Hobbs-trained Duke Of Lucca wins Handicap Chase at Aintree

Duke Of Lucca knuckled down for a hard-fought victory in the Betfred TV Handicap Chase at Aintree.

Trainer Philip Hobbs had been out of luck at the 2014 Grand National meeting up to this point but got off the mark as the nine-year-old prevailed by a head from Vino Griego.

Winning jockey Richard Johnson gave his mount a perfect stalking ride, happy to sit off the scorching early pace set by Our Mick.

A bad blunder in the back straight was soon shrugged off and his jumping on the whole was sound.

The front-runner was joined at the second-last by Vino Griego, who looked to have timed his run to great effect under Jamie Moore, but Johnson was hot on his heels heading down to the last and gained a length after landing with more momentum.

Duke Of Lucca was kept up to his work on the run to the line and although Vino Griego came back for another bite of the cherry close home, the winner held on grimly.

Gullinbursti and Kian’s Delight finished third and fourth respectively, while 5/1 favourite Victor Hewgo made a number of jumping errors early on and was pulled up by James Reveley with over a circuit to run.

Hobbs was relieved Aintree hadn’t been hit by much of the rain that had been forecast earlier in the week, saying: “Thankfully he just hung on. He’s a horse that wants decent ground.

“My owner decided not to come as he thought if he travelled all the way here, looking at the forecast it was going to rain too much before the race and I would take him out.

“He finished fourth in the cross-country race at Cheltenham, so I think he’s probably going to run in Ireland in the La Touche (at Punchestown).

“I thought when he missed the third-last his chance had gone as he’d jumped really well until then, but he stayed on very well.

“I think running in the cross-country did him the world of good as he travelled really well today.

“Richard (Johnson) went wide on him because sometimes that helps him.”

Source: Sporting Life, 5 April 2014

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