A surprise victory for Hogan’s Height in the Virgin Bet Grand Sefton Handicap Chase capped a memorable day at Aintree for Tom Cannon – and forced trainer Jamie Snowden into a radical change of future plans.
Cannon completed a treble thanks to the 16-length success, at odds of 16-1, from 25-1 shot Wishfull Dreaming – with Beau Bay completing the improbable first three home a nose further back, at 40-1.
Hogan’s Height was breaking Snowden’s long-standing duck over the Grand National fences, which stretches back to his years riding “a good few” non-finishers in the Foxhunters and Topham Chase.
The Lambourn trainer admits it is a result which has also dramatically altered aspirations for the eight-year-old, who was meant to be warming up for a hunter-chase campaign leading back here in April.
“It worked out brilliantly,” said Snowden.
“He’s improved dramatically for those fences – it’s a massive thrill. I’ve never trained a winner over them before, and I rode over them a good few times and never got round.”
Hogan’s Height will be back here again next spring – but no longer in the Foxhunters.
“We’ll change plans and come back for the Topham, I think,” added Snowden.
“We’ll put him in the National, but I doubt he’ll get in that.”
In an eventful race, French challenger It’s Jennifer sadly suffered a fatal injury when falling at the first fence.
Cannon, who was deputising for Snowden’s more regular jockeys in action elsewhere, discovered afterwards he has a likely ban looming because the stewards noted his use of the whip “when clearly winning”.
Before that ruling, he had good reason to smile as he reflected on his productive day.
He said: “I’ve probably not had many better – it makes up for the bad ones.”
Cannon kick-started his treble on Edwardstone, a hard-fought but highly-promising winner of the opening Play Casino At Virgin Bet Novices’ Hurdle.
He reported that the five-year-old did “a lot more wrong than right”, pulling hard, but Alan King’s 6-5 favourite still had enough in reserve to collar Harry Senior after the last and win by a length – with the pair well clear.
Cannon said: “He did a lot wrong, but still managed to win.
“I could have done with them going a bit quicker – I was a long way back halfway. Then once I passed one, he took off.”
Jockey and trainer completed a double when Midnights’ Gift became King’s third winner of the Listed Download The App At Virgin Bet Fillies’ Juvenile Hurdle.
The 15-8 favourite had 12 lengths to spare after the last-flight fall of Galice Macalo, who was still narrowly in front.
Nico de Boinville described Casablanca Mix as “one of my favourite mares in training”, and is already keen on the idea of returning to Liverpool to ride her over the bigger fences one day after she brought up her hat-trick in the Listed Houghton Mares’ Chase – re-routed from Carlisle last weekend.
Nicky Henderson’s Summer Plate winner had every right to make it three out of three for the season, and duly did so as the 4-9 favourite – sitting well off the early pace set by Listen Dear but storming clear in the straight to win by 15 lengths.
De Boinville said: “I absolutely love her – because she wears her heart on her sleeve.
“We were toying between (running in) the Sefton and this, but we thought if there was a race designed for her this was it.”
As for the possibility of heading back to Aintree over the National fences with the seven-year-old, he added: “I’d love to – she’s a very safe jumper, (so) I’d look forward to that.”
Before then, Casablanca Mix has an entry in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
Sammy Bill proved the ratings spot on by defying a stone rise for last month’s Kempton romp with a decisive three-and-a-quarter-length win in the Best Odds Guaranteed At Virgin Bet Handicap Chase.
Oliver Sherwood’s improver was appropriately in his element here, sporting the colours of three-time Grand National-winning owner Trevor Hemmings – with Leighton Aspell, twice successful in the great race, doing the steering on the 5-2 favourite.