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Mac Tottie enters National frame with Grand Sefton victory

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.”

Bowen in seventh heaven with Plate hero Francky Du Berlais

Francky Du Berlais provided trainer Peter Bowen with his seventh victory in the Betway Summer Plate after a taking success at Market Rasen.

Sent off at 11-1, the eight-year-old has won twice already during his summer campaign and relished the bustle of a busy handicap to secure a seven-and-a-half-length triumph from Exelerator Express under James Bowen.

The Bowen family have a stellar record in the valuable Grade Three handicap, with Peter having won the race seven times in its 26-year history and elder son Sean successful himself when steering More Buck’s to victory for his father in 2018.

“That’s what Peter does, he tries to find something to go for this race that will be suitable,” said Karen Bowen, wife to Peter and mother of Sean and James.

“We always seem to do well at Market Rasen, it’s a lucky track for us, though it took us seven and a half hours to get up here yesterday in the horse box.

“He’s a nice horse, he obviously won a nice race at Uttoxeter but he’s one of these you’ve got to keep a lid on a bit, I’m not sure Cartmel suited him because there’s a fairground.

“(It’s) a big handicap, fast run, he handled it well and you need a horse that will handle those types of race, not every horse can cope with the hustle and bustle – his jumping was super.”

Francky Du Berlais was the intended ride of Sean, but James was unable to make the weight for the Bowen’s other runner, Lord Bryan, so the brothers swapped rides with the lighter of the two legged up on the latter horse.

Francky Du Berlais enjoys a deserved drink
Francky Du Berlais enjoys a deserved drink (Molly Hunter/PA)

“James was very excited and to be fair to the boys, they’re as excited as one another,” Karen said.

“Sean has won on the horse before at Uttoxeter but James wasn’t able to do the weight on the other one, but Sean will be as happy for James as he would have been if he’d won it himself.”

The winning rider said: “That was a really good run, I couldn’t be happier.

“He finished so well and had the perfect run round, he would get further but a strong gallop over two and a half (miles) is perfect for him.

“I’m really excited, Sean’s delighted as well.

“I couldn’t do the weight on the other so Sean’s ridden him and given me a chance.”

Delighted winning owner Roddy Owen said: “He’s like the owner, you’ve got to keep the lid on him.

“That’s the third time we’ve won here, it’s usually my birthday, it was on the 16th.

“He’ll go again in a fortnight or a month’s time, he’s been marvellous and they’ve been marvellous trainers for me – I’ve been very lucky.”

Francky Du Berlais pounces for victory in Uttoxeter feature

Francky Du Berlais snatched victory from the front-running Pistol Whipped in a pulsating finish to the feature Clarke Handicap Chase at Uttoxeter.

The Peter Bowen-trained eight-year-old was only in sixth place at the second-last fence – and was still a few lengths behind the leader at the final obstacle.

He was quickly away from it, however, and reduced the gap on Pistol Whipped to get his head in front where it mattered, winning by a nose in the hands of Bowen’s son, Sean.

Pistol Whipped looked to have the opposition cooked as he put in a superb round of jumping for Nico de Boinville and victory looked assured for Nicky Henderson’s charge until Francky De Berlais came from the clouds to collar him on the line.

Captain Tommy was four and a half lengths away in third place, with Pink Eyed Pedro fourth.

The winning trainer said: “He did it well, but he only just got there.

“He’s improving with a bit of age. He shouldn’t go up too much in the weights for that.

“I’d say he’d go for the Summer Plate at Market Rasen, I imagine.”