Becher Chase/Many Clouds Chase

THE feelgood story of last Saturday, with respect to the connections of the Tingle Creek winner, was surely the emotional triumph of the bold-jumping grey Snow Leopardess (Charlie Longsdon/Aidan Coleman) in the Becher Chase at Aintree.

She put herself in line for a fairytale bid for the Grand National as she clung on grimly to deny the late lunge of Hill Sixteen (Sandy Thomson/Ryan Mania) by a nose, and reward those who had backed her into clear favouritism at 4/1.

Checkitout and Domaine De L’Isle filled the other placings in a race which became an extreme test on ground made very soft by heavy rain.

The luckless horse in the field was Chris’s Dream, as Henry de Bromhead’s top-weight seemed to be travelling as well as anything when unseating Jonjo O’Neill Jr after the Canal Turn.

He jumped the fence well, and his rider got unbalanced some way afterwards, but it was too far from home to say it made the difference between winning and losing. He did seem to enjoy the task, however, and will be of obvious interest if coming back again in April.

Bowled along

The winner is at her best when attacking her fences from the front, and has never disappointed when allowed to bowl along. This was a gutsy win, as she was pretty lonely from the final fence, and needed waking up again by her rider to rally, which saw Coleman incur a whip penalty.

Owned by ITV Racing anchor Alice Plunkett’s brother-in-law Andrew Fox-Pitt, the mare looks made for the Grand National, but Longsdon will have to convince the owner, who is said to be wary of running in the marathon.

She would certainly be an unusual and memorable winner, as not only are greys and mares rare winners of the National, but she has also had a foal while sidelined with injury, and that would certainly be a first.

Stamina proved

The Many Clouds Chase proved a gruelling affair in which few of the runners shone but, despite stamina concerns over the extended three miles and a furlong, Protektorat (Dan Skelton/Bridget Andrews) was always travelling best.

The writing was firmly on the wall when he loomed up to join Native River approaching the fourth-last fence and, while the latter tried to hang on to his coat-tails, the younger horse gradually drew clear to win by 25 lengths.

Made favourite when the line-up was confirmed, the winner was very easy to back in the conditions, being sent off at 4/1 in the end, but put those fears aside with an impressive performance, and one which suggests staying really is his game.

Very tired

Native River, in truth, was never able to jump with his usual zest, and it was just his courage and stamina which kept him in contention until getting very tired from two out.

He’s not the force of old, but a win in the Cotswold Chase earlier this year shows he’s no back number, and he may still have something to offer assuming he bounces back from this attritional contest.

There was talk of a Gold Cup bid for the winner, and his rider didn’t play that down, saying: “Protektorat has got an unbelievable amount of talent. We’ve always known it, but he has been keen in the past and we were just trying to use it right.

“That was my only concern today. He’s a big, strong horse and I’m not very big. We went a sensible gallop, but he’s got a high-cruising speed and all he does is keep going.”