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By Ray Gilpin, Press Association Sport. Last Updated: 09/04/10 5:54pm
Always Waining on his way to victory.
Owner and trainer may disagree whether Always Waining is a future Grand National horse but they were united in joy as he thundered home 12 lengths clear in the John Smith's Topham Chase.
Already fourth in this event over the big green Aintree fences 12 months ago, handler Peter Bowen would really fancy Always Waining to tackle the National itself in 2011 - but owner Peter Douglas does not believe he will stay the extra 14 furlongs.
That discussion can wait for another day as he collected the prize of more than £56,000 under a positive ride from Brian Hughes.
Only those with the coldest of hearts could not have felt sorry for Frankie Figg, who towed Always Waining along for almost the entire distance and jumped with as much enthusiasm as one could care to see.
That brave attitude was ultimately to prove Frankie Figg's undoing as Wilson Renwick was vaulted from the saddle when still narrowly in front at the second-last.
Always Waining (22-1) was in the process of joining him at the front and was left with an unassailable advantage. He struggled on past the Elbow safely clear of runner-up Scotsirish and third-placed Isn't That Lucky.
The winner has been kept on the go through summer and winter for the last two seasons now but had shown very little form in nine runs since the previous Topham.
Bowen - who went on to complete a great day when his Big Time Billy won the concluding bumper - said: "That's unbelievable - my heart's still up in the air somewhere. He loves this place - he ran well here last year and was 12lb better off at the weights.
"I'm not sure putting the cheekpieces back on made much of a difference. He had not been quite right all winter and was probably finding the ground too soft.
"We weren't sure he was going to run a few days ago but in the last fortnight he has just come right at home.
"He'll go out in a field now, and I'd love to come back for the National next year."
Douglas, the chairman of an engineering company overlooking Uttoxeter racecourse, is not so sure.
"Peter wants to run in the National but I won't let him - we have tried him in the Midlands National but anything over three miles and two, he doesn't get home," he said.
"I told everyone today 'don't back him, he's here for fun'. We came here for a fun day and we have won the Topham but it's the ground that made the difference."
Hughes, set for his first National ride on Beat The Boys, said: "It's all down to him. There were some great jumps, he's not very big, but he's brave.
"Frankie Figg can trap along but my horse kept galloping and I knew he would get home as he always keeps a little for himself.
"Peter Bowen has done some training performance. He is a very shrewd man and when he said he had him spot on, you can go out there with a lot of confidence.
"I'm just delighted to get such a brilliant spare ride. I've had a few nice victories but to have a winner over the National fences is something else."
Of Frankie Figg, Renwick said: "I thought he still had every chance, he was still picking up.
"He's put down at the second-last and got in a bit tight and his backend came up a bit high.
"I'd got a breather into him. It's still a long way from the second-last, but I was still happy with him.
"He has been very unlucky - he has fallen three times and it is not often you look forward to riding a horse like that again, but I'd love to."
Willie Mullins saddled runner-up Scotsirish and fourth-placed Dooneys Gate and will give both National entries next year.
There were two fatalities, Prudent Honour and Plaisir D'Estruval.