Walk In The Mill stayed on stoutly to win the Becher Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree.
Trained by Robert Walford and ridden by James Best, the eight-year-old stuck to his task well after the final fence to beat previous winner Vieux Lion Rouge, with Ultragold – another previous winner over the fences – in third.
His connections will feel vindicated, after he got into the National in April as a reserve but then went lame on the morning of the race, meaning he could not take his place.
Walk In The Mill (10-1) had run a nice race in third on his seasonal return at Cheltenham behind The Young Master and barely put a foot wrong over the famous Liverpool birch.
Call It Magic and Missed Approach – who blew the start by 20 lengths – gave a bold sight out in front until the early exertions told on the latter.
Irish raider Call It Magic was still just about in front jumping the last, but he had been joined by Walk In The Mill, who went on to win by four and a half lengths. Call It Magic took fourth.
Highland Lodge, a standing dish in this race, got loose beforehand and ended up slithering towards the water jump. Thankfully he was fine to take his chance, but fell at The Chair.
Walford said: “We knew he was in good form. He jumped great, and James gave him a great ride as well.
“We know the plan – there’s only one way to go (Grand National).
“He’d been down to (David ) Pipe’s and schooled and jumped well down there – so we were quite happy with him.
“My wife rides him every day, and she’s done a brilliant job.
“His feet have been a massive problem – he just struggles with them. But David Bond, one of my owners, has done an amazing job shoeing him.
“He’ll get a run now (in the National) – that’s the main thing – so we probably won’t see him (out again) a huge amount.”
Owner and former amateur rider Dido Harding, who won the Gold Cup with Cool Dawn, said: “We were hoping to run him in the National in April, and he went lame overnight.
“So actually, from that day, this has been the target.
“Rob and Louisa (Walford’s wife) have done the most amazing job getting him here – and stopping me riding him as well, which is a big part of the training job, I fear.
“I think it will be hard to say no (to the National this time), after watching that. But I have to say the temptation to get the (riding) permit out would be really very strong.”
Best said: “I know this isn’t the National – but what a thrill. He’s just incredible, jumps from fence to fence.
“Midway through, I thought; ‘We could run a big race’. I thought; ‘Just throw him at the last’, land running – and away we’ve gone.
“April can’t come soon enough.”