Chicago-grey Navan 19/02/2013

Chicago Grey clears the final fence on his way to victory at Navan

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)  

Chicago Grey provides 25-1 upset in Red Mills

Report: Navan, Tuesday
Navan: Red Mills Chase (Grade 2)
2m4f, 5yo+

CHICAGO GREY, without a victory since the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2011, sprang a 25-1 surprise when staying on strongly under Davy Condon for trainer Gordon Elliott.

The contest appeared a golden opportunity for Rubi Light to complete a hat-trick of victories in the race, with the switch from the usual venue at Gowran Park not expected to inconvenience the favourite. However, the odds-on shot quickly wilted rounding the final turn.

Chicago Grey's main aim this season is the John Smith's Grand National, with BetVictor and bet365 offering 20-1 (from 33) for the Aintree showpiece.

With only four runners, Andrew Lynch was straight into the lead on Rubi Light, and the pair appeared to set a steady pace, with Hidden Cyclone second and Foildubh third.

Condon was at pains to keep Chicago Grey away from the other runners, opting to head towards the stands' side on the home straight in the first circuit, with the other runners on the far side.

There was little change to the running order, with Lynch beginning to stretch things down the back straight, with a purposeful leap five out establishing a lead of several lengths.

However, that gap quickly disappeared as Foildubh and Hidden Cyclone swamped the leader rounding the turn, and relegated Rubi Light to third.

Hidden Cyclone also had little more to give with his challenge soon flattening, while Condon had stealthily moved to make a winning challenge on the far side.

Coming down the home straight Foildubh and Chicago Grey were separated by the width of the track, but it was Condon's mount who travelled better, and the pair stayed on to win with Foildubh second at 5-1. Rubi Light was a well beaten third.

Following the race, Elliott cited a wind op as the reason for the improved performance. He said: "We thought he would run well. He's had a wind operation this year and that seems to have made a big difference and the soft ground played into his hands. He'll go straight to the Grand National now."

As sporting sights go, few match the sheer excitement of 40 horses thundering towards the first fence at Aintree for the John Smith's Grand National.

A race steeped in history that always provides a story, the Grand National is the ultimate test of endurance and skill for both horse and jockey, as the pairing must navigate 30 treacherous fences, and then still have enough stamina to make a challenge on the run-in.

To manage a clear round in the 4m4f epic is no mean achievement, with the fences notoriously difficult and offering unique challenges.

Over the years, there have been countless memorable moments, Devon Loch's phantom leap in the 1956 contest, Foinavon's shock 100-1 win in 1967 and the brilliance of Red Rum, who took the chase on three occasions in 1973, 74 and 77.

In 1981 Aldaniti and Bob Champion completed a heartwarming tale when winning the race, as Aldaniti had recovered from a career-threatening injury while jockey Champion had battled back from cancer.

In 2011 the race provided another fairytale story as Donald McCain emulated his father and Aintree legend Ginger when winning with Ballabriggs - and that came just a year after champion jockey Tony McCoy finally gained victory in the race at the 15th time of asking.