Tauherenikau trainer Aaron Bidlake has backed up his Koral victory from seven days ago to win the 140th running of the $75,000 Grand National Steeplechase at Riccarton today.
Bidlake maintained throughout the week that Eric The Viking had the ability to stay out the 5600m the distance and so it proved. Today's steeplechase was an extra 1350m longer than last Saturday's 4250m Koral.
Eric The Viking kept kicking over the final 300m and leaped over the last two jumps with ease to beat long shot Athenry and Rooyvoo.
Bidlake has been open about his confidence for the Grand National since he arrived in Canterbury just over 10 days ago.
"I was always confident, I've been feeling that way all week - even before we came down here," he said.
"I thought we might have struggled to win the Koral, but I always knew we could win the national."
Eric The Viking had form before heading to Canterbury after he broke maiden's in the Norm Beven Memorial steeplechase in Wellington in his previous start before the Koral in mid July.
Jockey Shaun Phelan took Eric The Viking to the front early and when the pressure came on just before at final two jumps, the tough nine year old dug in.
The field bunched with 600m to go, but Phelan always had too much horse under him.
The John Wheeler-trained Athenry was the surprise package of the race when running on at the post after being pulled up in the maiden steeplechase seven days earlier, too exhausted to continue.
The turnaround was impressive, but not surprising from the master trainer who had pulled off miracles in the Grand National before.
The Kevin Myers-trained Roodyvoo looked to be giving the comeback queen Jo Rathbone a chance to finally get her name on the Grand National trophy, but it was to be Bidlake's week.
Rathbone was not originally down to ride and did not even have riding gear in the south until Myers - her employer - asked her to take the ride.
Easily New Zealand's most successful female jumps jockey, Rathbone has never won the Grand National Steeplechase.
Matt Cropp and Tim where the only casualties after they fell with just under a lap to run.
Tim caused Phelan some issues during the running when he continued on without Cropp and got close to Eric The Viking in the running.
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