Godsmejudge pings a fence in the middle of a brilliant round of jumpingPICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
Godsmejudge wins Scottish Grand National
Report: Ayr, Saturday
Coral Scottish Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 5yo+, 4m½f
A SPECTACULAR round of jumping from Godsmejudge secured Scottish Grand National victory at a packed Ayr racecourse for Alan King, the Scots-born trainer who once worked at the Cree Lodge stables adjacent to the track.
King's seven-year-old, the first winner under the age of eight since Gingembre in 2001, comprehensively out-jumped his rivals as he stormed to a four-length victory over Big Occasion. Both were 12-1.
Mister Marker, 25-1, came home nine lengths further back in third and Tour Des Champs, also 25-1, finished fourth.
Visibly moved by his home victory, King, who was born 50 miles from Ayr in Lanark, said: "This means a huge amount to me. I've been lucky enough to win a Champion Hurdle and a Queen Mother and this is up there with those."
There was no fairytale ending for Auroras Encore, the Aintree Grand National winner, who was bidding to become the first horse since Red Rum to complete the Aintree-Ayr National double in the same season.
Burdened with top weight even this brave warrior was unable to defy the odds. Partnered again by Ryan Mania, who less than two weeks ago was in hospital with a fractured vertebra, he was almost brought down at the second fence and seemed to labour over his jumps after that. Later he made eye-catching but ultimately unsustainable progress through the field in the second half of the race and was pulled up.
Mania said: "In the Grand National everything went right, today everything went wrong. I jumped off where I wanted to be and how I didn't get brought down by the horse that fell at the second, I don't know."
Auroras Encore was not the only great hope who seemed to struggle during the marathon race. Rival D'Estruval, the favourite and representative of owner Ray Green, who won two of the last three runnings with Merigo, was pulled up after jumping poorly.
Winning trainer Alan King: "This means a huge amount to me"PICTURE: Edward Whitaker
That was not a problem Wayne Hutchinson encountered on board Godsmejudge, who had been last seen finishing third in the four-mile National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham festival.
Instead Godsmejudge, defying fatigue and reason, jumped better and better the longer the race went on.
He took up the lead a long way from home - too far from home, most would have thought - but with each yard of the extended four-mile trip he covered his position at the front looked more solid.
In the straight he delivered two magnificent leaps, at the last and at the second-last fences, and with head high and ears pricked he closed out the race all the way to the line as bold Big Occasion chased away in vain, ready to pounce on any sign of weakness as the end neared but finding no chinks in the winner's sturdy armour.
"He jumped great and got into a fantastic rhythym," said Hutchinson. "He's given me a fantastic ride, all credit to the boss."
King added: "It's been a very, very difficult winter with very testing conditions. We've been very patient and we're being rewarded."
King said the winner could be targetted at the 2014 Grand National at Aintree, where he might once again cross swords with Big Occasion, although connections said the second would first have the Welsh National as his primary aim next season.