Leighton Aspell claimed Southern National glory at Fontwell Park on Shanroe Santos.
The Irishman has been riding winners at the West Sussex track for years but this will go down as one of his finest victories in one of Fontwell’s biggest races of the year.
The Southern National – sponsored this year by Sun Racing – is a three-mile, three-furlong test of endurance and the nine-year-old, trained by Lucy Wadham, passed it with flying colours, coming in five lengths ahead of closest rival Morney Wing.
Newmarket-based Wadham said: “We were pretty confident. He ran so well at Carlisle in a race where the winner and fifth have won since. He’s had some leg trouble, but everything was right for him today and he was well on top.”
Aspell, who lives at Pulborough and had never won the Southern National before, said: “He’s been running in lots of long-distance chases, but the small field and slow early pace suited him and he got into a nice rhythm.”
The 4/1 chance was well-positioned throughout and hit the front with about a circuit to go. From then, there was little doubt as to who’s name was going on the trophy, although Morney Wing and Harry Bannister put up a brave fight.
Wizard’s Bridge (7/1), ridden by Tom O’Brien, was third as Aspell – winner of back-to-back Grand Nationals on Pineau De Re (2014) and Many Clouds (2015) – celebrated a Fontwell double.
The first leg of the 42-year-old’s success on Sunday came on 14/1 chance Glen Rocco for West Sussex trainer Nick Gifford.
The Southern National was, as expected, the highlight of a lovely day’s racing at Fontwell under blue skies but in chilly conditions.
Things kicked off with Daniel Sansom riding the 3/1 joint favourite Silver Sea to victory in the Follow Top Tipster Templegate At Sun Racing Novices’ Handicap Hurdle for Seamus Mullins.
Lisp (3/1) took the Follow Sun Racing On Twitter Salmon Spray Handicap Hurdle under Tom Cannon for Alan King while Fontwell specialists Gary Moore and jockey son Jamie teamed up to take the Kate Hallin Birthday Celebration Juvenile Hurdle with Tazka, an evens favourite.
Rex Dingle notched his second Fontwell win in successive meetings on Bonza Girl, an 8/1 victor in the Like Sun Racing On Facebook Handicap Hurdle for Jeremy Scott.
And the biggest priced winner of the day came in the last, the Follow Top Tipsters At Sun Racing Handicap Chase, as Mortens Leam won under Philip Donovan for trainer Michael Hawker.
Next up at Fontwell it’s Festive Jumpers raceday on Tuesday, December 11 – followed by Boxing Day racing.