Lion-hearted chaser lands Becher Chase in style
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies notched a remarkable six wins in the Becher Chase when Blaklion landed the Â£145,000 race over the Grand National fences at Aintree.
Given a patient ride by Gavin Sheehan, Blaklion crept into contention and took the lead at the last fence to stride away from his nearest pursuer The Last Samurai in the three miles., one furlong, 188 yard contest.
By the finish Blaklion, heavily backed down to 7-4 favourite, had prevailed by nine lengths to complete the trainer's remarkable record of big race wins on a Saturday featuring the likes of Bristol De Mai and Flash Of Ginge.
Among the fallers was ex-Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere, but Blaklion put in an economical round of jumping over the big fences.
By the time the field came back on to the racecourse proper for the final time, it was a four-horse contest with The Last Samuri, previous winner Highland Lodge and Federici challenging the eventual winner.
After the final fence, Blaklion had the matter well in hand and forged away from his rivals up the run-in, a performance that reminded the trainer of triple National winner Red Rum in his pomp.
Blaklion, fourth in the National last year, will return to Aintree for the big one in the spring after in all likelihood taking in the Trial at Haydock Park.
Twiston-Davies said: of prospects for the 2018 National: "He must have a very good chance provided we ride him with a bit more restraint. He only has to make up eight lengths on last year.
"His fencing, as we saw in the National, is just superb, He has a Red Rum-type way of getting over his fences. He is very agile, small and accurate.He reminds me a lot of Red Rum, but he has to do an awful lot to be as good as that."
Asked if he would contemplate letting Blaklion take his chance in the Gold Cup, he said: "I will have to speak to the owner about that, but we think we have that sorted already!" That was an obvious reference to Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai.
BoyleSports made Blaklion 12-1 favourite for the National from 20s, while The Last Samuri was cut from 40-1 to 25s.
Earlier, Katachenko, who carried the colours of the Preston North End FC owner Trevor Hemmings, was a very unlucky loser in the Premier League Derby Betting at 188Bet Handicap Chase.
The Donald McCain-trained gelding lost all of 10 lengths at the start and by the business end he had got back into contention for victory, alongside pacesetting Play The Ace.
Katachenko, under jockey Will Kennedy, made a mistake at the last fence, which did not help his cause and in a set-to all the way to the line it was Play The Ace, the mount of Sean Bowen, who got up by the minimum distance of a nose.