper and Yogi Breisner did a lot of work on him.

Jonjo O'Neill was delighted with Soaring Glory
Jonjo O’Neill was delighted with Soaring Glory (David Davies/PA)

“It’s great to win a race like this and we thought ‘let’s have a go’ as novices often do well in it.”

O’Neill will almost certainly look at the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, for which Paddy Power cut Soaring Glory to 10-1 from 25s.

He added: “He’s entitled to run in it and Jonjo is riding with loads of confidence. He’s super cool and he does the job right.”

Annie Mc books Festival ticket with Warwick success

Annie Mc had her connections dreaming of Cheltenham success after powering home in the Lady Protectress Mares’ Chase at Warwick.

The 13-8 favourite clinched a double worth more than 100-1 for Jonjo O’Neill and Jonjo O’Neill Jr – and now heads for the newly-inaugurated Mares’ Chase at the Festival next month.

Annie Mc is owned by the Coral Champions Club, which includes reality TV star Chris Hughes, and O’Neill said: “I thought the handicapper had got her, but the soft ground bailed her out.

“She’s honest and she jumps, and has earned her corn to go to the mares’ chase at Cheltenham. She seems to be a decent mare on the soft.”

Annie Mc (left) gets the better of Zambella
Annie Mc (left) gets the better of Zambella (Alan Crowhirst/PA)

The Jackdaws Castle trainer admitted he thought she was in trouble at one stage, and added: “She fumbled a bit (on the ground) turning in, but I was delighted with her performance. She’s my best chance of a winner at the Festival, that’s for sure.

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“The lads get a great kick out of her.”

Forcing tactics paid off for Cabot Cliffs in the Join Racing TV Now Juvenile Hurdle.

The 4-1 shot kept on strongly for Harry Skelton to dispatch market rivals Sage Advice and Goodbye Stranger by a length and a half and a nose.

Tom Messenger, assistant to trainer Dan Skelton, said: “He was in at the deep end on his previous start and that was a lot more like it. He dictated under a great ride and had plenty left.”

The Skeltons completed a double when Supremely Lucky outstayed Undersupervision in the Visit racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle.

Callum Bewley made the journey from Carlisle to partner Overworkdunderpaid to a hard-fought success over Definite Dilemma in the South West Syndicate Novices’ Handicap Chase.

On only his second visit to the course, Bewley pounced on Definite Dilemma on the run-in, the combination scoring by half a length.

The 7-2 favourite’s trainer Laura Morgan said: “He takes time to warm to the task and needed something to aim at, having got there too soon last time.

“He’s in at Musselburgh on Sunday and Market Rasen next week, and all being well will be out again.”

Uptown Lady posted a 40-1 shock in the Racing TV Mares’ ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle, taking advantage of the last-flight fall of Fantastic Lady.

O’Neill explained that the six-year-old has not been straightforward and said: “She’s had two wind ops and might have been lucky to win. With a mare like that it’s just great to get a win into her.”

Ben Jones and Volcano in full flight
Ben Jones and Volcano in full flight (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The almost-white Volcano galloped and jumped his rivals into submission in the Watch On Racing TV Handicap Chase under Ben Jones.

His trainer Sheila Lewis said: “He’s neat and nimble, and Ben said he’s one of the best jumpers he’s ever sat on.”

There was a big upset in the Willougby De Broke Open Hunters’ Chase when 40-1 chance Latenightpass held the rally of Highway Jewel by three-quarters of a length under Bridget Andrews. The Worlds End went off the 5-4 favourite, but was another length back in third.

Annie Mc aiming for further Listed honours at Warwick

Annie Mc seeks to back up her Listed victory at Doncaster with another big run at the same level in the Lady Protectress Mares’ Chase at Warwick on Wednesday.

The Jonjo O’Neill-trained seven-year-old opened her account for the season in tremendous style on Town Moor at the end of the year, after taking on geldings in even better company on her three previous starts.

“In her first two races she was just run out of them against open company which is always harder for mares, but as you know they have good days and bad days,” said the Jackdaws Castle trainer. 

“She likes her work and is always up for going on the gallops. She is a straightforward, sound mare.

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“She is in great form. I thought this season it would be tough going for her, but she pulled one out of the bag at Doncaster.
 
