Mighty Mountainous makes light of mud
Kerry Lee will be praying for a wet April now after Mountainous won a second Coral Welsh National at Chepstow to earn a crack at the big one at Aintree.
Since taking over the licence from her father Richard, Herefordshire-based Lee has made a rapid start to her training career - but to claim such a big race in her first season is truly the stuff of dreams.
Mountainous, who cannot have the ground soft enough, had been running respectably this season in unfavourable conditions and a big performance was expected by many.
Sent off at 9-1 under Jamie Moore, the 11-year-old - who obliged two years ago under Paul Moloney and was winning for the first time since - absolutely relished the quagmire, with heavy rain making it difficult to pick out many jockeys in mud-splattered silks.
One by one the contenders drifted away, with Upswing pulled up early and last year's winner Emperor's Choice making a mistake early on the second circuit and also pulled up.
When long-time leader Bob Ford fell in the home straight, Mountainous, racing off a 5lb-lower mark than his winning one two years ago, just relentlessly carried on galloping.
Firebird Flyer stayed on for second, beaten two and three-quarter lengths, with Shotgun Paddy third and Saroque fourth.
"I'm absolutely dumbstruck," said Lee. "I was watching in disbelief, what a horse. I knew he was very well this season and Jamie gave him a brilliant ride.
"A lot of work went into this horse at home as he lost his way last year, I'm delighted. It means a huge amount, it puts you on the map.
"He's the most fantastic horse and we've got the most brilliant team at home."
Lee pointed to the Crabbie's Grand National on April 9 as the major target and he was given a 40-1 quote by William Hill.
She said: "So much work has gone into this horse at home, we've got the most fantastic team at home. The horse, Jamie - everyone has been brilliant haven't they? He's really been nurtured at home, we've looked after him so well. We don't over-race him, he really enjoys the facilities we've got at home and the way he's trained, the variety that we give them.
"The thing is to keep him sweet, to keep him fresh and keep the variety going.
"I think the Grand National has to be his target now this season, he really enjoys soft ground and this kind of trip, so it has to be on the cards."
Moore said: "He travelled very well, he's the first since Bonanza Boy to be a dual winner so credit to Kerry, she got him in very good form.
"These conditions are perfect for him. They went very quick into the first bend, but that's normal for this race. I was little bit further back than ideal, but he jumped his way into it down the back and the whole of the second circuit I was having to take a pull.
"I was watching the race last night when Paul won on him, he gave him a brilliant ride that day, he kept filling him up and I was just trying to do that today.
"I had them covered in front of me, and that's what you're worried about at the time.
"He could be (an Aintree horse), he'd love it if it came up soft."
A proud Richard Lee said: "I couldn't really believe it was going to happen twice, he lost his form last year completely and it's great credit to Kerry.
"He loves the mud, he never had it last year."
Sunday Indo Sport