Sam Waley-Cohen's growing record of success over the Crabbie's Grand National fences was embellished today when he rode Warne to victory in the Crabbie's Supporting The Hillsborough Families Fox Hunters' Chase.
The 7/2 winner - who made almost all the running - held off 14-year-old Tartan Snow, who was successful last year and started at 25/1 today, and the 11/8 favourite Mossey Joe. The distances were 13 lengths and four and a half lengths.
Waley-Cohen, who was winning the race for the third time following two victories on Katarino, wore the colours of his father, Robert, who bought the Brian Hamilton-trained winner last month and formed a partnership with Americans Charlie Fenwick, Charlie Noell and Mike Hankin. Fenwick won the Crabbie's Grand National on Ben Nevis in 1980, while Noell was involved in a headline maker in October, when he and partners sold Europe's record-priced yearling filly, a daughter of Galileo who made 5,000,000gns to a bid from Sheikh Joann at Tattersalls in Newmarket.
Following today's victory, Noell said: "Our money is in bloodstock, but our hearts are in steeplechasing."
Robert Waley-Cohen said: "We thought Mossey Joe was going to blitz it and we would have to play catch up, but it didn't quite work out like that. I bought the horse immediately after Cheltenham, when [Irish point-to-point expert] Richard Pugh recommended him to Anthony Bromley who did the same to me. Sam went over to Brian's and rode him and said 'That'll do'.
"I bought him in partnership with a group of friends who are involved in the Maryland Hunt Cup - Charlie Noell has given Sam a ride in that race in the past, and he will ride Foyle for him in it next month.
"That was wonderful and such a pleasure. He jumped brilliantly, although I was worried about the loose horses, but in the end they helped him home.
"There is always the anxiety of thinking you may have gone for home too soon, and with Mossey Joe in the race and rated a stone better than our horse that was a worry. Sam let the horse have a breather going to the last bend, then said I'm off and hope that really demoralises you, and I think it did. It's wonderful to see your son ride a winner here and he has such a wonderful record in the race, including two winners and two seconds trained at home - it was a bit odd having someone else train our horse, but Brian Hamilton has done a brilliant job."
The father-and-son team will link up again when Long Run tackles Saturday's Crabbie's Grand National. Waley-Cohen Snr said: "There's nothing like a little practice - they always say it makes perfect."
Hamilton, who is based in Northern Ireland, trained Warne to finish fourth in today's race last year. He said: "Sam has great experience around the National course and he was positive on him. After they jumped off he let him roll and the horse jumped from fence to fence. Mossey Joe hasn't had a smooth preparation for the race, while it has all gone smoothly for our horse and he has been trained for the race since he ran so well in it last year."
Was Hamilton concerned the horse might be sent to a new trainer following his recent sale? He said: "Last year I travelled the horse over three days before the race and I didn't want to do that this time, so organised to bring the horse over myself. I had to check with Robert if that was okay, and he said, 'Yes, bring him over and then you can take him home', so I knew he would be coming back with me. That made me even happier.
"We have a young fellow at home called Declan Lavery who rides him every day. He's ridden two or three winners on him, but because Robert bought the horse and Sam rides Declan has missed out. It's a shame for him but he will be pleased to see the horse do so well.
"Three miles one furlong is just beyond him, so we'll probably give Punchestown a miss and might consider the Galway Plate."
WARNE ENJOYS HURLY-BURLY OF FOX HUNTERS'
Warne made every post a winning one when running away with the Crabbie's Supporting the Hillsborough Families Fox Hunters' Chase at Aintree this afternoon.
The 7/2 shot was quickly into his stride when the tape went back and didn't see another rival as he produced an exemplary round of jumping to record a 13-length victory.
Jockey Sam Waley-Cohen had an enviable record over the National fences prior to this race and this victory has enhanced it further, giving the amateur pilot his fourth victory over the unique obstacles following Katarino's victory in the Fox Hunters' in 2005 and 2006 and Liberthine's success in the Topham Chase in 2006. He also finished second in the Crabbie's Grand National on Oscar Time behind Ballabriggs in 2011 and fourth on the same horse in 2013.
"That was brilliant!" said Waley-Cohen.
"I was terrified of that loose horse all of the way because I didn't know what it was going to do. He kept driving me off my rhythm. I kept wanting to take my time, but the loose horse kept taking us on.
"He has jumped so well and travelled so well. He has made it easy, really. I hadn't ridden the horse in a race before and that was part of the fear really - we didn't know each other that well - but Brian (Hamilton, the trainer) has done an amazing job getting him ready.
"We are amateur in mind-set and this was a trophy that we first gave in memory of my brother Thomas (who died of bone cancer in 2004, aged 20).
"When we won the race with Katarino, there was no owner's trophy, so we decided to give something in memory of Thomas. We have been trying to win it back ever since and I am so excited to be here and done that. Thomas lives and rides with me the whole time and it's a great day. What a thrill that was."
Waley-Cohen also had news of Crabbie's Grand National contender Long Run ahead of the Aintree spectacular on Saturday afternoon.
"We schooled him over the National-type fences last week and he jumped really well. He's in great form."
