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The previously unbeaten Fingal Bay had to make do with the runner-up spot behind Lovcen in a thrilling finish to the John Smith's Sefton Novices' Hurdle at Aintree.
Fingal Bay was forced to miss last month's Cheltenham Festival due to injury but was 13-8 favourite to gain compensation on Merseyside, and he made his move to the front leaving the back straight, where he looked to have most of his rivals in trouble.
Alan King's 8-1 shot Lovcen, beaten into fourth in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham, was being driven along by Robert Thornton, but responded generously and after the duo settled down to fight it out after the final flight, he saw out the extended three miles best to score by a length and three-quarters.
King said: "He's very tough. We were very pleased at Cheltenham and we came here hoping he would run very well, but that surprised me a little. He was off the bridle a long way and kept on finding.
"That's very special. He has a real good bunch of owners and I'm so chuffed for them. I had to get an owner for him halfway through the season and we got a few mates together. It means a lot."