Aintree: Finian's Rainbow claims Melling Chase victory
JOHN SMITH'S GRAND NATIONAL MEETING
- 12-14 April
- Grand National:
- 1615 BST, Saturday
- Live BBC TV and website (UK users):
- Thursday 1340-1630, Friday 1345-1630, Saturday 1300-1710
- BBC Radio 5 live coverage:
- Big-race commentaries. Preview Thursday 2000-2130
Champion chaser Finian's Rainbow completed a big-race double as he ran out an imposing winner of the Melling Chase at Aintree.
The 13-8 favourite, ridden by Barry Geraghty, followed up his Cheltenham victory with a seven-length success from Wishfull Thinking (15-2).
It gave trainer Nicky Henderson his second win of the day.
Always Waining captured a third consecutive Topham Chase for Welsh trainer Peter Bowen.
The 11-year-old, who was pulled out of the Grand National on Thursday to concentrate on this race, jumped the National fences superbly.
Tom O'Brien had his mount well placed on the turn towards home along with Chance Du Roy, Fistral Beach and Aimigayle.
Although Fistral Beach looked to be travelling strongest, it was Always Waining who got away from the final fence quickest to win by four and a half lengths.
"This has made our season," said Bowen, who was celebrating his first win since January. "Our horses have been coughing and they've not been right for a while.
"We worked him last week and thought he was in real good form. We took him out of the National because of the ground."
The win for Finian's Rainbow, who showed no ill-effects after crashing through a rail near the start before the race, gave Henderson a boost in his battle with Paul Nicholls to win the trainers' championship.
Second favourite Albertas Run was hindered by some jumping errors and finished another 13 lengths adrift in third.
Henderson won the opening novices' hurdle with Darlan, who earned a quote of 16-1 for next year's Champion Hurdle after beating stablemate Captain Conan, before Nicholls hit back with Silviniaco Conti in the Mildmay Novices' Chase.
Nicholls indicated afterwards that his six-year-old could be aimed at the King George VI Chase at Kempton in December, and might be a future Grand National contender.
In the Melling Chase, the feature race on Ladies' Day at the Grand National meeting, Poquelin and Albertas Run made the early running.
Geraghty was biding his time on the Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Finian's Rainbow and when he brought him to the front, Wishfull Thinking emerged as the only real challenger.
Stepped up to two-and-a-half miles for the first time over fences, Finian's Rainbow appeared to relish the trip and powered clear for his seventh win from nine chase starts.
Henderson said afterwards: "Last year as a novice he was trying to do everything in a terrible rush. He was only a bit quieter here last year because he'd had a hard race at Cheltenham.
"He grew up last summer for some reason and suddenly became sensible. This season he has been much more amenable.
"You would always expect this fella to stay. Last year he looked an out and out two-miler because he was doing it in such a rush.
"Today he was always in a comfortable position just behind and you hoped he was in cruise control and he probably was. When he switched him on he picked it up very quickly.
"We've got all summer to think about next season, but we're in a good position to be able to think about things. He's won the Champion Chase, he's won this. He goes to bed with all the medals."