Space Cadet landed the decent prize he had often threatened in his younger days when staying on strongly to win the Randox Ulster National Handicap Chase at Downpatrick.
Having spent a large part of his career with Gordon Elliott, Space Cadet was moved by owner Chris Jones to Gearoid O’Loughlin’s yard last year – and despite winning two point-to-points for his new handler, he had not managed to bag a race under rules since October 2016.
There had been the odd glimmer of hope, though – with Space Cadet finishing fourth to Chris’s Dream in the Troytown in November and fifth in the Leinster National last time.
He was only 16-1 for the Welsh National in December and had dropped further in the weights, so in hindsight his 25-1 starting price looked very generous.
Ridden by amateur Ben Harvey – who was registering his first success under rules – and travelling well in first-time blinkers, Space Cadet burst between last year’s winner Amaulino and Elliott’s General Principle to win by two lengths and deny the eventual runner-up a repeat win.
Ifyoucatchmenow stayed on to take third after the last.
O’Loughlin said: “Unreal, my voice has gone! A great pot to win and it is great for the owner to give me the horse.
“Ben had won his first point-to-point on him and, to tell you the truth, I thought he would run well today, but I said to myself we would be going point-to-pointing again next year.
“It was a big shock to me, but obviously the blinkers worked a treat. I kind of had been holding off and holding off having them on him.
“I think they made all the difference and I probably have learned how to train him – the key to training him is not to train him! He hasn’t done a stroke since he ran the last day.
“This is Ben’s first winner (on the track). He comes into me as often as he can. He is in two mornings and he is a big part of the team. I just thought he knows him and the 7lb off would help. He gets on as well as anybody with the horse.
“That’s his (Space Cadet’s) third National this year, so third time lucky!
“We’ll have to think about an Irish National now as he will be high enough rated after that.”