Classy 'Escape' justifies great expectations
Elegant Escape put up a classy staying performance to win the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.
Colin Tizzard's second-season chaser staked a major claim for future major races as he took one of the most competitive handicaps on the calendar.
The six-year-old had advertised his ability when runner-up behind stable companion Sizing Tennessee in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury four weeks ago - and showed he had improved again to land this prestigious prize.
Sent off the 3/1 favourite, Elegant Escape barely gave his supporters an anxious moment, with Tom O'Brien enjoying an armchair ride from the start.
O'Brien had him perfectly-placed in fourth place as Vieux Lion Rouge and Yala Enki set a searching gallop.
When Vieux Lion Rouge had enough, his David Pipe-trained stablemate Ramses De Teillee joined in.
O'Brien asked his mount to take closer order in the straight, however, and Elegant Escape did not shirk the issue.
Challenging for supremacy from the fourth-last fence, Elegant Escape went on to win by a length and a quarter from Ramses De Teillee, with Yala Enki four lengths back in third place. Rons Dream was a further 11 lengths away in fourth.
Elegant Escape was cut to 20/1 from 33/1 for the Randox Health Grand National.
In the day's other Grade One at Chepstow, Quel Destin dug deep to outbattle Adjali.
The French import dictated proceedings from flag-fall and always looked comfortable in the hands of Sam Twiston-Davies.
Of his four rivals, only Adjali kept tabs on Paul Nicholls' 7/4 shot, and the Nicky Henderson-trained 4/6 favourite had every chance in the straight.
However, Quel Destin found extra when needed and crossed the line a neck to the good, to complete a four-timer. The first two pulled 22 lengths clear of Arverne in third.
Speaking from Kempton, Ditcheat trainer Nicholls said: "I knew the track and ground would suit him. He had only been running on quicker ground as that is when the races for him were. He has run in the soft in France.
"He is a really tough horse, that keeps galloping and jumping - it was a real good performance today.
"The other one was having a job to get past him and he stayed on strongly from the back of the last, so I'm thrilled with him. We will work back from the Triumph Hurdle with him."