/ Racing

Rainbow justifies favouritism in Melling Chase

Updated: Friday, 13 Apr 2012 19:34

Finian's Rainbow could step up in trip again in next season's King George
Finian's Rainbow could step up in trip again in next season's King George

Unforeseen circumstances slightly overshadowed the Cheltenham Festival success of Finian's Rainbow but he had the attention all to himself in the John Smith's Melling Chase at Aintree.

When Wishfull Thinking crashed through a fence, a rail and into photographers with a circuit remaining of the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the knock-on effect was for the obstacle to be bypassed and to leave Finian's Rainbow fighting off Sizing Europe on the run-in.

Mercifully this Grade One was incident-free and even a first try chasing at two a half miles was not enough to thwart Nicky Henderson's maturing nine-year-old, who could be asked to tackle even longer distances next season with his much-vaunted stablemate Sprinter Sacre pencilled in for the shortest division.

Wishfull Thinking, recovered from his bruising experience, turned out to be the 13-8 favourite's most potent danger as he harried him over the final three fences but was unable to maintain his challenge to the line.

Barry Geraghty, who managed to keep Finian's Rainbow settled and away from boiling point, eventually pushed his mount seven lengths clear.

The first prize of almost £100,000 ensures Henderson remains neck-and-neck with Paul Nicholls in his attempt to wrestle the trainers' title from the perennial champion.

"Last year as a novice he was trying to do everything in a terrible rush," said Henderson.

"He was only a bit quieter here last year because he'd had a hard race in the Arkle at Cheltenham.

"He grew up last summer for some reason and suddenly became a sensible person.

"Last year he looked an out-and-out two-miler but you always hoped he would stay and today he was always in a comfortable position just behind.

"You just hoped he was in cruise control and he probably was. When he switched him on he picked it up very quickly.

"We've got all summer to think about next season, but he's won the Champion Chase, he's won this. He goes to bed with all the medals."

Owner Michael Buckley was a little more enlightening, adding: "He's had his doubters but that should put them to sleep now. He had been very keen but over the summer he became a very amenable creature and that has affected him in his races.

"I think he outstayed Sizing Europe up the Cheltenham hill - I don't believe the opinion that it was only the fact they bypassed the last fence that enabled him to win.

"We have lots of options for next year now. I know Nicky was very coy but I imagine, all being well, we might consider trying three miles next season and maybe go for the King George. Nicky has about three horses for it already, but he can have four."

Wishfull Thinking's trainer Philip Hobbs said: "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'll think about Punchestown but it's not very far away."

The majestic Albertas Run, the 2010 winner who has been at least placed at the meeting for each of the past six years, was considered to be below his best in third.

Jonjo O'Neill, his trainer, said: "I'm a bit worried his old problems have come back and he looked like he might have been feeling his leg a bit.

"We'll just have to get him home and see, but he certainly won't be running again this season. In his three runs he's finished first, second and third, so we've no complaints."

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