1,2 for Henderson in Aintree opener
Darlan & Tony McCoy
(Healy Racing Photos)
Nicky Henderson's ace was second to Cinders And Ashes in the Supreme Novices' at Cheltenham but went one place better here under Tony McCoy.
The 7-4 favourite didn't jump well but was on the heels of the leaders turning in and a good leap at the second-last took him to the front.
Stablemate Captain Conan (9-1) chased him hard but was well-held at the line in second under Barry Geraghty.
Paul Nicholls' Prospect Wells (4-1), the mount of Ruby Walsh, was third having held every chance turning for home, but wasn't able to get closer to the winner than he had at Cheltenham.
Henderson said: "You always expect them round here to go a really good gallop, but in fairness the boys said before the race there was no pace, so we knew that. They were all queuing up and it was going to be a bit of a dash.
"It was nice to see both those two horses quicken up like that.
"I think they are two nice horses. It's a pity one had to get beat. They are two nice horses to look forward to.
"One day Darlan will jump fences. He's a big weakly sort of a horse. He's got a lot of physical development in him still.
"I suspect he might stay over hurdles but we've only brushed at it. We've got all summer to think about it."
Darlan was cut to 12-1 from 20s for next year's Champion Hurdle by Paddy Power.
McCoy said: "The slow early pace probably didn't help him. He's a horse we've always thought a lot of.
"He was going very well in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury and took a heavy fall. That knocked his confidence because at Cheltenham he got a bit far back and didn't jump as fluently, but he stayed on well.
"Today I wanted to ride him handy. He didn't jump as well down the back as he has done. I think he won because he's a good horse and he's got the potential to be a very good horse."
Owner JP McManus said: "Nicky's done a great job with the horse. I thought he looked great today and I was happy with his condition.
"AP (McCoy) said he's done it workmanlike and I think he's done his quota (for this season). I think we'll let him have a rest."
Nicholls, who saddled the third, Prospect Wells, added: "He was probably just beaten by two better horses on the day.
"A good summer off wouldn't hurt him and maybe a breathing operation. We'll look to bring him back in good handicap hurdles next autumn."
Oscara Dara was fourth, picking up more prize-money for Seven Barrows handler Henderson.
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