The Nicky Henderson-trained runner looked a reformed character in the Betway Aintree Hurdle

SEVEN Barrows maestro Nicky Henderson, jockey Daryl Jacob and owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, registered a 17/1 double on Aintree on Thursday.

L’Ami Serge won the Grade 1 Betway Aintree Hurdle for connections. The 5/1 shot relished the strong pace set by Gary Moore’s Diakali and stayed on powerfully after the final flight to master 11/10 favourite Supasundae by three lengths.

The same winning connections had previously teamed up to land the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Hurdle with We Have A Dream (2/1).

L’Ami Serge was a well-beaten eighth in the Grade 1 Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but relished today’s drop in trip to two miles and four furlongs.

Henderson said: “L’Ami Serge deserved to win a big race. He is an enigma and we had him entered in a few races at Aintree this week, but this was the right race to target.

“It’s a big well done to the team as to get horses back from Cheltenham is always tough, but he did it well today. They didn’t go fast enough in the Stayers’ for him but today was perfect for him.”

Anthony Bromley, racing manager to Simon Munir and Isaac Souede said: “It’s really lovely for L’Ami Serge as he has always threatened to win a big race in England.

“The race set up perfectly for him today as he loves to come from the back of the field like that. He loves a furious pace and everything worked out well today.

“You have to produce him late and Daryl had to ride him coolly today. He jumped to the front at the last and stayed on well.

“He didn’t get home in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last time on heavy ground, but he relished that trip today.

“He won the French Champion Hurdle at Auteuil last year and that will again be his aim this year – It’s been a brilliant day for Simon and Isaac.”

The 9/2 shot relished the end to end gallop that was set by the free-running Diakali and was still travelling well when the field turned for home.

Jockey Daryl Jacob had to work hard on the eight-year old after the final flight but his mount found plenty to swamp Supasundae and the pair scampered clear to record the third Grade 1 victory on the card for trainer Nicky Henderson (following the victories of We Have A Dream and Might Bite).

Jacob said: “That was a very good performance from L’Ami Serge and fair play to Sarah (who looks after L’Ami Serge at home) here. She does everything with him and, to be honest, I don’t ride him very much at home because she knows him inside out. She knows when the horse is on his day and she told me that he was today.

“It is a great team effort by Simon (Munir – joint-owner), Isaac (Souede – joint-owner) and Anthony (Bromley – racing manager to Munir and Souede). After Cheltenham, I was quite keen to come back to two and a half miles in England. They race slightly differently out in France which means you can ride him a bit different and he can see out the longer trip. I must admit, I was cursing myself a little bit two out for coming off the rail. The one thing I said I am not doing today is coming off the rail, but I had to follow Supasundae through and I was not sure whether it was going to open up enough down the inner. L’Ami Serge is tough and, when he is on his A-game like that, he is a very talented horse.”

Simon Munir, joint-owner along with Isaac Souede, was delighted with the performance of L’Ami Serge. “Nicky had been saying he had been working very well – it was a great performance,” said Munir.

“He’s a wise old horse and we try and hold up him now – he’s run very well. It’s a fantastic feeling when they win here – it’s living a boyhood dream. The one thing I’ve learned about owning horses is to enjoy moments like this as you never know when things will go wrong. When you get ‘phone calls like that, your heart sinks but sometimes it can be a blessing in disguise. We Have A Dream ended up missing Cheltenham due to a temperature but it turned out to be a good thing as he won so well here today.”

Munir is also looking forward to Saturday’s Randox Health Grand National, in which he owns Ucello Conti along with Souede.

“Winning the Grand National would be the biggest dream of all. We’re hoping it’s third time lucky with Ucello Conti – he finished sixth first time (in 2016 behind Rule The World) and he was brought down last year (Ucello Conti was officially deemed to have unseated his rider when being badly hampered at Becher’s Brook second time around – the 22nd fence). I’m hoping he can run a big race.”

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