Jack Kennedy weaved his way through expertly on Tronador to land the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle at Aintree.
The lightly-raced five-year-old was the only runner trained in Ireland – by Denise Foster – among the 22-strong field for the opening race on day two of the Grand National meeting, and his victory showed the travelling contingent’s domination at the Cheltenham Festival is not letting up.
In the middle of the pack early, Tronador – who was very weak in the betting, going off 22-1 after being 8-1 overnight – found himself outpaced early in the straight.
A slow jump three from home did not help his cause, but suddenly he began to pass horses.
Long-time leader Kateson was still in front jumping the last – but Tronador landed with momentum and sprinted clear to beat Dans Le Vent by two and a half lengths, with Edwardstone running on for third.
Foster was represented by Lisa O’Neill, who said: “He ran a cracker in the Boodles two years ago and wasn’t beaten far that day. He was fresh and well and he travelled over well.
“He only squeezed into the bottom of the handicap. We were expecting him to run well, but we weren’t actually expecting him to get in.
“It’s possible he’ll go to Punchestown. It likes like he’s progressive at the trip. There might be something else for him.”
Rowland Ward benefitted from the fitting of a first-time tongue tie to win the closing Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle for Stuart Edmunds.
The race changed markedly in complexion at the second-last flight when the strongly-fancied Copperless, who appeared to be going as well as anything else, took a crashing fall.
Henry de Bromhead’s Bold Enough had just about given his best, leaving Camprond in the lead, but Rowland Ward was produced beautifully by Charlie Hammond.
It took longer than it was maybe expected for him to wear down his rival, but the 12-1 shot won by half a length from the 9-2 favourite.
Edmunds said: “He had a wind operation (in February), which has probably helped, although he still made a bit of a noise last time – hence the tongue-tie for the first time today.
“He just hasn’t had the rub of the green really this year and this fiercely-run two miles suited him.
“He’s dug deep today, whereas in the past his wind probably has caught him out. The bit better ground has probably helped him.
“We probably thought he might want to step him up two and a half (miles). We might step him up at Sandown on the last day of the year, but we won’t be greedy.”