Hometown Boy makes it an Aintree double for Stuart Edmunds
Hometown Boy recovered from a scare at the final flight to give trainer Stuart Edmunds a second winner at the Grand National Festival in 24 hours when landing the EFT Systems Handicap Hurdle at Aintree
The six-year-old, ridden by Ciaran Gethings, was clear of the pack when he blundered at the last and gave away a few lengths.
However, Gethings soon got Hometown Boy back on an even keel and the 6-1 favourite kept on gamely to lift the prize.
Always prominent throughout in this extended three-mile contest, Hometown Boy had led before the third-last obstacle and was in control until he hit the top of the final flight.
J’Ai Froid was beaten three lengths in second place, with Tea Clipper four and three-quarter lengths away in third and Ashtown Lad a further two lengths back in fourth.
Edmunds, who had taken the last race on Friday with Rowland Ward, said: “To be fair this was a long-term (plan). We wanted to come here, but wanted a prep run so went to Kempton beforehand.
“It was a bit of a gamble as he was also in over two and a half-miles, but we thought there were one or two more speedier types in there. He galloped through the line, though, and he couldn’t pull him up.
“I couldn’t repeat what I was thinking at the last! If he was a tired horse his legs would have gone to jelly.”
He added: “There’s nothing else for him this season and I think he’ll be a nice novice chaser next season – he’s schooled plenty over fences at home.”
Happygolucky gained compensation for finishing second at the Cheltenham Festival with a smooth victory in the Betway Handicap Chase.
Kim Bailey’s seven-year-old had to settle for second place behind Vintage Clouds in the Ultima, but he came back strong to take this £31,500 first prize.
He was always travelling well in the hands of David Bass and was in a good position in the early stages, as Kilfilum Cross and Lalor set the pace.
When it came to the business end, Happygolucky (11-4 favourite) proved the strongest from the final fence and held Johnbb by two and three-quarter lengths. Spiritofthegames stayed on for third place, two and a quarter lengths away.
Bailey said: “We were beaten fair and square at Cheltenham by a revitalised horse, but we were staggered we did get beat. That was a great performance today. He’s a novice, but he’s very professional.
“I think we’ll be limited in terms of options for the rest of this season, but we are running out of time, it will be nice if he can come back here this time next year (for the National).
“He jumps so well and seems to stay, (but) I think you could run over shorter on softer ground.
“To start off next year there are the early races at Cheltenham, but if it’s soft we could think of the Paddy Power, maybe the Ladbrokes Trophy.”