Chepstow’s Grand National day card was sponsored by bookmaker Sid Hooper, who made sure he had enough in his satchel to pay out all those punters who bet on Tiger Roll at Aintree. It was a bright day and the going was good to soft, soft in places.
The first race was a 2m4f hurdle. Espalion (6/1) was well supported through the day, with justifiable confidence. He emerged from the pack on the long run to the final flight to take the lead, jumped it well and drew away to a three and a half length victory under Rex Dingle. Winning trainer Jeremy Scott is having his best ever season. Big Chip And Pin held on for second place.
The next was a 2m4f chase. Drewmain Legend (7/1) was successful on this card last year over hurdles for Ali Stronge and Andrew Tinkler, and it was a case of many happy returns, for she won again. Blinkered for the first time, her jumping was scrappy and coming up the straight she was being kept at bay by Hugo’s Reflection, who went four lengths clear on the run-in. However, he then decided he’d done enough and the mare sneaked up a gap on the rail to snatch an unlikely victory by a short head.
The Harry Whittington-trained Khage (4/5 fav) was the facile winner of the 2m novices hurdle, giving Gavin Sheehan few worries. He made all the running and was value for much more than the four and a half lengths he finished in front of Oleg. The rest finished a very long way behind.
Gavin Sheehan quickly completed a double when Jonjo O’Neill’s Pop Rockstar (7/2 fav) took the first of the 3m chases. He cruised into the lead three out and though he didn’t take the remaining fences with complete confidence, he only had to be shaken up on the run-in to go four and a half lengths clear. Broadclyst outran his 33/1 odds to finish second.
Cilaos Grace (15/8 fav) won the 2m handicap hurdle for Oliver Sherwood and Leighton Aspell. After hitting the front at the third last, he quickly went about four lengths up and maintained that advantage all the way to the line. Flight To Nowhere just held on to second from the fast-finishing Nabhan.
Three winning favourites in a row meant punters had plenty of cash available to bet on the National and see Tiger Roll become the first dual winner of the race for 45 years.
The Chepstow action resumed with the second 3m chase of the afternoon, which went to Irish Octave (7/1). Ben Poste was scrubbing away on him coming up the straight, where he seemed destined for second or third place. However, after he jumped the last he found another gear, and overhauled Jetstream Jack in the nick of time to score by half a length. It was the first win here in the 20-year training career of Rosemary Gasson, who is based in Oxfordshire.
Three came clear in the concluding bumper. Gastara’s rider tried to slip the field turning for home, but One Touch (7/2) got to him a furlong and a half out and stayed on well under David Bass to prevail by almost three lengths. It gave the Ben Pauling yard a winner in addition to one they’d had at Aintree in the race before the Grand National. Is A Real Champ went with the other pair, but couldn’t get past either of them.