Waley-Cohen on a roll

Young amateur Sam Waley-Cohen, who rode his first Cheltenham Festival winner last month, completed a famous double when guiding Katarino to victory over the Grand National fences in the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase at Aintree today.

Young amateur Sam Waley-Cohen, who rode his first Cheltenham Festival winner last month, completed a famous double when guiding Katarino to victory over the Grand National fences in the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase at Aintree today.

Apart from a slight mistake at the Canal Turn, the 100-30 favourite put up a sound display of jumping to beat Caught At Dawn by a length and a half, with Montifault another 15 back in third.

Katarino travelled well up with the leaders until he went clear from two out. His stride began to shorten on the long run-in, but he had enough in reserve to hold the second at bay.

Waley-Cohen had won the Mildmay Of Flete on the Nicky Henderson-trained Liberthine, but Katarino is in the care of his father Robert.

Both horses are owned by Waley-Cohen senior, who said: “The wins are completely different because Liberthine was an outsider trained by Nicky in a professional, very competitive race, and there was no pressure at all.

“Katarino is a very old friend trained at home and he has come out of retirement to run here. He had a very bad fall in the National two years ago and my daughter Jessica did not want him to run because she was afraid he might get hurt again.

“He was 100-30 to win and he should have been that price to get round, but he’s a 10-year-old now and we had nothing to lose. It was thrilling that Sam was able to do exactly what I had told him to.”

The winning jockey, who is 23 on Grand National day, added: “The Canal Turn was a hairy moment and I was more off than on, but you need luck in the Fox Hunters and we had plenty and we came out on top.”

Katarino won the 1999 Triumph Hurdle, but he was retired from racing and sent eventing.

However, he did not enjoy it and the Waley-Cohens decided to send him point-to-pointing. He won his last two points and his racing career was resurrected.

Tom Weston, who partnered the runner-up, said: “I had a great ride. He was a bit outpaced early on but from the Canal Turn he was running on all the way. I thought the winner might be getting a bit tired but my fellow didn’t have a lot left at the end either, and we were beaten by a better horse on the day.”

Fota Island completed a Cheltenham Festival-Aintree double when the 100-30 favourite took the John Smith’s Red Rum Handicap Chase under a typically strong ride from Tony McCoy.

Fota Island defied a 12lb rise by the handicapper for his win in the Grand Annual at the Festival to score by a length from Kadount.

Winning trainer Mouse Morris said: “He had a fair hike in the weights but he won well at Cheltenham.

“This ground was still a bit tacky for him today – he is a good horse on good ground. This ground was very borderline for him and he wouldn’t be at his best on it. I would say that was a good run considering. He’s won two big pots now and Punchestown will depend on the horse.

“He wouldn’t get further than two miles. He went up the hill well at Cheltenham but he only had 10st on his back.”

Although renowned for his tilts at the ring, owner J P McManus did not back the winner.

He said: “I thought he would run well but not enough to back him. I didn’t back him at Cheltenham so I thought I wouldn’t put the mockers on him today.”

McCoy added: “I thought the handicapper had been very hard on him for his win at Cheltenham but he was all out to win there, so I expect he won’t go up very much for this and I suppose the handicapper was about right.

“He made two bad mistakes early on, but he was better when I pulled him out wide and he saw some light and he got a bit more confidence.

“In view of those mistakes I decided that I ought to be near the front so that if he made another he would not have to recover and make ground up as well. It was a good performance and Mouse has done brilliant with him to win at Cheltenham and Aintree.”

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