Walk In The Mill shone at Aintree once again as he claimed back-to-back victories in the Randox Health Becher Chase.
Robert Walford’s charge had run out a decisive winner on his first attempt over the Grand National fences last year – and returned to Merseyside to finish a creditable fourth in the the world’s most famous steeplechase in the spring.
Despite being pulled up on his seasonal reappearance at Wincanton last month, Walk In The Mill was prominent in the market at 8-1 for his Aintree return and clearly relished the challenge of the famous obstacles once again.
For much of the three-and-a-quarter-mile journey it looked like Bryony Frost might claim victory aboard As De Mee, who travelled with plenty of zest and fenced fluently on the front end.
However, Walk In The Mill reeled him in rounding the home turn and galloped all the way to the line to score by two and a half lengths under a jubilant James Best.
“I just can’t believe it – he’s literally the horse of a lifetime for me and Rob,” said the rider.
“Days like this don’t happen to me. I couldn’t believe last year – and to do it this year, it means even more.
“He seems to come alive round here.”
Paddy Power reacted by cutting Walk In The Mill to 20-1 from 40-1 for next year’s Randox Health Grand National – and Walford is unsurprisingly relishing the prospect of a second tilt at the big one.
“He’s a great horse, and he just loves it round here and stays all day,” said the Dorset-based trainer, whose stable star is the first horse to win successive runnings of the race.
“It’s a jumping test, and a stamina test – perfect for him. He’s got no gears, and he just keeps going.
“I think probably the four miles (in the Grand National) suits him better than this really – but the problem is it’s a slightly better race.
“If he’s on a rating where we know he’s going to get in (the National), we’ll probably keep him over hurdles until then, because he’s a novice. If we feel he needs to go up in the weights a bit more, we might need to run him over fences again.”
With As De Mee weakening late on, the Tom Lacey-trained Kimberlite Candy came through to fill the runner-up spot ahead of Alpha Des Obeaux in third and Definitly Red in fourth.