Black Op secured a consolation after his Cheltenham Festival runner-up spot by winning the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.
The Tom George-trained seven-year-old failed to get the better of Samcro in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Prestbury Park last month.
And, despite being behind the previously unbeaten On The Blind Side in the ante-post market, Black Op produced a battling performance to win the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One race by half a length from Lostintranslation.
Afterwards jockey Noel Fehily said: “He’s a tough horse. I was in front far sooner than I wanted to be and he was really tough on the run-in to battle back.
“His run at Cheltenham was fantastic against Samcro. We all know what a great horse Samcro is and he ran a great race to finish second to him. He deserved to win a big one.”
A relieved George added: He said: “Noel didn’t want to be in front that long, but they weren’t going quick enough. “He was babyish in front, but picked up again when the other one came at him.
“I would have thought he’ll be going chasing (next season), though nothing is set in stone. He jumps his hurdles likes fences so that’s what we’ll be doing, I think.
“He might just have a school over fences before he goes out to grass, we have done that before as the ground in the autumn can be too quick to school.”
Black Op claims Aintree consolation