LIE Forrit will head for the Scottish Grand National at Ayr after getting up in the dying strides to deny his old rival, Harry The Viking, in the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock.
The 11-year-old, trained by Lucinda Russell just north of Edinburgh at Arlary House stables, had fended off Harry The Viking at Kelso five weeks ago and the two veterans were again to the fore as they fought out the finish to the valuable handicap chase over three miles and five furlongs.
Lie Forrit (8-1) took up the running from Gas Line Boy after the fourth-last fence, only for Harry The Viking (12-1) to loom large at the final obstacle and grab a narrow lead.
Both horses kept on resolutely all the way to the line and Peter Buchanan managed to get Lie Forrit in front where it mattered to land the spoils by a head.
The leading pair pulled 19 lengths clear of Monbeg Dude (13-2) and Tony McCoy in third. Russell said: “I love this race. That’s the third time we have won it. Silver By Nature (dual winner) was a legend and so is this lad.
“We knew he wouldn’t be able to dominate today. Peter said he had plenty in the tank coming up the straight but it didn’t look like that to me watching it.
“He lost his nerve over fences as a novice, but obviously he was a very good hurdler. That meant his chase mark was much lower and he has been better than ever this season. The Scottish National is the plan now, he has proved he stays. We didn’t even enter him for Aintree, so he will go straight there.”
Lie Forrit lost his way after his regular jockey, Campbell Gillies, whose family own the horse, died in a swimming-pool accident while on holiday in Corfu in 2012. But a switch of stables to Lucinda Russell has rekindled Forrit’s fire, despite his now veteran status.
Sandy Thomson, trainer of the runner-up, said: “We paid only £14,000 for him and he has won that back already. We have entered for Aintree, but he probably won’t get in, so Ayr would be the plan if he doesn’t.”
Meanwhile, Balder Succes staked his claim for Cheltenham glory with a clear-cut victory in the Betfair Ascot Chase at the Berkshire track.
The 4-1 shot, trained by Alan King, put his rivals to the sword once Wayne Hutchinson took him to the front at the fourth-last.
Ma Filleule tried to make a challenge, but Balder Succes always had her measure as he jumped superbly.
A typically brilliant leap at the last confirmed the win as he scored by three and a quarter lengths to register a second Grade 1 triumph. Leading novice Ptit Zig, the 6-4 favourite, fell at the ninth fence.
Hutchinson said: “This is a horse who has been great to me. The owners have been very supportive and it’s for the team as well. Good horses like Voy Por Ustedes and My Way De Solzen don’t come along very often. He’s a flagbearer for us now.”
At Wincanton, Blue Heron gave Dan Skelton his most high-profile catch with an all-the-way triumph in the Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle.
The seven-year-old’s victory was decisive in a race that, in Skelton’s words, “was his Champion Hurdle”, but the contest shed no light whatsoever on the hurdling championship at the Festival next month, as Blue Heron was taken out of the big one earlier in the week and will now head to Aintree.
In scoring by six lengths from the 11-10 favourite, Irving, he exposed flaws in the latter that seemingly eliminated any hope he had of making a mark in the Champion. Blue Heron, whose best effort this season was to trouble the judge in the Greatwood Hurdle, will have his final run over hurdles in the Aintree Hurdle and will go over fences next season, with the Arkle his aim.