More success for jockey Thomas

A dream weekend for Sam Thomas hit new heights as Mr Pointment made virtually all to score over the famous Grand National fences in the Becher Chase at Aintree.

A dream weekend for Sam Thomas hit new heights as Mr Pointment made virtually all to score over the famous Grand National fences in the Becher Chase at Aintree.

Just 24 hours after landing the Betfair Chase aboard Kauto Star, Paul Nicholls' number two jockey was back in the winner's enclosure following another big-race success.

Mr Pointment, a 15-2 chance, was having just his second outing for the champion trainer and took to the daunting obstacles like a natural, with 11-2 joint-favourite Bewleys Berry his only serious rival in the closing stages.

However, the latter had to occupy the runner-up spot for the second consecutive year after chasing home Nicholls' Eurotrek 12 months ago.

Mr Pointment hung on by a length despite Bewleys Berry's challenge on the run-in, with Pak Jack and Le Duc also making the frame as just seven of the 19 starters crossed the finishing line.

Nicholls said: "I said to Sam that the horse can tank along and he jumps left so he might as well be up there.

"There is only one race to go for now and roll on the Grand National.

"He needs to be fresh so he may just have one more run before the race. He is the least exposed of any horse I have ever had for the National. It has been a fantastic weekend - and we did the same double last year."

Ladbrokes, totesport and Blue Square make Mr Pointment, Bewleys Berry and Butler's Cabin their 16-1 joint-favourites for the John Smith's Grand National, although 20-1 is available with William Hill and Stan James about the winner.

Thomas added: "The weekend has been a dream come true and this is the icing on the cake.

"It is been an amazing couple of days and I really don't know what to say."

Of the winner, he continued: "I didn't know if he would handle the fences but I soon put that doubt to the back of my mind when he pinged the first.

"He was awesome and is different class - you couldn't ask for a better ride over those fences.

"He kept a bit in the tank and when Bewleys Berry came to me he quickened up."

The other race over the National fences - the totepool Grand Sefton Chase - left former Scotland and Rangers forward Billy Dodds hailing the win of Lampion Du Bost as "the best day of my life".

Dodds' 66-1 outsider was having his first outing for trainer Jim Goldie, and improved on his sixth-place in the race last year to gallop clear and collect by eight lengths.

Goldie, celebrating his biggest jumps win from his select team of 10 National Hunt horses, said: "This race has always been the target.

"It is his first win in this country - and that is some way to do it."

Dodds added: "I have played in World Cup matches, in European qualifiers and for Rangers, but this is the best day of the life.

"I have had the horse four years and this is his first win. He just jumps for fun."

Of those who failed to make it round, Noel Fehily (Alphabetical) was taken to hospital for X-rays on an injured foot, while JP Byrne (Craven) suffered a suspected broken collar-bone.

Paddy Merrigan made up for the heartache suffered at Haydock 24 hours earlier with a 200-1 double aboard the Peter Bowen-trained pair of Souffleur and Sir Monty.

The 21-year-old's mount Special Envoy crashed out at the final flight when clear yesterday, leaving Merrigan to smash his helmet to the ground and punch the running rail in frustration.

But there was only a broad grin on his mud-splattered face after the 2-1 favourite Souffleur cruised home on the bridle to complete a hat-trick in the Handicap Hurdle.

Merrigan said: "Yesterday was the worst day of my life but things are better today, and this shows the ups and downs of racing.

"I was heartbroken and fed up yesterday but it has come right today."

Stephen Craine replaced Fehily on Haggle Twins, third home in Souffleur's race, and got a one-day (December 6) ban for using his whip with excessive frequency.

Sir Monty had shown little on his debut for Bowen earlier this month but proved a different proposition on Merseyside as he bounded clear to spring a 66-1 shock in the Weatherbys Bank Maiden Hurdle.

Only two runners went to post for the Amberleigh House Novices' Chase and Howard Johnson's 4-5 favourite Cedrus Libani was never headed as he made all under Denis O'Regan for a two-length success.

Butler's Cabin was due to have his first run of the campaign in the closing Novices' Handicap Hurdle but was withdrawn on account of the ground, with the race going to Donald McCain's Original Fly (18-1).

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