CONNECTIONS of leading Grand National hope Long Run received a welcome boost as Warne turned in a brilliant round of jumping over the famous Aintree fences to claim the Crabbie’s Supporting The Hillsborough Families Fox Hunters’ Chase.
As a former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner and dual King George VI Chase hero, the Nicky Henderson-trained Long Run is undoubtedly the classiest horse in tomorrow’s showpiece, with amateur rider Sam Waley-Cohen set to do the steering in the colours of his father, Robert.
Waley-Cohen jnr returned to Merseyside aiming to extend a tremendous record around the National circuit and he did that when once again advertising his skills with a beautifully-judged front-running steer aboard 7-2 shot Warne against his fellow amateurs. The Brian Hamilton-trained ten-year-old fenced impeccably and was clear from halfway. Hot favourite Mossey Joe and last year’s winner, Selkirk-trained Tartan Snow, closed up from the home bend, but Waley-Cohen had been saving some petrol as Warne kicked away again from the final fence.
Despite having the attentions of a loose horse, Warne stuck to his guns to score by 13 lengths. The 14-year-old Tartan Snow filled the runner-up spot, with 11-8 market-leader Mossey Joe third. It was a third victory in the race for the Waley-Cohens following the successive triumphs of the admirable Katarino in 2005 and 2006.
The winning rider said: “He was brilliant, but I was terrified of that loose horse – he kept driving me off my rhythm all the way. He jumped so well and travelled so well – he made it easy, really.”
Looking ahead to Long Run’s date with destiny tomorrow, Waley-Cohen snr said: “There’s nothing like a little practice – they always say it makes perfect.”
The stewards found Mossey Joe’s rider Damien Skehan had used his whip above the permitted level and suspended him for 11 days.
Alan King’s Uxizandre (11-4) claimed Grade One honours in the Pinsent Masons Manifesto Novices’ Chase.
Tony McCoy’s mount jumped well towards the head of affairs and saw off the rallying favourite Oscar Whisky by a length and a half.