Smad Place turns back the clock to win battle of the greys at Aintree
Smad Place showed he has plenty still to give despite his advancing years after getting the better of Cloudy Dream in a thrilling battle of the greys.
In a fitting finale to a race named in honour of one of the most resolute greys, Monet's Garden – the three-time winner of the Grade 2 who paraded beforehand – the Alan King-trained ten-year-old stuck to his task gamely to win for the first time since the 2016 Cotswold Chase.
Dropped 8lb in the handicap since finishing fourth in the race 12 months ago, the 2015 Hennessy Gold Cup winner took up the lead under Wayne Hutchinson approaching the third-last and although Cloudy Dream travelled menacingly in behind he held off his younger rival by three-quarters of a length.
Hutchinson said: "It's great to have him back and he's shown there's still life in the old boy. The ground was slower than last year and it's turned into a staying race up the straight and he's dug deep.
"He was always going to do enough to hold the other horse. He's caught between two stools in that he just falls short of the top races like the King George and Gold Cup, but there are plenty of prizes he can go for. He doesn't know how to run a bad race."
The winner was widely cut to 20-1 (from 33) for the Ladbrokes Trophy, formerly the Hennessy, in which he would be making his fourth appearance.
Cloudy Dream mounted his challenge on the inside rail and might have been intimidated as Smad Place edged his way across in the closing stages.
The stewards found Hutchinson guilty of careless riding in that he allowed his mount to shift left for several strides without timely correction and suspended him for two days (November 12 and 13).
Cloudy Dream's trainer Malcolm Jefferson is hoping compensation awaits in next month's BetVictor Gold Cup, for which the runner-up was cut to 12-1 (from 16) by the sponsor.
Jefferson said: "He ran a blinder. He's settling down now and settled into the race and jumped well.
"He's in the race at Cheltenham next month and he'll probably go for that, as long as there isn't too much rain and the ground is suitable."
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