Cloudy Lane wings the water jump on his way to landing the Fox Hunters'PICTURE: Martin Lynch (racingpost.com/photos)
Cloudy Lane bags Fox Hunters' for McCain
Report: Aintree, Thursday
John Smith's Fox Hunters' Chase 2m51/2f 6yo+
EXPERIENCE, stamina and a touch of class counted for plenty as 12-year-old Cloudy Lane, Grand National favourite back in 2008, landed a gamble having been backed from 7-1 into 4-1 favourite to continue the McCains amazing record over the National fences.
Richard Harding's mount outstayed long-time leader Roulez Cool and Sam Waley-Cohen with Herons Well keeping on to take third spot with Keenan's Future fourth. There were 13 finishers.
A delighted Harding said: "He's been round here before and it was a brilliant spin. He jumped and travelled well and he was just idling in front.
"He jumped for fun and he loved it. Everything went to plan and I've always wanted to win this race."
The result was also another course victory for Trevor Hemmings, owner of last year's National hero and the winner's stablemate Ballabriggs.
And it was a gutsy performance from Cloudy Lane, who returned with a twisted hind shoe.
He's run three times in the National and his track knowhow proved decisive in the end, but he hadn't been a certain runner for the race as his trainer Donald McCain said afterwards: "We weren't going to run as he wasn't right, but we sorted him out and it's great to get the old boy back."
Trevor Hemmings: owns the winnerPICTURE: Gerry & Mark Cranham
On a day when a bust of his late father Ginger was introduced on course, the winning handler added: "Aintree is special tous and to repay people like Mr Hemmings is nice."
This looked a competitive enough renewal beforehand and it proved to be the case with a battle soon ensuing up front between major players My Way DeSolzen, Gwanako and Roulez Cool.
My Way De Solzen was the first to crack and when Gwanako went at the 14th it looked as if the Waley-Cohens would themselves add more glory to their fabulous Aintree record.
However,Harding was waiting in the wings on Cloudy Lane having navigated his way through the race up the inner and used his mount's assured stamina to good effect once taking it up two out.
Sam Waley-Cohen was thrilled with the run of Roulez Cool. "He's only had a couple of runs this season and just ran out of petrol," he said. Maybe next year.