Having reeled in Stormtracker, Domaine De Pron shortened his stride going into the last fence, allowing his equally game rival to rejoin battle, but had reasserted by the line, going past with his ears pricked.
The French-bred gelding, winner of two of his previous four races this season, was the star of his owner-trainer Lavinia Taylor's small yard near Banbury, Oxfordshire. She and her husband John were too upset to speak, or receive the trophy, after their horse's death, from a suspected heart attack.
Supple said: "He felt fine as we pulled up, but then started to wobble. It is a terrible blow for the Taylors but at least their brave horse went out on a high."
In a happier ending another youngster, Ottowa, took the day's other feature staying chase, the John Hughes Grand National Trial at Chepstow, his second such contest in two weeks. The remarkable eight-year-old, in his first season over fences, may have been fortunate to have claimed the Singer & Friedlander Trial at Uttoxeter - the clear leader Kamikaze unseated two out then - but did not need luck along for the ride yesterday.
He barely put a foot wrong as he simply outgalloped and outjumped a collection of seasoned handicappers, four Grand National entries among them. The only one able to come out of the pack after him in the straight was Dom Samourai but the diminutive grey, runner-up in the Welsh National at the same course earlier in the season, was still seven lengths adrift at he finish.
The bay, trained by Paul Nicholls for Paul Barber, is not engaged at Aintree - at least not this year - but has other Nationals, the Midlands and Scottish versions, among his options. Nicholls said:"Last time, at Uttoxeter, we got away with it by the skin of our teeth. But this time he was and I know he can keep up that gallop all day. The Midlands National next month will probably be his next race, but he is still in the Royal & Sun Alliance Chase at Cheltenham, and if it came up testing going I'd be tempted to run."
Nicholls' good day's work continued at Warwick, where another of his novices, Lake Kariba, booked a definite place at the Festival, in the Arkle Trophy, with an impressive defeat of Queen Of Spades in the Kingmaker Chase.
With just over three weeks to go before Cheltenham, there were plenty of pointers during the afternoon. At Chepstow two more Royal & Sun Alliance Chase contenders, Escartefigue and Fiddling The Facts, pulled a distance clear of Spring Double as they fought out the finish of the Aspiring Champions Novices' Chase, victory going to Escartefigue, who is also in the Gold Cup, by half a length.
At Newcastle, Coral Cup entry Ardrina put serious back problems behind her as she made the most of a two stone concession to pip Star Rage in the handicap hurdle. The chaser Sparky Gayle, a close fourth, ran a blinder, and is back on course for the Cathcart Chase.
And at Warwick Samuel Wilderspin advertised his Royal & Sun Alliance Hurdle prospects by taking the Questor International Novices' Trial by 13 lengths, the third leg of a Richard Johnson four-timer. But the most rousing cheers came half an hour later after the front-running veteran Dublin Flyer came back to his springheeled best to give 23lb, three years and a half-length beating to Potter's Bay in the Michael Page Finance Handicap Chase.
l The champion jockey, Kieren Fallon, was banned for three days for careless riding after being disqualified last night on Bowcliffe at Wolverhampton.Reuse content