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Corach Rambler wins back-to-back Ultima Handicaps

Corach Rambler enhanced his claims for the Randox Grand National when becoming the fourth back-to-back winner of the Ultima Handicap Chase.

Lucinda Russell’s 6-1 favourite pounced late to land the Cheltenham Festival spoils 12 months ago and was ridden cold once again by Derek Fox.

Always travelling easily for the National-winning pilot, the enigmatic nine-year-old was coaxed into contention as the race began to unfold and was then asked to join the party jumping the last – from where he knuckled down gamely to stay on to the line, holding off Martin Brassil’s Fastorslow to extend the dominance of British-trained horses in this race.

He will now head to Aintree on April 15 and was made the 7-1 joint-favourite for the Merseyside marathon by Betfair, while William Hill go further with Corach Rambler their 6-1 favourite, cut from 10s.

Russell’s partner and assistant Peter Scudamore said: “It’s a great thrill. I do appreciate how incredibly fortunate I am and if a bolt of lightning hits me on the way out, I’d die a happy man.

“The funny thing is that his jumping is getting better and he was closer than last year.

“All Derek wants to do is go out there and ride and that is the mark of the man.”

Russell added: “It’s such a special pleasure to be here and to watch the horse enjoying himself.

“The track is so stiff but he picked up speed round the corner. It was phenomenal.

“When he hits the front he pulls himself up a bit – it’s just magic that you can have a runner here, let alone a winner.

“He will now go the Aintree for the National. He deserves to have a crack and that’s the next step.”

Michael O’Sullivan struck aboard Jazzy Matty in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle to cap a fine opening day for the young rider who earlier took the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with Marine Nationale.

The 18-1 scorer led home an all-Irish one-two-three-four to get Gordon Elliott off the mark for the week.

Elliott said: “I’m absolutely delighted. The horse is a brother to Delta Work, who is obviously a very good chaser for us.

“We knew he had a good enough mark coming over, but we thought he might just lack the experience.

“It is great to get a winner – I thought I might struggle to get a winner today to be honest. We had a few each-way chances, but to pull something out on the first day is unbelievable.”

The Cullentra House handler was also full of praise for the winning rider.

He added: “He doesn’t get that many rides for us, but he comes into the yard every Monday, never says anything, if I give him a ride, I give him a ride.

“I actually thought he claimed five (pounds). I put him down on the horse and I didn’t realise he claimed three (in England). I think he was lucky that if I’d copped it, it might not have happened, but in fairness he gave the horse a brilliant ride. He was slow at the last but didn’t panic. I’m delighted for him.”

O’Sullivan added: “It is unbelievable. Thanks very much to Gordon and the Browns for putting me up on him.

“I suppose I’m claiming 5lb in Ireland but only claiming 3lb here, so I probably lost a couple of rides in handicaps because of that, but in fairness to Gordon, he kept me on him.

“He got a bit of a fright at the first hurdle and was very careful after that. I thought we went very slow and he’s a big horse, so I gave him plenty of room and he travelled everywhere for me. I knew coming to the last I was wrong, but I didn’t want to be confusing him, because he was being careful up until then.

“I was confident enough I had plenty of horse left and I’d say he won with a bit in hand,. He is a nice horse going forward.”

Patrick Mullins won the WellChild National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Novices’ Chase for the second year in a row aboard his father’s Gaillard Du Mesnil.

The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old has placed in Grade One company at the last two Festivals, but it looked as if the 10-11 favourite had his work cut out to reel in the forward-going Mahler Mission.

However, John McConnell’s charge tipped up at the second-last to allow Gaillard Du Mesnil to put his stamina to good use and stay on past Chemical Energy in the closing stages.

He was shortened into 12-1 from 16s by Coral for the Grand National, but his handler indicated that race may come too soon in the aftermath.

“I think we were a bit fortunate to be honest with John McConnell’s horse falling, but that’s racing,” said Mullins.

“It was a tough three miles and six furlongs and while we were behind, Patrick thought they’d gone fast enough. I’m very happy.

“I don’t know about Aintree, I don’t know if it will come too soon for him so we’ll see.

“I’m thrilled for the owners, Joe and Marie (Donnelly), they were second in the Champion Hurdle, too.”

Patrick Mullins said: “He jumped a bit high. I think it was the white fences. We had the put in at home and he jumped them high there, too.

“Over that distance you just want them to pop, not expand energy, but after the first circuit he was better.”

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