Truckers Lodge was a decisive winner of the Marston’s 61 Deep Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter.
Paul Nicholls’ eight-year-old, who had finished second in the Welsh Grand National on his previous start, went one better this time in a typically gruelling edition of the four-and-a-quarter-mile stamina test.
Lorcan Williams had him up with the pace from an early stage, and they moved clear after the third last to win by 18 lengths at 6-1 – from Captain Drake and Joe Farrell.
The runner-up made a mistake at the last, as his efforts began to tell on the heavy ground, but Truckers Lodge appeared to have the prize in safe keeping by then anyway.
He was breaking new ground for 11-time champion trainer Nicholls, in a race which had previously eluded him.
Truckers Lodge’s victory also paid a compliment to last year’s winner of this race, Potters Corner – who beat him at Chepstow at the end of December and is on course for next month’s Aintree Grand National.
Nicholls’ assistant Harry Derham was delighted to see Truckers Lodge deliver on a big stage – as expected by many in the yard.
“He’s a lovely, lovely, genuine horse – and we were confident today that he’d run a huge race, and we’re just made up that he has,” he said.
“I’m absolutely delighted – most of all for his owners (Gordon and Su Hall), because they absolutely love this horse. They’re great owners, so fun.”
Williams had advised this race should be next, from the moment he finished second on Truckers Lodge in the Welsh National.
Derham said: “It’s a very valuable staying race – Lorcan said after three and a half miles round Chepstow he just needs further.
“Four and a quarter miles around here has suited him perfectly, so we’re absolutely delighted.
“Paul will be delighted – it’s a very, very valuable race, and the horse was great.
“I’m not sure what’s next for him – this was the plan.
“He’s quite ground reliant, so I don’t know whether or not he’ll run again this season. Whether he does or not, he’s done his job nicely here.”
For 3lb claimer Williams, it is the biggest success of his career to date – and he was full of praise for Truckers Lodge.
He said: “He’s an absolute joy to ride – I schooled him in the week, and he was absolutely electric.
“I was so excited to ride him today – he’s just a joy and he makes my life easy. It was a pleasure to ride him.
“He absolutely loves it. He was second in the Welsh Grand National and had it been a bit deeper, I think he’d have been a bit closer. He just loves the mud.
“His jumping is an asset to him. He jumps very well and just gets into a really nice rhythm.
“I was always quite comfortable – I always knew I needed someone to aim at. I probably hit the front a little bit too soon, but when its a race like that you’ve got to commit and keep going.”