Duncan sent out his Cheltenham Festival winner, Another Rum, to finish third to Joes Edge in the Ayr marathon ten years ago when he still trained in Ireland. Now he believes he has found the right horse to have another crack at the biggest race of the season at his local track.
Duncan said: “The owner bought him privately out of Tim Vaughan’s stable and sent him to me in July, and I thought back then he might be the type for this race, so we’ve earmarked this from an early stage. He ran very well on his second run at Carlisle, then fell at the first at Catterick. We’ve schooled him since and he’s been jumping well. I saw him run well in the four-miler at Cheltenham last year [eighth]. I think he’s improved a bit. He has a bit of class and there might be more in him. I train outside Ayr, so I think we’ll go for the Scottish National next. This will be my most valuable win. I did win the four-miler at Cheltenham a few years ago and I’ve been over here from Ireland for four years now.”
Milborough (18-1) had to dig deep for 5lb claimer Graham Watters to hold Summery Justice by a length and a half. Woodford County was third and Knockanrawley fourth.
Meanwhile, Sire De Grugy kept his Cheltenham dreams alive with a fine weight-carrying performance at Chepstow in the Rifles Handicap Chase Supporting Care For Casualties. Last year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase hero made his seasonal reappearance at Newbury two weeks ago, but he unseated jockey Jamie Moore. Yesterday, sent off the 5-4 favourite, Sire De Grugy, conceding upwards of 20lb, made amends in style. He eventually pulled seven lengths clear of Grey Gold at the line, with Moore thoroughly delighted by Sire De Grugy’s effort.
It was also a great day for Paul Nicholls whose domination of big races on Saturdays continued as Rocky Creek enjoyed a perfect Grand National trial in the BetBright Chase at Kempton.
With the weights already released for Aintree, he escapes a penalty and having finished fifth in the race last year, he appears likely to head to Merseyside with leading claims once more.
Nicholls also fielded 9-2 favourite Easter Day but the fact stable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies opted to ride Rocky Creek was a tip in itself. Rocky Creek (8-1) won by six lengths from Le Reve, with last year’s winner Bally Legend third.
“He was awesome, it’s a great training performance, it was good fun,” said Twiston-Davies.