Bacardys on top as Mullins dominates bumper
Bacardys led home a one-two for Willie Mullins when out-gunning stablemate Battleford in Aintree's Weatherbys Private Bank Champion National Hunt Flat race.
In what had proven to be a frustrating day for the Closutton handler, the five-year-old ensured it ended on a positive note with his son Patrick seen at his most effective to lift him home in the Grade Two affair.
Entering the closing stages, a re-run of the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival threatened to take place, as the Mullins duo together with Ballyandy moved on to fight out the finish.
Despite travelling well, Ballyandy backed out of the equation around a furlong from home, leaving the stablemates to battle it out, a verdict that was to go the way of Bacardys (15-2) by half a length, with debutant The Minch running a cracking race in staying on a length and a half away in third.
Mullins said: "When I asked Patrick which one he wanted to ride, he thought Bacardys was unlucky in Cheltenham, so he went for him. There wasn't much in it and they're two lovely prospects.
"What I love about Battleford is, even after getting a hard race in Cheltenham, he's still carrying condition and he's very strong. That's a great sign for the future."
Eastlake (22-1) made it third-time lucky over the Grand National fences after ending a spell in the doldrums to claim the Crabbie's Topham Chase.
With only two completed starts to his name this season, the Barry Geraghty-ridden 10-year-old showed what he can do on a going day when carrying the famous green and gold silks of his owner JP McManus to glory in the Grade Three handicap.
Geraghty said: "He was brilliant. He stuck in a short one at the third-last, which was him being cleverer than me, but all the way through the race he was jumping almost too well and I was getting involved sooner than I wanted to be.
"He pinged the Canal Turn and I had a great ride through the race. The ground has improved and he enjoyed it, but he's just a natural."
Party Rock sprang a 33-1 surprise when making it third-time lucky in the Alder Hey Children's Charity Handicap Hurdle.
A faller two out when in with every chance two years ago, Party Rock was sixth 12 months ago and finally managed to lift the prize after only recently returning to action after 11 months on the sidelines.
Sean Quinlan had the Jenny Candlish-trained nine-year-old close up right from the start, before he moved smoothly into the lead two out. Champagne At Tara briefly looked a danger, but Party Rock galloped all the way to the line to score by five lengths, with Starchitect a head away third. Sky Khan was fourth.