Lake View Lad upset a trio of Cheltenham Gold Cup contenders to claim top honours in the William Hill Many Clouds Chase at Aintree.
A small but select field of five runners went to post for the Grade Two contest, with 2018 Gold Cup hero Native River, last season’s Gold Cup runner-up Santini and the popular Frodon appearing the three main protagonists.
Native River made much of the running in his bid for back-to-back victories under Richard Johnson, with some prodigious leaps even proving too much from the usually bold-jumping Frodon in his slipstream.
Santini was under pressure a long way from home, but stuck to his guns to ensure he remained in contention rounding the home turn, along with Native River, Frodon and 16-1 shot Lake View Lad, who had been off the track since running over hurdles at Kelso in January.
Trainer Nick Alexander admitted his stable star was aided by the decision to omit the three fences in the straight on both circuits due to the prevailing low sun.
Bu even so, it was hard not to be impressed by the way Lake View Lad (16-1) knuckled down in the hands of champion jockey Brian Hughes to see off13-8 favourite Santini by a length.
Alexander, completing a double on the card following the earlier success of Clan Legend, said: “We won’t forget today, that’s for sure.
“I’m sad for Henry Brooke, who missed out riding him today because of a nasty injury, but I’m delighted for the horse.
“He’s a great jumper, but I also knew also knew all the other horses were very good jumpers, and I just thought missing the fences out might help – I’m not sure if he’d have won that if they’d jumped all the fences and I hope the handicapper takes that into account.
“He’s been a tremendous servant to the yard – we’re very lucky to have him.”
A return to Aintree for a tilt at the Grand National is likely to be the main objective for Lake View Lad, who carries the same colours as the late Many Clouds, who won the National in 2015 and this race in 2016 for owner Trevor Hemmings.
Alexander added: “I’ve always wanted to him to have one chance against the Gold Cup horses, because he’s usually carrying big weights in handicaps, and everything was perfect for him today – the ground and the track – so today was the day to do it.
“We were thinking about going for the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day, but we might have handicapped ourselves out of that now and we could look at something like the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham at the end of January.
“There’s also a Pattern race at Kelso in February, which would a prep for the National.”