Wayward Prince was almost retired such was his poor form earlier this season. Yesterday, the 11-year-old repaid connections’ continuing faith in him by rolling back the years to lift the Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr.
“It’s a dream and he’s loved every minute of it. He does get looked after like a baby, we all love him,” said trainer Hilary Parrott after seeing her 25-1 shot repel all late challengers to land the prestigious marathon chase.
“He did very well when trained by Ian Williams. Then he lost his form and I thought I’d have him. We’re a small yard, so he gets a lot of attention. He goes out every day and is very happy. I can’t believe it. He’d never gone four miles before, but he did fall in the Grand National last year.”
Leading at the third-last fence, Wayward Prince dug deep for jockey Robbie Dunne to win by three-quarters of a length from the strong-finishing Irish raider, Goonyella (16-1), who made a gallant bid to follow up his victory in the Midlands National. Benbens
(33-1) was a head away third and Amigo (28-1) was fourth.
Earlier this season, Wayward Prince earned a reprieve from retirement with victory at Doncaster in February and he also ran well when third on his only subsequent start at Ascot.
Dunne said: “When he got to the front, he started idling a bit and when they came to me at the last, I thought he was done, but he dug very deep.
“Sam Drinkwater, who I ride with for Tom Lacey, was originally going to ride the horse at Doncaster in the Grimthorpe Chase, but he couldn’t do the weight.
“I went over and schooled the horse, and, thankfully, Mrs Parrott gave me the ride and it went on from there.
“The start was crucial for him. Once he got into a good position, that was it. He was always happy through the race and jumped beautifully to keep his position.”
Goonyella’s trainer Jim Dreaper was delighted with his horse’s performance. He is hoping his excellent run will help him earn a place in the Crabbie’s Grand National next year after missing out the last twice.
“He showed again he’s got great stamina. His lack of pace is just shown up a bit more on that ground, but that was very good,” said the County Meath handler. “The plan is to try to get him into Aintree to beat the ballot. He’s missed out two years in a row and, maybe, he can do it next year.”
Scottish hope Lie Forrit, trained by Lucinda Russell, made headway four out, but was never dangerous and finished 10th.
Meanwhile, the Crabbie’s Grand National winning team of Oliver Sherwood and Leighton Aspell may have another Aintree winner in Puffin Billy, who rallied tenaciously to give further success in the Weatherbys Private Banking Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.
Aspell had to sit tight as Puffin Billy (7-2) made several mistakes, but he never lost any momentum and proved an impossible nut to crack.
The Last Samuri and Runswick Royal looked big threats at the final fence, where the latter came down after the trio jumped it close together. Despite being headed briefly, Puffin Billy would not be denied and he battled on gamely to score by a neck. Final Assault was seven lengths away third. Sherwood said: “He’s very tough. We’ve got to sort out the jumping to the right, but that will come. He’ll be off on his holidays now and that ground was plenty quick enough for him. He wants proper winter ground. He’s been a star for coming back after his horrible fall at Ascot.”
Duke Of Navan (7-2) overcame being hampered at the first fence
to run out a clear-cut winner of the earlier Scotty Brand Handicap Chase.
Duke Of Navan got a bump as My Brother Sylvest came down, as did
Dunraven Storm, and Brian Harding did well to keep the partnership intact.
However, the Nicky Richards-trained seven-year-old was soon back into contention and jumping well to win emphatically by six lengths from Yorkist.
“He just loves better ground. He has a lot of scope and is brave,” said Harding. “Those two falling early made it a bit easier.”
n Willie Mullins has given all his horses that ran at Aintree a clean bill of health – including Arctic
Fire. The Champion Hurdle runner-up took a crashing last-flight fall when looking like the winner of the Aintree Hurdle last weekend. However, along with Grand National casualty Ballycasey and Topham faller Turban, Mullins is aiming them at Punchestown.
“All the horses are fine after Aintree,” said Mullins. “Arctic Fire is obviously a bit sore after his fall and he’s had any easy week.
“The other fallers, Ballycasey and Turban, are also ready to go to Punchestown.”