The National Times - Bowen family's love affair with Topham Chase in full bloom as Mac Tottie wins

Bowen family's love affair with Topham Chase in full bloom as Mac Tottie wins

Bowen family's love affair with Topham Chase in full bloom as Mac Tottie wins
Bowen family's love affair with Topham Chase in full bloom as Mac Tottie wins

Welsh trainer Peter Bowen won the Topham Chase, raced over the Grand National fences, for a record-equalling fifth time on Friday, as his son Sean rode Mac Tottie to victory on the eve of the great race at Aintree racecourse.

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Bowen Senior, recording his first victory in the race since Always Waining won it for a third successive time in 2012, also saddled the fourth-placed finisher, Francky du Berlais.

Sean's brother James, whose race ended at the first fence, scampered down the track when he saw Mac Tottie had a chance of winning and hugged his brother after they pulled up on crossing the line.

Indeed James would have been riding Mac Tottie but for being obliged to ride Fantastic Lady due to being contracted to trainer Nicky Henderson.

Sean, normally stony-faced win or lose, found the emotion all too much and burst into tears.

"I'm not being biased but Dad is a brilliant trainer. To do it for your family just different," he said.

"I cannot put into words how different this is."

Whether the two brothers will be hugging reach other post the National is open to question.

Sean rides Samcro -- one of several runners for Irish trainer Gordon Elliott -- and James the better fancied English chance Kildisart.

The colours of Irish owner JP McManus were carried to National glory last year by Minella Times -- who runs again -- and he warmed up with a high-class double on Friday.

Mark Walsh rode McManus's Fakir D'Oudairies to a second successive victory in the Grade One Melling Chase -- the first horse to do so since Voy Por Estedes in 2008/09.

"He turns up and runs his race every day," said trainer Joseph O'Brien.

"He's a good jumper and he makes my life very easy. He's a special horse."

Earlier McManus had watched as Aidan Coleman conjured up a second burst of acceleration out of favourite Jonbon to edge El Fabiolo in a thrilling climax to the Grade One Novices Hurdle.

It was a sixth win in the race for Henderson -- who has an embarrassment of riches with hurdlers for next year, after his Constitution Hill romped away from Jonbon in the Supreme Novices at Cheltenham last month.

- 'Seriously classy' -

Coleman wanted to set the record straight regarding Jonbon's temperament.

"This is the last time I say what a gentleman he is," said the 33-year-old Irishman.

"I read in the paper how crazy he is. It's an insult... he has never let me down.

"I have a real soft spot for him. He is not a naughty boy, he is a gentleman."

Henderson is locked in a battle for champion trainer with Paul Nicholls, but the latter extended his lead when Gelino Bello landed the final Grade One of the day, the Sefton Hurdle.

"It all counts (the prize money) we've had a good week and gives us some breathing space," said Nicholls.

Scotland completed a Celtic trifecta of wins on the day as Ahoy Senor came home clear in the Mildmay Novices Chase under Derek Fox for trainer Lucinda Russell -- the same combination that won the 2017 National with One for Arthur.

Like Fakir D'Oudairies, he has a fondness for the track having won the Sefton Hurdle in 2021.

"He is a seriously classy horse and is still learning on the job," added Fox, who will ride Russell's 2021 Scottish National winner Mighty Thunder in Saturday's big race.

Langer Dan had won the opening Aintree Handicap Hurdle.

It gave trainer Dan Skelton and his brother, jockey Harry, rich compensation after the disappointment of falling early on in the Martin Pipe Hurdle at Cheltenham last month.

"He's like a little motorbike and I had a dream run round," said Harry.

"You get a bit of bad luck in racing -- that's sport -- but you just get back up and go again."