Trained a Lucinda Russell’s yard in Kinross, Perthshire, the 6-1 favourite pounced late to land the Cheltenham Festival spoils 12 months ago and was ridden cold once again by Derek Fox. Always travelling easily for the Grand National-winning pilot, the enigmatic nine-year-old was coaxed into contention as the race began to unfold and was then asked to join the party jumping the last – from where he knuckled down gamely to stay on to the line, holding off Martin Brassil’s Fastorslow to extend the dominance of British-trained horses in this race.
He will now head to Aintree on April 15 and was made the 7-1 joint-favourite for the Grand Nationa; by Betfair, while William Hill go further with Corach Rambler their 6-1 favourite, cut from 10s.
Russell’s partner and assistant Peter Scudamore said: “It’s a great thrill. I do appreciate how incredibly fortunate I am and if a bolt of lightning hits me on the way out, I’d die a happy man. The funny thing is that his jumping is getting better and he was closer than last year. All Derek wants to do is go out there and ride and that is the mark of the man.”