SNOW FIRST AND NOW SECOND
Tartan Snow won the race as a 100/1 chance 12 months ago and shone again when staying on for a 13-length second at 25/1 under Derek O'Connor.
Trainer Stuart Coltherd said of the 14-year-old: "I thought he was in every bit as good form coming here again this year and what a performance that was.
"He is now 14 but he is not showing it and that was terrific. I am not sure he will be back next year but you never say never."
Mossey Joe, the 11/8 favourite, was unbeaten in five runs coming into the race having been sold at Cheltenham's Brightwells Sale in December for £160,000.
He was making his debut for owner Barry O'Connell and trainer Enda Bolger, who said of the third: "He has been beaten by better horses on the day but he has only been in training since the end of January and there is improvement to come.
"The winner bossed the race but it was tough for us coming here after just one point-to-point run and it took its toll.
"He will come on for it and it was encouraging for next year's National that he jumped to well. He will be a 12-year-old then but there are few miles on the clock.
"He will go to Punchestown and we will aim at the big Stratford hunter chase meeting in the summer where he won last year."
3.40pm Crabbie's Supporting The Hillsborough Families Fox Hunters' Chase (National Course)
£40,000 total prize fund For 6yo+ which, after October 2011, and before March 18th, 2014, have finished first, second or third in a hunters' chase on two occasions or have finished first, second or third in a hunters' chase on one occasion and have won either another chase (hunters' chases included) or, during the current point-to-point season, an Open point-to-point chase. Weights 12st. Allowances: mares 7lb. Penalty value 1st £23,984.00 2nd £7,492.00 3rd £3,744.00 4th £1,872.00 5th £936.00 6th £472.00
1) WARNE (IRE) (Robert Waley-Cohen, Charlie Fenwick, M Hankin, C Noell) Brian Hamilton IRE 10-12-00 Mr Sam Waley-Cohen 7/2
2) TARTAN SNOW (R Westwood) Stuart Coltherd 14-12-00 Mr Derek O'Connor 25/1
3) MOSSEY JOE (IRE) (Barry Connell) Enda Bolger IRE 11-12-00 Mr Damien Skehan 11/8 Fav
4) EARTH DREAM (IRE) (John Ferguson) John Ferguson 11-12-00 Mr James Ferguson
5) COTTAGE OAK (IRE) (R J Hewitt) Joe O'Shea 11-12-00 Mr Gillon Crow
6) COURT RED HANDED (IRE) (Carolyn Kendrick) Sarah Case 9-12-00 Mr Max Kendrick
7) RICHARD'S SUNDANCE (IRE) (Lucy Barlow & Sara Vernon) Victor Dartnall 12-12-00 Mr Matthew Hampton
8) HIMALAYAN EXPRESS (Celia Punkett) Celia Plunkett 10-12-00 Mr James Martin
9) SWALLOWS DELIGHT (IRE) (Belinda Sparey) Julie Mansell 9-12-00 Mr Dave Mansell
10) SIZING AMERICA (IRE) (The Good, The Bad & The Handsome) Sally Randell 13-12-00 Mr Will Telfer
11) DOUGLAS JULIAN (Millhaugh Racing) Katie Scott 12-12-00 Mr Tom Hamilton
12) ISLAND LIFE (IRE) (Chasing Charlie Syndicate) Steve Flook 11-12-00 Miss Gina Andrews
13) KEENAN'S FUTURE (IRE) (Stephen Rea) Stephen Rea 13-12-00 Miss Ally Stirling
14) COOL FRIEND (IRE) (Evason, Erlam, Harney, Seston Partnership) Oliver Greenall 11-11-07 Mr Oliver Greenall
15) ORFEO CONTI (FR) (Caroline Wedmore) Rose Grissell 12-12-00 Mr Oz Wedmore
16) HARRY FLASHMAN (Greg Aitken) Greg Aitken 13-12-00 Mr Nick Orpwood
PU BEF 7) DEAD OR ALIVE (IRE) (Felix Wheeler) Rose Grissell 11-12-00 Mr Felix Wheeler
UR 2) PENTIFFIC (NZ) (P Simm, P Lawrence, L Sutcliffe,M Smith) Venetia Williams 11-12-00 Mr Jamie Hamilton
UR 1) SUPREME DOC (IRE) (Declan Dorgan) Michael O'Donovan IRE 9-12-00 Mr Jamie Codd
UR 11) FRESH AIR AND FUN (IRE) (Mrs D Ralph) Alastair Ralph 11-12-00 Mr Will Biddick
UR 7) BOXER GEORG (IRE) (William & Keith Murray) Willie Mullins IRE 12-12-00 Mr Patrick Mullins
21 ran Non-Runner: Brunswick Gold (withdrawn)
Time: 5m 29.40s
Distances: 13, 4½, 8, 3¾, 8, 8, ½, 3½, 29, sh, 3½, 3¼, 1¼, 12, 99+
Breeder: J Wesley Trimble
Breeding: b g Bob Back (USA) - Dusky Diva (IRE) (Be My Native (USA))
Tote Win £4.40 Place £1.70; £5.50; £1.80 Exacta £104.10