Grand National 2014: Tony McCoy rides Lac Fontana to victory in opening race to boost his National hopes

9-2 favourite clinched the Pertemps Network Mersey Novices' Hurdle with McCoyset to ride Double Seven in the Grand National

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The Independent Online

Lac Fontana benefited from a typically power-packed Tony McCoy ride to clinch the Pertemps Network Mersey Novices' Hurdle, the opening race on Crabbie's Grand National day at Aintree.

The Paul Nicholls-trained five-year-old was the 9-2 favourite for the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One, stepping up in class and trip following a similarly determined display in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

With the champion jockey taking over in the saddle from the sidelined Daryl Jacob, Lac Fontana travelled powerfully but looked to have his work cut out when Splash Of Ginge committed at the top of the home straight.

Dell' Arca and Wilde Blue Yonder were both in the mix, but it turned into a straight shootout after the final flight, with Lac Fontana eventually wearing down Splash Of Ginge to take the prize by a length and a half.


Nicholls said: "He stayed very well at Cheltenham so we thought we'd go two and a half miles on this ground.

"He's tough. He made it hard for himself by missing the last two hurdles but he stayed on a little bit.

"He could end up being a good staying hurdler looking at him, he stays really well.

"It will be interesting next year."

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Nicholls went on: "He looks like he'll make a nice staying hurdler next year, but he could just jump a fence.

"I'll keep all options open and I'm not sure there's much left for him this season - maybe there's a Grade One at Punchestown but I haven't really looked into it."

McCoy said: "I felt from three out that he was keeping a bit for himself but when I grabbed a hold of him at the last he picked up.

"He beat a good yardstick in Splash Of Ginge so it is solid form and it was easy enough to ride him.

"I don't see why he wouldn't get further as he does keep a bit for himself and he goes through his races relaxed, he might even be better as he goes further."

The locally-owned Splash Of Ginge again did his connections proud, adding another sizeable chunk of prize-money to go with his victory in the valuable Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

His trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said: "He was brilliant again. I thought we'd got it but it wasn't to be this time.

"He's had a smashing season. He'll stop now and go again next season. He'll go chasing."

David Pipe, trainer of third-placed Dell' Arca, said: "He's run a cracking race. He's been very consistent. All year he's been running in the top handicaps. He's only a novice and he'll be a lovely horse for next season.

"He stayed the trip well and we might even step him up in trip again.

"We'll decide whether to stay hurdling or go chasing with him when he comes back.

"He's run in all the good races. He's the ultimate professional."

Alan King secured his third winner of the meeting as Balder Succes played a starring role in the Doom Bar Maghull Novices' Chase.

Winner of the Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Warwick and the Pendil Novices' Chase at Kempton, Balder Succes bypassed last month's showpiece meeting at Cheltenham to ensure he was primed for his trip to Liverpool.

With Next Sensation predictably setting a strong gallop from the outset, Balder Succes was waited with in the hands of Wayne Hutchinson before looming up ominously in the straight.

The 7-2 chance moved stylishly to the lead on the run to the final fence and a spring-heeled leap sealed victory.

Nicky Richards' outsider Simply Ned ran a super race to finish second, beaten four lengths, with 11-4 favourite Trifolium back in third, just as he was in the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham.

Hutchinson said: "I got in tight to the ditch, but he was very good.

"I set sail and it was do or die - he was very honest and he's come for me all the way to the the line.

"It just took me three fences to hit my rhythm, but when we steadied up going to the back his jumping got me going again."

King said: "He was good today.

"He needed one at the last and got it, his jumping was great all the way round.

"It's paid off not going to Cheltenham with him, he was fresh and well - I'm delighted.

"He could go Punchestown. He gets two and a half miles, but I think he's better over two.

"Early in the season we thought we had to make the running, but we knew there'd be pace on today so we didn't want to do that.

"Fences have made a man of him."