• Horse Racing

Lieutenant strikes in Betfred Bowl

ESPN staff
April 4, 2013
Bryan Cooper drives First Lieutenant to victory © PA Photos

First Lieutenant showed the benefit of being stepped back up to three miles with a gritty win in the Betfred Bowl Chase on the opening day of the Aintree Grand National meeting.

Having been asked to take on Cue Card over two-and-a-half miles at Cheltenham, against his trainer's thinking, the gelding scored for the first time this season in battling fashion.

First Lieutenant looked to be coming off second best to Menorah all the way up the straight, but his stamina kicked in in the final furlong and hit the front in the dying strides under Bryan Cooper.

Pail Nicholls' Silviniaco Conti was sent off a shade of odds-on to bounce back from his fall at the Gold Cup, but he was always on the back foot following a mistake down the back straight on the second occasion.

The favourite was closing all the way to the line but could not reel in the front two in the Grade One prize.

Zarkandar put the novice The New One in his place with a battling success in the John Smith's Aintree Hurdle.

Ruby Walsh jumped Zarkandar out at the head of affairs and fought off a string of challengers in the Grade One contest.

The final challenge came from The New One, so impressive in novice company at Cheltenham, and it looked like being a winning challenge. But the Paul Nicholls-trained Zarkandar refused to be passed and he stuck his neck out the deny the favourite The New One who enhanced his reputation in defeat.

Alan King was rewarded for allowing L'Unique to swerve Cheltenham as his mare ran out an impressive winner of the Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.

The only mare in the race travelled well and jumped fluently in the hands of Wayne Hutchinson. She took the measure of Irish Saint at the second last and stuck on well to repel the late thrust of Runswick Royal to land the Grade One prize at odds of 10/1.

There was tragedy in the Foxhunter's Chase, however, as 11-year-old Battlefront pulled up early before dying of a suspected heart attack.

The Ted Walsh-trained horse, ridden in the race by daughter Katie, managed 14 fences but was slowing visibly before he pulled up in front of the 15th, collapsing and dying almost instantly.

Safety at Aintree is a prime concern this year, after the sad deaths of two horses at last year's Grand National, but Battlefront's trainer insisted that the incident was impossible to predict or prevent.

"He just had a heart attack, I'd say," Ted Walsh said. "Katie said that he jumped Becher's brilliantly, jumped the next one a bit slow and then dropped back and there was something amiss underneath her. He was just getting empty.

"She just let him go by the next fence on the outside and pulled him up and was walking back along with him. The next minute he just wobbled and went down.

"It could have happened to him hunting, it could have happened to him walking around the ring. Horses can get a heart attack anywhere. It's nothing to do with Liverpool or the National fences."

David Muir, the RSPCA's equine consultant, added: "When we looked into it, the horse was pulled up [and] it wasn't a jumping issue at all. It was one of those things that happen in racing, which you can't predict."

In the end, the race was won by 100/1 shot Tartan Snow.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.