Silver By Nature defied top weight in determined fashion to win the totesport.com Grand National Trial for the second year running at Haydock.
Lucinda Russell’s grey was cut to 14-1 from 25-1 with totesport for the big race itself at Aintree in April after showing admirable qualities in what was a true slog over three and a half miles.
Carruthers stayed at the front end of the pace until well into the straight where Peter Buchanan brought Silver By Nature (10-1) through to make his challenge.
Leading at the second last, he went on to win by 15 lengths from Ballyfitz with Le Beau Bai third, another six lengths away, and Carruthers last of the four finishers.
Russell said: “He’s an amazing horse. Every horse has its ups and downs, but I thought he was much more for it today than he was for the Welsh National.
“I’ll have to speak to his owner (Geoff Brown). He has been very keen on winning the Scottish Grand National.
“This horse does like the heavy ground and I would prefer to go to Aintree because it is less likely to be heavy at Ayr.
“It will we a team decision and hopefully everything will go all right between now and Aintree.”
Nicto de Beauchene’s rider Andrew Glassonbury was banned for two days (March 5 and 6) for using his whip on a horse that was not responding and received a further eight days (March 7-14 inclusive) for continuing on an exhausted horse.
Cross Kennon (8-1) proved too strong for Bensalem in the totescoop6 Hurdle to land a notable success for trainer Jennie Candlish and jockey Alan O’Keeffe.
Bensalem looked set for victory when he cruised into the lead at the third last but the ground found him out and Cross Kennon stayed on dourly to win by six lengths.
“Just when you think there can’t be any more improvement in him, he keeps finding more and he is a great horse to have in the yard,” said Candlish.
“He goes on any ground but heavy perhaps helps him more than it does some others and it would be nice if we got those conditions at Cheltenham.
“He’s in the World Hurdle and the Pertemps, but he might have too much weight in that.”
Back In Focus (16-1) sprang a surprise on his jumps bow when upstaging hot-pot Court In Motion in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
He was always travelling well in the hands of Brian Hughes and took advantage of a mistake by the 8-13 favourite at the second last.
Howard Johnson’s charge pulled clear to win by six lengths from the leg-weary Court In Motion.
Johnson’s assistant Ray Hawkey said: “I thought he would run well, although he was pitched in at the deep end.
“I don’t know what Howard is going to do now but I would think Cheltenham will be on the agenda. Howard doesn’t usually enter them unless he intends to run them.”
French import Houblon Des Obeaux opened his British account in the toteplacepot Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle.
Sent off the 5-4 favourite, the gelding showed tremendous resolution to regain the lead from Third Intention on the run-in and win by three-quarters of a length.
“It would be nice to think we could go for the Triumph Hurdle, but the chances of getting heavy ground there are remote,” said trainer Venetia Williams.
Houblon Des Obeaux remained unchanged at 16-1 with William Hill for the Triumph at Cheltenham.