AHEAD of this morning’s release of the weights for the 2014 Crabbie’s Grand National, last year’s winning trainer and jockey Sue Smith and Ryan Mania teamed up for a double at Catterick yesterday.
Unfortunately, Auroras Encore has been forced into retirement and will not be able to bid for a repeat, but despite that recent blow Smith and Mania have been enjoying a good season. In Mr Moonshine, they have a National possible on their hands after his win at Warwick, and youngster Blakemount is a lively outsider for the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival.
Herdsman and Pinerolo were their two winners at Catterick, with Mania donning Festival-winning silks on both occasions as Herdsman is owned by Trevor Hemmings and Pinerolo runs in the old Mister McGoldrick colours. Herdsman (11-2) won the £12,000 Weatherbys Private Banking Handicap Chase from the staying-on Everaard and could be Eider Chase-bound. “I think he’s best in small fields, he sulked a bit at Haydock last time out,” said Mania. “He’s got loads of scope and stays all day, but he’s had plenty of problems.”
Pinerolo (13-8 favourite) justified strong support in the market to win the Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Handicap Chase in fine style. Smith and Mania were denied a treble when top weight The Clock Leary wore down long-time leader Blake Dean in the yorkshire-outdoors.co.uk Handicap Hurdle.
Champion jockey Tony McCoy has been a regular visitor to Catterick of late and was also rewarded with a double. His first win came as a surprise in the racinguk.com Novices’ Hurdle when Jonjo O’Neill’s Capote (4-1) got the better of the long odds-on favourite I Need Gold. McCoy had done his homework and kept a wide passage throughout, whereas Jason Maguire stuck tight to the rail and while the favourite drew level again at the last, Capote, also owned by Hemmings, pulled out more to win by a length and three-quarters.
Meagher said: “That was nice, Tony said he did everything right and he’ll make a nice chaser.”
It was McCoy and Maguire who dominated the finish to the Cheltenham Preview Evening February 28th Handicap Hurdle, with McCoy coming out on top again on Hawaii Five Nil.
This time McCoy was on the favourite as O’Neill’s six-year-old was sent off at 11-4, but Maguire changed his tactics and also took the wide route. Hartside still had claims at the last, too, and while Maguire forced Short Takes up to challenge McCoy after the final flight, Hawaii Five Nil eventually prevailed by a length and a quarter.
McCoy is the star attraction at Ayr today with six rides at the BetVictor Raceday. He rides Stonebrook for his boss JP McManus in the opening race and then has four mounts for Irish trainer Gordon Elliott and one for Barry Murtagh.
A total of £37,000 in prize- money is on offer and other top jockeys in action include Maguire, Brian Harding and Peter Buchanan. The feature race is the £12,000 BetVictor’s Live Casino Handicap Chase.
Meanwhile, former Gold Cup winner Long Run is still on track to run at Kelso on Thursday. Champion jumps trainer Nicky Henderson has several entries including leading Champion Hurdle hope My Tent Or Yours in the Timeform Morebattle Hurdle and 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run, who is set to use the Ivan Straker Memorial Chase as a stepping-stone for the Grand National. Speaking yesterday, Henderson said: “As things stand at the moment it looks like Long Run will be coming up along with Lady Of Provence in the bumper. I’ve been keeping in touch with the team at Kelso and the ground doesn’t look like being too bad. We haven’t decided about My Tent Or Yours yet as his owner J P McManus is currently abroad. But it still remains a possibility that he could also run.”