“I think that soft ground definitely helped her there as she stayed better than everybody else on that occasion. I was delighted with the performance.

“It should be as soft at Warwick, as when you are up in this sort of class you need everything right for you really. 

One person who will be keeping a close eye on the race away from the track is Annie Mc’s biggest fan – reality television star Chris Hughes, who made his name on the 2017 edition of hit ITV2 show Love Island.

O’Neill added: “She really is Chris Hughes’ pal and when he comes in he always goes to see her. He has ridden her out before, not for a while as he has been busy, but when he does get on board her he is a capable rider.

“She is a grand mare and has been a real superstar for us, the owners and everybody involved with her.”

Harry Fry’s Momella steps up in class after winning her last two races over fences.

With conditions and the distance set to suit Momella, Fry is optimistic the nine-year-old can extend her winning run.

“We dropped her back in trip at Exeter, but it was on a stiff track on slow ground. She followed up quite quickly under a penalty on Boxing Day at Wincanton on testing conditions,” said the Dorset handler. 

“The ground will hold no fear for her and hopefully the track at Warwick will be fine for her. She has a bit to find on ratings, but she gets some weight from a few of the principals. 

“She goes there in great order and hopefully she will run a good race.”

The field is completed by 2019 winner Happy Diva from the yard of Kerry Lee, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Zambella and Destinee Royale, who represents Venetia Williams.

Imperial rule delights Fergal O’Brien

Imperial Alcazar could have his sights raised to Grade One company after opening his account for the season in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle at Warwick.

Making just his second start of the campaign, the Fergal O’Brien-trained seven-year-old, who holds an entry in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, took a giant step forwards in running out a convincing winner.

Steering clear of the late drama, which saw Flemcara, Espion and Ardlethen all come down at the last, the 5-1 victor galloped on relentlessly to score by two and a quarter lengths.

O’Brien said: “We’ve been talking the horse up to the owners for a long time. He has not had many runs and we kept him in bumpers for a long time. It is only his second run of the season and we have been very patient, but they have been rewarded today.

“We think he is a very nice horse and hopefully he will keep progressing.”

The Ravenswell Farm handler will let the dust settle before deciding which route to take with Imperial Alcazar, who has both the Stayers’ Hurdle and Pertemps Final as options at the Festival.

He added: “Definitely we would (treat him as a Stayers’ Hurdle type). We will have a look nearer the time who goes where. Whether things change with Covid as to who comes over from Ireland, so that is why we put him in the Stayers’. It’s a lovely problem to have.”

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Although Flemcara escaped injury following the incident at the final flight, there was a sad postscript to the race, which caused around a five-minute delay to the concluding bumper, as both Ardlethen and Espion suffered fatal injuries.

Clerk of the course Jane Hedley said: “Sadly we have lost both Espion and Ardlethen. They had fatal injuries. We gave them every chance, but we had no option in the end and they have been humanely euthanized. Flemcara galloped off which was a good sign.

“Everything was in control behind the screens which allowed us to carry on, which we did. The veterinary teams did their very best as ever, but unfortunately we couldn’t save them. The connections were there and were very upset, but they were philosophical.”

Gold Bullion is a name to note
Gold Bullion is a name to note (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Gold Bullion made a winning debut in the delayed bumper to complete doubles for trainer Paul Nicholls, jockey Harry Cobden and owner Malcolm Denmark.

Having secured Grade Two glory with Next Destination in the Hampton Novices’ Chase, the trio combined again with the five-year-old, who ran out a clear-cut four-and-a-half-length winner as the even-money favourite.

Assistant trainer Harry Derham said: “That was no surprise as he has been lovely the whole way through. He is a gorgeous horse that is so relaxed.

“He was green coming past the stands, that’s why Harry didn’t want to go too soon, but when he gave him a reminder he took off. He will be a serious novice hurdler over two and half miles.”

Sky Pirate looks to have a bright future
Sky Pirate looks to have a bright future (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Elsewhere on the card, Sky Pirate opened the door to bigger and better targets after continuing his progression over fences with victory in the Edward Courage Cup.

The Jonjo O’Neill-trained eight-year-old defied an 11lb hike in the weights following victory at Cheltenham to make it two wins from as many starts since being dropped back to two miles.

