Champion Wells does it again
GRAND jumper Wells has shown his champion qualities to record a third Grand National Steeplechase victory.
The Kathryn Durdentrained gelding won the race in 2014 before injury sidelined him in 2015.
He returned to racing in 2016 and ploughed through atrocious conditions to win the Grand National before returning on Sunday with the steadier of 71.5kg.
Conceding 7.5kg to runner-up Over The Yardarm, Wells (Richard Cully) got home by a short-head with Bold Zamour 5-½ lengths away third.
Wells has joined Bashboy, who won the Grand National in 2012, 2013 and 2015 as the only three-time winners of race.
Former champion jumps jockey Craig Durden, now assistant trainer to his wife, said Sunday’s victory was his biggest thrill in racing.
“I had a lot of success as a jockey, winning a lot of feature races, but this bloke winning for the third time is a great thrill,” Durden said. “He’s a fantastic horse. “As we’ve alluded to before, he’s just a wonderful stayer, he jumps very economically and he has a big heart.”
Kathryn Durden said the result was unbelievable and had no hesitation saying gelding would be back again next year for a fourth tilt.
Cully described Wells as a proper champion.
“He’s got an unbelievable engine. He’s unbelievably tough, unbelievably sound and it’s a fantastic training job,” he said.
Cully was worried when Over The Yardarm, who had finished second to Wells in the Crisp Steeplechase at Sandown on August 6, was the one doing the chasing after jumping final fence.
“He was hard to run down at Sandown, but we did run him down, so I knew if he had to stick his head down would,” Cully said.
“That huge weight pull, that just shows what a good horse he is.”
Four of the nine runners failed to complete the 4500m journey with equal topweight Sea King the only one to fall, at the second last fence.
Racing Victoria stewards reported Sea King had some back soreness while Brad McLean was uninjured.