By Andrew Atkinson
Champ! That was the cry at the Aintree Grand National meeting after The Costa Blanca and Costa Calida Leader tipped the Nicky Henderson trained Champ (9-4) to land the Doom Bar Sefton Novices Hurdle over 3 miles on Friday.
“Nicky told me to get him settled – and everything went to plan,” said stand-in jockey Mark Walsh, after booked jockey Barry Geraghty fractured a leg in an earlier race and will miss Saturday’s National.
“Poor Barry. I thought about taking him (Champ) out of the race, but wanted to see if he stays three miles,” said Henderson.
“It’s very sad for Barry, but well done to Mark, he gave him a beautiful ride. He’s got a good name (Champ) and starting to live up to it!,” said Henderson.
“I rode him to get the trip – and we did. He’s a good jumper and stays well,” said Walsh.
Ruby Walsh rode Leader ew tip well-backed Min (2-1) to victory in the JLT Chase, beating Politologue in the Grade One by 20-lengths.
Jubilant trainer Willie Mullins said: “I think he’s back to himself and maybe that performance was a career-best.”
And jockey Walsh added: “He was brilliant.”
Mcfabulous (2-1) trained by Paul Nicholls gave Leader punters a winning treble on Merseyside – on the eve of the Aintree Grand National -after taking the Weatherbys Racing Bank Standard Open NH Flat race over 2 miles.
“He’s still green and learning all the time – I am excited for him for next year,” said jockey Harry Cobden.