Moving past long-time leader Generous Day approaching the second-last, the 13-8 favourite pulled out plenty to defeat Amoola Gold by two and a quarter lengths in the hands of Jonjo O’Neill junior.

The winning rider said: “He is a bit of an enigma, as he has never shown at home that he wants two miles.

“But we had been meaning to try it and it worked out well at Cheltenham and it has worked out well again today. He is an improver at this trip.

“I think people have been getting him slightly wrong as I’m just not sure he gets the two and a half we were aiming him at, but I think he stays two miles strongly.”

Following the race Sky Pirate was cut from 7-1 into 6-1 favourite for the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival by Paddy Power – a race which O’Neill junior believes could be a suitable aim.

He added: “He would (be a horse for a Grand Annual). He has won off 145 and won quite nicely. He is still a novice so we would have to have a look, but he will be entered up in everything I’d imagine.”

Will Sting strikes under Aidan Coleman
Will Sting strikes under Aidan Coleman (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Will Sting (7-2) made the most of a drop back to two miles when giving weight all round to claim the Pertemps Network Novices’ Handicap Hurdle by nine and a half lengths.

Jockey Aidan Coleman said of the Lucy Wadham-trained winner: “The drop back in trip helped him. They went quite quick on that ground and they probably stopped a bit in front.

“He’S a nice-moving horse. I’d not sat on him before, but that ground didn’t seem an issue even though it was different to what he won on around Huntingdon.”

Sky Pirate plunders Warwick spoils

Sky Pirate opened the door to bigger and better targets after continuing his progression over fences with victory in the Edward Courage Cup at Warwick.

The Jonjo O’Neill-trained eight-year-old defied an 11lb hike in the weights following victory at Cheltenham to make it two wins from as many starts since being dropped back to two miles.

Moving past long-time leader Generous Day approaching the second-last, the 13-8 favourite pulled out plenty to defeat Amoola Gold by two and a quarter lengths in the hands of Jonjo O’Neill junior.

The winning rider said: “He is a bit of an enigma, as he has never shown at home that he wants two miles.

“But we had been meaning to try it and it worked out well at Cheltenham and it has worked out well again today. He is an improver at this trip.

“I think people have been getting him slightly wrong as I’m just not sure he gets the two and a half we were aiming him at, but I think he stays two miles strongly.”

Following the race Sky Pirate was cut from 7-1 into 6-1 favourite for the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival by Paddy Power – a race which O’Neill junior believes could be a suitable aim.

He added: “He would (be a horse for a Grand Annual). He has won off 145 and won quite nicely. He is still a novice so we would have to have a look, but he will be entered up in everything I’d imagine.”

Will Sting strikes under Aidan Coleman
Will Sting strikes under Aidan Coleman (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Will Sting (7-2) made the most of a drop back to two miles when giving weight all round to claim the Pertemps Network Novices’ Handicap Hurdle by nine and a half lengths.

Jockey Aidan Coleman said of the Lucy Wadham-trained winner: “The drop back in trip helped him. They went quite quick on that ground and they probably stopped a bit in front.

“He’S a nice-moving horse. I’d not sat on him before, but that ground didn’t seem an issue even though it was different to what he won on around Huntingdon.”

O’Neill sights set on Grand National outing for Cloth Cap

Jonjo O’Neill plans to give Ladbrokes Trophy winner Cloth Cap one run ahead of an outing in the Randox Health Grand National.

The Jackdaws Castle handler will work back from the Aintree marathon on April 10, for which the nine-year-old is a general 20-1 chance.

Cloth Cap entered the Grand National picture when ending a two-year drought with an impressive front-running success in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November.

O’Neill said: “The plan remains to go for the Grand National and hopefully we can get a race into him before then.

“He has been put up 11lb, but he won well in the Ladbrokes Trophy and jumped great. He only had 10st that day and everything was right for him.

“Trevor (Hemmings, owner) is keen to go for the National as it was the plan last year, but it obviously didn’t happen.”

O’Neill has no doubts about Cloth Cap, who finished third in the 2019 Scottish National, getting the extended four-and-a-quarter-mile trip, although he fears the ground may go against his new stable star.

He said: “He is a National horse as we know he stays and he jumps well normally, so those boxes are ticked.

“I wouldn’t be worried about him not staying, but the ground is very important to him.

