'It is 20 years ago today I lost him, but thank you Aintree' - Poignant victory for John Hales
Politologue thrust Paul Nicholls and Sam Twiston-Davies back into the limelight with a thrilling victory in the JLT Melling Chase at Aintree.
By his own admission the master of Ditcheat is short of the kind of superstars that once lit up National Hunt racing in Britain and for much of this season, and this week, he has been forced to watch his great rival Nicky Henderson steal the show.
However, Politologue has been the trainer's standout performer this term, winning the Haldon Gold Cup, the Tingle Creek and the Desert Orchid Chase in the first half of the season, and while he was no match for Henderson-trained juggernaut Altior on his last couple of starts, he enjoyed another day in the sun on Merseyside.
The two-and-a-half-mile contest was billed as a match between two Irish challengers in Queen Mother Champion Chase runner-up Min and Ryanair Chase hero Balko Des Flos, but 11-1 shot Politologue had other ideas and got the better of a dust-up with Min by a neck.
Nicholls said: "It was a brilliant ride by Sam. He just didn't finish his race at Cheltenham, so we had a look at his wind and we put a tongue tie on.
"The great thing now he is staying. We always thought he'd be a King George horse, but we dropped him back in trip. In time he might get three miles."
It was a poignant success for owner John Hales, who lost the hugely popular grey One Man in this race two decades ago.
He said: "It is 20 years ago today I lost him, but thank you Aintree. Of course it still hurts, but we have won the Grand National (with Neptune Collonges) and we have another great grey now. He fought all the way."
There were more than a few tears shed after Lalor (14-1) claimed an emotional success in the Betway Top Novices' Hurdle for Kayley Woollacott.
The racing world was left shocked in January after it was announced trainer Richard Woollacott, who was based in South Molton in Devon, had died, aged 40.
Lalor provided Woollacott with his first big-race success when winning the Grade Two bumper at this meeting a year ago and this time struck Grade One gold under champion jockey Richard Johnson.
The winning trainer said: "It's unbelievable, I don't know how that has just happened.
"It's a very emotional day, but obviously I've had a little bit of help from up there.
"It's unreal, we love the horse and this is amazing."
After a top-level treble on Thursday, Henderson claimed his fourth and fifth Grade One winners of the meeting with Terrefort and Santini.
Terrefort, runner-up in the JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham, comfortably went one better as the 3-1 favourite for the Betway Mildmay Novices' Chase in the hands of Daryl Jacob.
Santini, third in the Albert Bartlett at Prestbury Park, justified 6-4 favouritism in the Doom Bar Sefton Novices' Hurdle.
Reflecting on the week so far, Henderson said: "Obviously we've got some very good horses and you can't go without them, but I have to say everybody has worked their socks off.
"It's a long four weeks from Cheltenham. To get them back, everyone has done brilliantly. That's been the secret of it really, but you have to have good horses."
Ultragold (14-1) relished the Grand National fences once more to claim back-to-back victories in the Randox Health Topham Chase for trainer Colin Tizzard and jockey Harry Cobden.
Trainer Tom Lacey and jockey Robbie Dunne combined to land the Alder Hey Children's Charity Handicap Hurdle with 20-1 shot Jester Jet, while the concluding Weatherbys Racing Bank Standard Open NH Flat Race went to 25-1 chance Portrush Ted, trained by Warren Greatrex and ridden by Gavin Sheehan.
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