Macrae seizes the day
Gus Macrae made full use of his feather weight to claim the feature race at Aintree on Sunday.
Trained in Newport by Rebecca Curtis and ridden by 10lb claimer Patrick Corbett, the eight-year-old gelding was one of just a few horses in the Weatherbys Hamilton Bloodstock Insurance Handicap Chase to revel in the Merseyside mud.
Although Silver Roque went for broke four out, Corbett was never far away on the 6-1 shot, who was at the bottom of the weights for the two-mile assignment.
Gus Macrae was slowly nudged closer into contention before taking the lead with a crisp leap at the last.
Silver Roque stayed on stoutly, but was three and three-quarters of a length away at the line.
Corbett, who was securing just his third career winner, said: "He won quite well in the end, which was nice - he seemed to love the ground.
"He was only carrying 9st 8lb so he hardly had anything on his back."
Simonside earlier made all of the running to take the opening Matalan Handicap Hurdle.
Despite being sent off a 33-1 chance, the Brian Ellison-trained nine-year-old won convincingly for jockey Aidan Coleman.
Coleman's partner never saw another rival following a bright start and had four and a half lengths in reserve of the staying-on Holywell at the line.
Ellison said: "Aidan gave him a great ride.
"He (Simonside) is a natural front-runner and got a 10-length start.
"I know he's nine, but I'm tempted to go chasing with him."
It also looked hard work in the Betfred Goals Galore Introductory Juvenile Hurdle as Handazan (3-1) came home in front under a determined Robert Thornton.
Alan King's three-year-old appeared beaten when For Two, the Paul Nicholls-trained British debutant, gained a slender lead two out, but the long run-in proved that rival's undoing.
For Two looked naive and weary out in front, which allowed Handazan to fight back for a three-and-three-quarter-length verdict.
Noel Williams, assistant trainer to Wiltshire-based King, said: "He had heavy-ground form for John Oxx in Ireland, so the ground was never going to be a problem."
Similarly robust qualities were shown by Forgotten Gold in the Betfred "The Bonus King" Beginners' Chase.
Tom George's 11-8 chance jumped precisely and boldly for Paddy Brennan, but still required uncompromising handling as 5-4 favourite First Fandango refused to yield.
There was little in it as both horses jumped the last, but Forgotten Gold maintained the advantage he held from the outset, with a length and three-quarters the winning distance.
George said: "There's plenty of scope for improvement."
Ely Brown (9-2) seized the day in a dramatic series qualifier of the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle.
The seven-year-old, who was making his debut for Charlie Longsdon, looked home and hosed once he finally shrugged off the dogged Abnaki.
Jockey Kielan Woods could not allow to be complacent, though, as Buachaill Alainn suddenly flew into contention along the run-in.
Peter Bowen's inmate would probably have won within a handful more strides, but Ely Brown was adjudged a head winner in a photo-finish.
Longsdon told Racing UK: "In these conditions, his light weight has definitely helped.
"We will look at more of these decent three-mile handicap hurdles."