National joy for Grant

Laertes put up a fine staying performance to land the £25,000 Press & Journal Highland National, the feature race on the final day of Perth’s festival meeting.

Laertes put up a fine staying performance to land the £25,000 Press & Journal Highland National, the feature race on the final day of Perth’s festival meeting.

Trained by former top jockey Chris Grant, the Denis O’Regan-ridden seven-year-old went to the front at the 11th of the 23 fences in the three-mile-seven-furlong test and never really looked like being caught up the straight, passing the post six lengths clear of Lydon House.

Grant, who is based near Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees, said of the 8-1 winner: “That was a good performance, he likes a bit of juice in the ground and on his hurdling form he had a great chance.

“But he does like to get his own way a little and fortunately things worked out right for him.

“Denis got him into a nice rhythm and it all worked out well – we have not looked beyond today’s race.”

O’Regan was returning from an eight-day suspension and said: “It is good to get among the winners again.

“The visor worked for him and he jumped great. He did it well.”

There was a sad sequel to the race when No Picnic, trained by Sue Bradburne, collapsed and died after finishing last of the 11 to complete the course

Paddy Brennan was suspended for four days (May 9-12) by the stewards for his use of the whip on third-placed The Gangerman.

O’Regan had initiated a double on the James Lambe-trained Classic Moon, who gave him an armchair ride to win the opening Scot Ads “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle.

The 5-2 favourite was carrying the colours of the Burnt Toast Ltd syndicate and running in aid of the Marie Curie Cancer Charity.

Alfie Buller’s Scarvagh House Stud has donated 15 horses to the syndicate and all prize money earned and money fetched when the horses are sold goes to the charity.

Fergus King, rider of third home Justtheoneforyou, picked up a one-day suspension (May 9) for careless riding and a caution for his use of the whip.

Lucinda Russell is enjoying her best season and took her score to 31 when Spirit Calling (9-1) won the Novices’ Handicap Chase under Peter Buchanan.

Russell said: “He has improved for a break and I thought he would just need this race.”

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has been firing in the winners to the bitter end of the season and completed double with Marodima and So Now, his only two runners of the afternoon at the meeting.

Marodima was spurned when he was sent to the Cheltenham sales last week but showed he was one that got away by making it four wins from his last six outings with an easy success under Sam Thomas in the Novices’ Chase, in which only two of the four runners completed.

Dan Skelton, representing Nicholls, said: “There was hardly a bid for him at Cheltenham and yet people will pay £200,000 for an Irish pointer – there is no comparison!

“He was the first horse we bought for David Johnson and he will now go to the Doncaster Sales, but we won’t give him away, there are plenty of races in him.”

Skelton’s 18-year-old brother Harry was having his first ride at the course on So Now, who had to battle to get the better of Giuliani and Solway Bee – a winner here on Wednesday – in the Sidney Ltd Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

Skelton (Dan) said: “So Now is appreciating the longer trips and will definitely jump fences. This was a nice prize for a conditional jockeys’ race.”

Campbell Gillies was suspended for three days (May 9-11) for using his whip with excessive frequency on Giuliani

Nicky Richards was on the scoresheet as Guns And Butter got home under his owner Duncan Davidson’s daughter Rose in the KVA 10th Anniversary Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.

Richards said: “He has been a consistent horse and he had some solid bumper form. I will probably run him two or three times over hurdles in the summer and then he might go chasing in the autumn.”

Brennan and Nigel Twiston-Davies have been in great form at the meeting and combined to great success again as 4-1 chance Diablo took the concluding Evening Express Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.

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