“The only problem with the Grand National is that he might not get the ground as quick as it was in the Ladbrokes Trophy.”

Annie Mc in charge at Doncaster

Annie Mc made the most of racing against her own sex again as she ran out a convincing winner of the Yorkshire Silver Vase Mares’ Chase at Doncaster.

Since completing a hat-trick at Bangor in February, Annie Mc has been highly-tried in the Marsh Chase, the Old Roan Chase and the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.

But trainer Jonjo O’Neill spotted an opportunity on Town Moor for the six-year-old, who duly obliged to pick up the Listed prize in the hands of Richie McLernon.

Casablanca Mix was the early pace-setter, with My Old Gold and Annie Mc close up.

McLernon made his move on Annie Mc as the field turned into the straight, with four fences left to jump.

Cut The Mustard came from last place to challenge Annie Mc, but the 11-4 favourite was too strong and pulled away to score by 16 lengths. Midnightreferendum was eight and a half lengths away in third place.

Speaking from Newbury, O’Neill said: “She made or one or two little mistakes, but she jumped well on the whole.

“She is a great little mare, and they’ve had great fun with her. We went there a little bit tongue in cheek really, but it worked out well. I wish I could have few more like her.

“Her first two runs were fine, but I would say that the ground played into her hands today because it was quite soft around there – so I’m glad they raced (after two morning inspections)!

“That always helps running back against the mares. She has been brilliant for the (owners’) group (Coral Champions Group), though.”

While Annie Mc’s long-term future is as a broodmare, O’Neill sees no reason to retire her just yet.

“We will have to see what there is for but we will have a bit of fun with her because she will be long enough breeding,” said the Jackdaws Castle handler.

“I hadn’t planned on it being her last season. She wants to race – and while she is in good form, we will drive on.

“You would have to think about the new mares’ race at Cheltenham as a target now if the ground was right.”

Doncaster awaits Annie Mc

Annie Mc is out to back up a fine effort in top-class handicap company when she competes against her own sex in the Yorkshire Silver Vase Mares’ Chase at Doncaster.

Trained by Jonjo O’Neill for the Coral Champions Club, the six-year-old won three last year before finishing unplaced behind Samcro at the Cheltenham Festival.

She looked in need of the run behind Nuts Well in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree but shaped better when fifth behind runaway winner Chatham Street Lad in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.

“We were thrilled with Annie’s run at Cheltenham. The race was seriously competitive and not really run to suit her, but she stayed on well,” said Coral’s Simon Clare.

“She’s in great form at home, and this looks a lovely opportunity for her. She handles this ground really well, and the trip and track should suit her too, so we are very hopeful of a big run.

“It’s a shame Jonjo (O’Neill) Junior can’t ride, because he’s in action at Newbury, but Richie McLernon knows her really well and is a top jockey.”

Paul Nicholls is represented on Town Moor on Tuesday by Cut The Mustard, who has her first start for the Ditcheat trainer since leaving Willie Mullins – and also her first start since having a wind operation.

She was a Listed winner in mares’ company at Naas last season, and finished second in the Flyingbolt Novices’ Chase against the boys.

“This is her first run for us since arriving from Ireland, where she earned a mark of 140 over fences,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“We gave Cut The Mustard a wind op in the summer; she has schooled well and is fit and ready to start in this Listed Mares’ Chase. We will know more about her after this.

Alan King runs Midnightreferendum, a winner on her chasing debut and second to Zambella in a Listed race at Warwick last time out.

“She was a very good second in a similar race at Warwick, where she jumped superbly and was just beaten by a better mare on the day,” King told his website.

The Nicky Richards-trained My Old Gold, Nicky Henderson’s Casablanca Mix and Henry Daly’s Chilli Filli add further strength in depth to an intriguing contest.

Racing Insights, 26th December 2020

Matt here again, on Christmas Day duty, and wishing you all the very best of the day/season.

It's a bumper Boxing Day menu though, understandably, not quite as bulging as usual. No problem for us, of course, as there is more than enough to go at.

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So much to go at is not always a positive, so a little bit of considered whittling is required. Using the card filters and selecting handicaps only, 8-10 runners helps considerably: 41 races down to five!

