Racing: Sue Smith aims for a Kelso Moon landing

Richard Johnson rides Whispering Harry to victory at Newbury yesterday. Picture: Getty
Richard Johnson rides Whispering Harry to victory at Newbury yesterday. Picture: Getty
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SUE Smith is looking for a big run from Mr Moonshine at Kelso today as the gelding continues his preparations for a crack at the £1 million Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree.

The Yorkshire raider, who has impressed in his last two starts at Warwick and Musselburgh, faces just four rivals in the Best Odds Guaranteed At Premier Chase.

Ryan Mania-ridden Mr Moonshine represents the same Scottish-based connections that landed last year’s Aintree spectacular with Auroras Encore and Mrs Smith said: “He’s going up to Kelso in really good form and I’m hoping he will run well. They haven’t had all the rain and the trip and ground will suit. The small field is also in his favour. I just hope to God he comes out of the race well as you never know with these horses, but he’s been doing great. He may have another race before the National, but it would have to be the right kind of race and we will see what happens at Kelso first.”

Up against Mr Moonshine are Harry Fry’s first course runner Opening Batsman, Donald McCain’s course and distance winner Kruzhlinin, Harriet Graham’s Scotswell and Patrick Griffin’s Irish visitor Maggio, who has won three times over hurdles at the borders circuit. Ten runners have been declared for the £35,000 £1.25 Million Scoop6 Premier Kelso Hurdle and they include Peter Niven-trained Clever Cookie who is on a hat-trick after wins at Musselburgh in January and February.

All being well, the improving six-year-old, top-rated on official figures, could be heading for Cheltenham for a crack at the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle on 14 March.

Another Grand National contender, Monbeg Dude, makes a belated last public appearanace ahead of the Aintree showpiece when he lines up for the William Hill Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster today.

Last season’s Welsh Grand National hero is a leading fancy for the world’s greatest steeplechase in Liverpool on 5 April and has been re-routed to Town Moor after a poor scope caused him to miss the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock two weeks ago. “We had the setback when we wanted to run him at Haydock with his blood tests, but that has all cleared up now,” said trainer Michael Scudamore. “He had a few options but the race at Doncaster seems the right one and it’s exciting to get him out again.”

Scudamore is delighted to have Paul Carberry, who partnered his stable star to victory in the Chepstow marathon, back on board. “Paul won the Welsh National on him with a great ride and we’re delighted to have him back. We’re lucky to have someone of his experience,” said the Ross-on-Wye handler.

Monbeg Dude is owned by a syndicate that includes former England rugby union captain Mike Tindall, husband of the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips. His fellow co-owner and Gloucester rugby winger James Simpson-Daniel said: “We’re living the dream, our luck has been in one direction thus far and if we can continue to enjoy it, we’re all very good friends which has made it even more enjoyable.”

Another National winner in the line-up is Godsmejudge, who took the Scottish equivalent at Ayr for Alan King in April and is also on target for the big one at Aintree. “He has not run since disappointing at Sandown in early December, but that was the time when our horses were just starting to go wrong, so we put a line through that,” the Barbury Castle handler told “He has been working well and, having skipped Haydock last week because of the heavy ground, we are looking to get back on track given the right conditions.”

Paul Nicholls believes both his runners, Mon Parrain and Harry The Viking, have something to prove. Harry The Viking, part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, looks to be the pick of his duo as he is a course-and-distance winner and ran quite well back at Town Moor three weeks ago when wearing blinkers for the first time. Mon Parrain has not shown much in the few races he has had in recent seasons, but he has been a good horse, finishing second in the Topham at Aintree in April 2011.

“Harry The Viking ran a bit better in blinkers the last day and the better the ground, the better the chance he’ll have,” said the Ditcheat trainer. “Mon Parrain would have a chance if he can come back to the form of a couple of years ago, but he has been out of form.”

Nicholls also believes Rebel Rebellion and Ulck Du Lin have questions to answer as they aim to extend the trainer’s tremendous record in the Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury.

Nicholls has saddled six of the last eight winners of the Grade Three handicap chase and had hoped to see last year’s winner Pacha Du Polder defend his crown. But with testing conditions assured in Berkshire, Nicholls has had to change his running plans.

Rebel Rebellion gave Ryan Mahon a real thrill when winning the Grand Sefton over Aintree’s National fences earlier this season and the young jockey keeps the ride. Ulck Du Lin, the mount of Noel Fehily, has dropped below his last winning mark having failed to get competitive in four starts so far this season. “I really wanted to run Pacha Du Polder again. We’ve been aiming him for the race, but unfortunately the ground has gone heavy and that wouldn’t have suited him,” said Nicholls.

“Rebel Rebellion went up a few pounds for winning the Grand Sefton. He ran well enough over two miles last time, but two and a half miles will suit him better. Hopefully he’ll run well, but he is probably handicapped to the hilt.

“Ulck Du Lin, on the other hand, is handicapped to win, but he has been a bit out of form this season, so he’ll need to bounce back.”