SUN Cloud’s resolution in winning the North Yorkshire National finally brought trainer Malcolm Jefferson a welcome change of luck in Catterick’s feature jumps race of the year.
The Malton handler had twice been denied victory in the final strides of this three-mile, six-furlong marathon and yesterday’s long-overdue success was the highlight of a landmark day for Yorkshire stables – all seven races went to locally-trained horses on attritional, rain-softened ground after the meeting passed an inspection at daybreak.
As well as Sun Cloud’s victory further forging the partnership between Jefferson and jockey Brian Hughes, one of the success stories of this National Hunt campaign, Malton trainer Brian Ellison recorded a hat-trick as he looks to eclipse his yard’s 105 winners in 2013 – and Grand National-winning jockey Ryan Mania recorded a new personal landmark with the victory of Hit The Top.
Ridden with both patience and confidence by the in-form Hughes, Sun Cloud gradually pulled clear of the favourite Merlin’s Wish and the 2010 Hennessy hero Diamond Harry who suffered a crashing fall at the second last. James Reveley’s mount eventually rose to his feet, and to a ripple of applause, after being left badly winded by his exertions in the heavy going.
“That was grand. He travelled grand and his jumping has got an awful lot better as he was a bit stupid when he first started,” said Jefferson.
“Brian said he was jumping out of his hands the whole way. I thought the handicapper had been a bit harsh putting him up 10lb for his last win as it wasn’t a good race, but he’s done it well.
“Classic Capers was called the winner of this race a few years ago in 2007 and it turned out he’d got done by a short head. The judge saw the photo and had to change his mind. According To Pete got caught right on the line by General Hardi in 2011 as well, so I’m glad to finally win the race.”
The day had begun with AP McCoy winning the opener on Ellison’s Magic Skyline before the 18-time champion jockey completed a quickfire double on Great Habton handler Tim Easterby’s Getabuzz.
Alderbrook Lad clinched his second Catterick victory in little over a week with a spring-heeled display in the WL And Hector Christie Memorial Trophy for Middleham trainer Micky Hammond and jockey Joe Colliver.
Another course winner to excel was Ellison’s 5-2 shot Yorkist, who took the novice hurdle in the hands of conditional jockey Nathan Moscrop.
Ellison was denied a one-two when newcomer El Massivo crashed out at the final flight but this was a special win – Yorkist was the horse that provided his yard with its 105th and final win of 2013.
“Yorkist is just in really good form with himself at the moment and when you consider Nathan said he hated the ground, it was a good performance,” said the handler. “He’ll go novice chasing eventually. We’ve already schooled him and he jumps very well.”
Ellison’s treble was completed in the bumper by 5-2 shot Gone Forever, ridden by Craig Gallagher, while Hit The Top’s hurdling success was a 32nd success this season for Ryan Mania.
It saw the 24-year-old eclipse his 2009-10 tally when he was a promising conditional rider – and prove that last year’s Grand National win on Auroras Encore was no fluke.
“He did it well in the end. I thought he wanted a bit better ground, but he’s proved me wrong,” said Sue Smith’s stable jockey.
Mania’s next ambition is a Cheltenham Festival winner and the Smith stable’s Cloudy Too has now been given an entry in the Ryanair Chase in addition to his place in the Gold Cup.
The Ryanair field is headed by last year’s winner Cue Card for the father and son team of Colin and Joe Tizzard. Second in last month’s King George VI Chase, he still holds a Gold Cup entry despite stamina doubts.
To the surprise, and disappointment, of Cue Card fans, the horse has not been entered in the two-mile BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase where the 26 entries are headed by Sprinter Sacre.
However, Nicky Henderson’s superstar still has many fitness questions to answer after being diagnosed with a fibrillating heart that saw him pulled up at Kempton – the only time the champion has been beaten in a steeplechase.
Henderson has also entered Captain Conan, Kid Cassidy and French Opera while his great rival Paul Nicholls has entered King George third Al Ferof as well as his top-class novices Dodging Bullets and Hinterland.
Meanwhile, the complexion of the Ladbrokes World Hurdle dramatically changed with confirmation that 2013 winner Solwhit will not defend his title because of injury. Trainer Charles Byrnes was forced to draw stumps with the luckless 10-year-old after a problem which prevented him from making his reappearance at Leopardstown over Christmas failed to show the required improvement.
It means four-time winner Big Buck’s is as short as 6-4 favourite to win the race for a fifth time – even though the Nicholls horse has been on the injury sidelines since December 2012. He is due to make his long-awaited comeback in Cheltenham’s Cleeve Hurdle at the end of the month.
Mad Moose, the bad boy of racing, has now been banned from the sport.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies 10-year-old has frequently refused to race, most notably in the Stowe Family Law LLP Grand Cup at York last May.
The last straw for the BHA’s disciplinary panel came when the gelding got up to his usual antics at the start in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown a month ago.
Every attempt was made to get Mad Moose to take part and although he did briefly set off, he would not race properly and pulled himself up before the first fence. Ironically, Mad Moose’s antics led to the horse becoming an internet hit and gathering his own fan club.