There is no real standout race from those, but the one with the most exposed form and, therefore, the least guesswork - in theory at least - is probably the 1.28pm from Wetherby, a 2m3f handicap chase on soft ground. Due to rail movements it is actually a 2m4f race, an extra 168 yards added to the advertised distance.

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My first port of call is to see if there's any sort of pace bias and, in this case, the pace blobs tell us that this track/trip/going/field size combination seems pretty fair, with the exception of held up runners who have struggled.

That tempers enthusiasm in Demi Sang based on recent run style history but leaves the rest of the field as credibles.

Instant Expert is next, from which it is clear that the favourite Johnbb is well suited.

Indeed, clicking on the distance block for him shows he was a course and distance (and class and going) winner last time out. As a six-year-old against older, generally more exposed, horses he has more scope to step forward again; and as a prominent to midfield runner he should have no issues with being too far back.

Another last day winner, Mercian Prince, has won on soft but his overall profile (1 from 8, just one further place) is uncompelling, and his three wins in recent years have all been on good ground. He has back class and looks otherwise well suited to conditions but that going concern is not especially factored into odds of 4/1 to my eye.

Time To Get Up is hard to weigh up. He's run well in defeat a few times and this is his second start in a handicap. We can see from the bottom row that Jonjo O'Neill, his trainer, does very well with those running under such a circumstance. He is also in excellent recent form.

The horse himself was second to Monkfish, subsequent Cheltenham Festival Grade 1 winner, beaten 11 lengths. That one had a hurdles mark of 152 when winning the Albert Bartlett meaning 133 is potentially very well in for this fellow. He's easily the most interesting horse in the race.

Ravenhill Road has fallen the last twice, which must surely have dented his confidence. Moreover, a high winning rating of 127 against a today rating of 133 about this relatively exposed nine-year-old means he's not for me.

While Twotwothree has had less goes than many of these, and tries a different combination of trip and going, he doesn't excite me as a win proposition for all that it wouldn't shock if he won.

Demi Sang is capable on his day, but his day is generally on quicker turf and he'll  likely be ridden quietly at the back: as we've seen above, that's not normally the way to prevail here.

Of the trio of outsiders, Mr McGo makes most appeal: he has a good seven-pound conditional making him rating/weight competitive and, except for his most recent race - a clunk - had been in the mix in his previous seven contests.

Verdict

Probably not as competitive as it first appears. Johnbb looks a legit contender and, if it is either 'not today' or 'I don't like getting my head in front' for Time To Get Up, he has a very strong chance of winning again. But that Monkfish formline is outstanding in the context of this race; and the O'Neill runner is entitled to step forward for his second spin after almost a year off.

It's one of those where I'd kind of like to see what happens with the market: if Time To Get Up was strong around 11am he's probably the bet at 5/2 or better. If he drifted towards 4/1, maybe there's something missing.

At the prices, I'd want to be against Mercian Prince, who looks better suited to quicker turf in recent years, though he may get the run of things on the front. From an each way perspective, Twotwothree and Mr McGo are moderately compelling, but this race centres around the Jonjo runner for me.

- Matt

Scudamore takes straightforward path to third Trophy victory

Keeping things simple can often be the best route to glory, as Tom Scudamore demonstrated with a fine front-running ride aboard Cloth Cap to secure a record-equalling third Ladbrokes Trophy success at Newbury.

Rarely will victory in one of jump racing’s flagship contests have much smoother than it was for the 38-year-old aboard Jonjo O’Neill’s charge.

While it is the final result that counts, getting a good start can often be overlooked – a factor Scudamore believes was key to the pair’s triumph.

Scudamore said: “I just wanted to get a good start. It’s the first time he has really had the ground since he was placed in the Scottish National.

“I just thought the important bit would be in the first four or five fences, as I didn’t want to get too far back and as I’d never get at them.

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“When he winged the first ditch, the second fence, I was thinking I could be in for quite a thrill here, and so it turned out. It was great, very straightforward.”

Getting down to 10st can be difficult for some jockeys, not for Scudamore though, who barely had to break out of his regular routine in order to take up, what would turn out to be, a rare winning ride for O’Neill.

He added: “Siruh Du Lac was taken out at the entry stage, I had ridden for Jonjo a little bit in the past and a bit more for Mr Hemmings and they wanted someone that could commit and do 10st.

