Nicky Henderson’s star turn Finian’s Rainbow held off a strong challenge from Wishfull Thinking to win the John Smith’s Melling Chase at Aintree today.
The 13/8 favourite was far below his best but still had enough class to hold a commanding lead from the 15/8-priced Philip Hobbs-trained runner before the last fence and, having successfully cleared the final hurdle, romped home to take the honours.
The recent winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham jumped moderately throughout including demolishing a rail, but with Barry Geraghty on board, still has enough class to see off the field here.
The 2010 winner of the event, Albertas Run, who had been fancied to figure here priced at 11/4, finished third having helped cut out the pace in the early stages of the race.
Thomas Cooper’s Forpadydeplasterer finished down in fourth place.
The triumphant trainer Henderson said: “Last year as a novice he was trying to do everything in a terrible rush.
"He was only a bit quieter here last year because he'd had a hard race at Cheltenham.
"He grew up last summer for some reason and suddenly became sensible. This season he's been much more amenable.
"You'd always expect this fella to stay. Last year he looked an out and out two-miler because he was doing it in such a rush.
"Today he was always in a comfortable position just behind and you just hoped he was in cruise control and he probably was. When he switched him on he picked it up very quickly.”
Wishfull Thinking’s trainer Hobson was pleased with his horse’s return to form and second place, commenting: “It's good to see him back and he ran a much better race.
"It's been a very frustrating season but we schooled him straight away after Cheltenham and he's been absolutely fine.
"We'd have to think about Punchestown, as it's not very far away."