Brave contenders pipped at the post

It was a case of so near, but yet so far for McKelvey and Slim Pickings yesterday, as they were edged out into second and third respectively behind Silver Birch in an epic finish for the John Smith's Grand National.

It was a case of so near, but yet so far for McKelvey and Slim Pickings yesterday, as they were edged out into second and third respectively behind Silver Birch in an epic finish for the John Smith's Grand National.

McKelvey gave a brilliant first ride in the race to Tom O'Brien, the jockey find of the season who was motoring home in the dying strides having seemed to be struggling off the pace for much of the four-and-a-half miles.

Beaten by just three-quarters of a length, the horse was found to have ruptured a tendon despite his heroic effort.

Trainer Peter Bowen said: "That felt brilliant, until we got beat.

"The horse injured himself, that's why he drifted across the track down the straight. He'll be fine, he just needs a bit of time off.

"I've been second in the Gold Cup with Take The Stand and now second in the National - I suppose someone has to get beat.

"Maybe we'll have some celebrations tomorrow - it's a long way home. I have to be pleased, but I prefer winning."

O'Brien added: "I have to be happy, but I didn't think I was quite going to get up. Everything went to plan and he jumped super."

Slim Pickings looked as much the winner as Silver Birch inside the last mile and was absolutely lobbing along under Barry Geraghty before the winner took over.

His trainer Tom Taaffe did not actually make Aintree after suffering travelling difficulties in Ireland.

"Put it this way, I won't be using that tour company again!" he joked.

"He gave everyone a super time. He jumped for fun and was almost running too well for his own good."

Geraghty was hit with a three-day ban for using the whip with excessive force (April 25 to 27).

"I knew we were in trouble when the winner came to us two out, but he kept on well," Geraghty said.

Nick Williams was understandably delighted with fourth-placed Philson Run, a 100-1 shot whose best form has been on a softer surface.

He was in with a shot turning for home and kept on gamely when the leaders had gone clear. He said: "I'm thrilled to bits. The ground was perfect for him. He'll be turned out for the season and the plan will be to come back next year."

Liberthine's amateur rider Sam Waley-Cohen can do no wrong over the daunting Liverpool birch having won three times before in the Topham and Fox Hunters'.

He was always in contention, eventually finishing fifth on the mare, who failed to get into foal.

Monkerhostin was the subject of a sensational gamble close to the off.

Philip Hobbs' horse was a general 25-1 shot in the morning, but was backed into 8-1 co-favouritism with Point Barrow and Joes Edge.

Unfortunately his challenge lasted only as far as the Foinavon fence (the seventh), where he refused, and he could be out again shortly.

Thirteen horses finished, but Davy Russell was unseated from Livingstonebramble at the sixth and was taken to hospital for precautionary X-rays on his back and shoulder.

Graphic Approach, a faller, had to be treated extensively for heat stress after collapsing near The Chair.

Of the former Grand National winners in the race, last year's hero Numbersixvalverde plugged on for sixth, while 2005 scorer Hedgehunter was ninth.

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