“Richie (McLernon) was claimed for Regal Encore and Jonjo (O’Neill junior), with it being 10st, wouldn’t be able to do the weight, so it worked out quite nicely.

“I’m always quite fit and I wouldn’t be letting my weight get away with me, so it wouldn’t be a problem. I was still able to have something last night and just sit in a hot bath for half an hour this morning, but nothing too bad.”

Having eclipsed his father Peter’s tally of two wins in the race, Scudamore was delighted to be able to give O’Neill, who failed to win the three-and-a-quarter-mile prize as a rider, his first victory in the Grade Three as a trainer.

He added: “Jonjo is just about the best trainer of staying chasers there is. He has won the Grand National, Irish Grand National and Gold Cup, he beat me (as a trainer) in the Gold Cup and I forgive him now!

“I’ve won it for the Pipes, Tizzards and Jonjo and that is quite an impressive roll of trainers to win a big race for, so I’m very grateful and Dad and Jonjo go back a long way.

“He has always been very kind to me, so I’m pleased I’m able to reward his faith with a nice winner.”

The stands may have been sparsely populated with only a small number of owners, trainers and racecourse staff dotted about, but it failed to take the gloss off the victory for Scudamore.

He added: “It is sad there are not many people here, but from my point of view, you have to concentrate on the job in hand.

“Yes it would be nice for other people to be here and great for the racecourse, but in the circumstances racing has done a great job.

“Growing up, I always felt it was one of the classic races. To come out and win this again is a great thrill, as it is one of the best races on probably the best course to ride.”

Cloth Cap makes all for Ladbrokes Trophy triumph

Cloth Cap ran the opposition into the ground with a superb all-the-way triumph in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury.

The Jonjo O’Neill-trained eight-year-old was given an ultra-positive ride by Tom Scudamore, who also made the most of carrying bottom weight in the prestigious staying handicap chase.

With Cloth Cap, carrying the familiar colours of Trevor Hemmings, putting in an impeccable round of jumping, Scudamore was always in control.

The well-fancied Vinndication was close up but he came down at the fifth-last fence.

Aye Right, who was prominent throughout, tried to lay down a bid, as did last year’s runner-up The Conditional, but Cloth Cap held all the aces.

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The 9-1 shot galloped on strongly from the last to win by 10 lengths from Aye Right (12-1). The Conditional (14-1) was a length and a half away in third place with The Hollow Ginge (50-1) fourth.

Cloth Cap was slashed to 25-1 from 66-1 with Paddy Power and Betfair for the Randox Health Grand National.

O’Neill said: “He has been in tremendous form. His run at Cheltenham when Richie (McLernon) rode him was a cracker. It was great – he jumped brilliantly, it was just brilliant.

“I said to Tom ‘he gets four miles, so the rest is down to you’ – obviously he did his home work. The ride came about through Dave Roberts his agent. We were looking for someone to do 10st and I couldn’t do it, so I thought Tom was the next best thing!

“I was second on Tamalin one year, behind a horse (Zeta’s Son) ridden by Ian Watkinson and trained by Peter Bailey. Michael Buckley owned it and I can still see the colours.

“It is a great start to the season and it was brilliant. Most of the team are running well.

“It is great to win it for anybody. For Trevor it is great, as he loves long-distance chasers and we have been trying to get him to run in the National really, so he is probably on a mark where he will probably get in.

“He needs good ground and that is important to him really. If he gets his ground in the National, take the price now. I was a bit worried about the ground as the lads were saying it is a bit slower today as he wants it good. It was good enough and that is the main thing.”

Graham said: “We are just so chuffed. All week I’ve been thinking ‘are we above ourselves taking on all these fantastic trainers and fantastic southern horses’.

Aye Right (right) delighted his trainer Harriet Graham
Aye Right (right) delighted his trainer Harriet Graham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I’ve always thought so much of him and Callum (Bewley) and him have got on really well. We’ve stayed loyal to our jockey and the owners stayed loyal to him and he did a fantastic job.

“The horse jumped incredibly and galloped and we were brave enough to take it to them – it was a super job.

“Over cups of coffee at the kitchen table, we’ve often thought of the Scottish National and we had been going to go to that meeting last season for a supporting chase. That is on the radar, but it is a long way away. I think we have a really nice horse.”