Emotional victory as Lalor lands prize for Woollacott team
Lalor produced a brilliant, brave performance under jockey Richard Johnson to justify all the hopes and faith his late trainer Richard Woollacott had in him.
Woollacott died in January to widespread shock in racing, but the horse he loved so much, now trained by his wife Kayley, sparked scenes of joy and tears as he triumphed on the biggest of stages once again for owner David Staddon.
He had done the same 12 months ago when giving Woollacott one of his finest moments on this day by capturing the bumper which closes the card at 33-1. It was a win that left Woollacott dreaming of big days ahead.
While obviously talented, Lalor had taken time to get his act together over hurdles and came into this race as a maiden over obstacles having failed to land a blow when well fancied in the Betfair Hurdle last time.
As such, he started at 14-1 for a Grade 1 dominated by Global Citizen, who had swept aside his rivals in breathtaking style at Kempton in February.
While Global Citizen sat handy, Lalor was smuggled into the race by champion jockey Johnson, who has not been called up to ride in the Randox Health Grand National on Saturday, appearing on the scene at the penultimate hurdle looking to have plenty in the tank.
Ears pricked and confident he had done the job, Lalor wandered around after jumping to the lead, opening the door for 33-1 outsider Bedrock to throw down a stern challenge, while Vision Des Flos stayed on into the picture at the last having been under the pump a long way out.
But lifted by the collective will of the Aintree crowd and the racing family, Lalor found more – much more – after the final hurdle to power home to victory. It was a win that would have made his number one admirer proud.
Johnson said: “Lalor was Richard’s first really big winner - for the horse to come back and win again at Aintree, in his memory, is fantastic. Hopefully he’s a horse that can keep his name in the lights for a long time to come.
“This season he's run some nice races and if he hadn't run in the Betfair Hurdle you would have thought he had a good each-way chance, but after that he had to come back and prove himself.”
He added: “The course really suits him, as he gets in a nice rhythm. I tried to ride him almost identical to last season - handy, but allowing him a bit of room - and when he got there going to two out I was pretty sure he would see it out as he's always stayed well.”