Wayward Prince rewarded connections for not retiring him with a gutsy victory in the Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr.
Owner-trainer Hilary Parrott — who has just a handful of horses at her Gloucestershire base — had wanted to put the out-of-form 11-year-old out to grass during the winter but when she returned from a holiday she found he was a different horse.
He confirmed that when winning at Doncaster in February, after tumbling down the handicap, and also ran well when third on his only subsequent start at Ascot.
Winner of a Grade One hurdle back in 2010, Wayward Prince had been highly tried, including when second to Silviniaco Conti in the 2012 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby. He was Parrott’s first runner at Ayr and he dug deep to give jockey Robbie Dunne his biggest success.
The 25/1 chance battled on to win by three-quarters of a length from Irish raider Goonyella (16/1), who made a gallant bid to follow up his victory in the Midlands National.
Benbens (33/1) was a head away third and Amigo (28/1) was fourth. “It’s a dream and he’s loved every minute of it,” said Parrott. “He does get looked after like a baby and we all love him.
“He did very well when trained by Ian Williams, then he lost his form and I thought I’d have him. We’re a small yard, so he gets a lot of attention. He goes out every day and is very happy. I can’t believe it. He’d never gone four miles before, but he did fall in the Grand National last year.”
“When he got to the front he started idling a bit and when they came to me at the last I thought he was done, but he dug deep, said Dunne.”
Goonyella’s trainer Jim Dreaper was delighted with his horse’s performance. He is hoping his excellent run will help him earn a place in the Crabbie’s Grand National next year after missing out the last two times.
“He showed again he’s got great stamina. His lack of pace is just shown up a bit more on that ground, but that was very good,” said the Meath handler. “The plan is to try to get him into Aintree to beat the ballot. He’s missed out two years in a row and maybe he can do it next year.”
Ante-post favourite Gallant Oscar was a non runner due to the drying ground, leaving Broadway Buffalo to go off the 9/1 market leader. David Pipe’s charge had every chance before finishing sixth.
The well-fancied Sam Winner was pulled up after the eighth fence.
Cheltenian (10-1) landed his first success since December 2013 with a hard-fought victory over Sign Of A Victory in the QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle. It was nip and tuck on the run to the line with the Philip Hobbs-trained Cheltenian proving the stronger by a neck under Richard Johnson.
Hobbs said: “This has been a fantastic horse. He won the Cheltenham bumper some years ago, but he hasn’t won for a bit (since December 2013) and what a time to come back and win. He’s had mainly tendon problems and had a long time off.”