SEEING will be believing if Ryan Mania records the first Grade One victory of his burgeoning career today ahead of the jockey’s quest tomorrow to become the first rider in 40 years to win successive Nationals.
For Sandy Thomson’s previously unknown Seeyouatmidnight, Mania’s mount in today’s Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle, is the most improved horse in racing and is tipped by many to reach the top of the sport when he graduates to steeplechase fences next season.
And victory today would enable the jockey to reach a new landmark in his burgeoning career. Even though the National is the most high-profile race in the calendar, it only carries Grade Three status because it is a handicap – a fact that enabled the lightly-weighted Auroras Encore to prosper 12 months ago against more established rivals.
Yet, after unexpected wins at Hexham and Musselburgh, Seeyouatmidnight then landed the Grade Two Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock last time out for his small-time connections after being thrown in at the deep end against more established horses.
Success would also enable Mania, stable jockey to Sue and Harvey Smith, to record his 50th winner of the season – which would be another first.
“I’ve been really pleased with him this week. He did his last piece of serious work on Sunday, and that went well,” said Thomson, who is based in the Scottish Borders.
“People keep telling me that he needs soft ground, but I’m not sure that is necessarily the case. He broke the track record at Musselburgh, you must remember, and it never really gets soft there. If there is any rain it will not be an inconvenience, but it certainly isn’t the be-all and end-all.
“It’s a bit disappointing that a lot of the horses he beat at Haydock haven’t franked the form, but you can only beat what is put in front of you.
“He’s a chaser in the making, so whatever happens at Aintree we can just enjoy it as he’ll be jumping fences after that.”
David Pipe’s Ballynagour, a runaway winner of Cheltenham’s Byrne Group Plate under Tom Scudamore, is another horse which will be looking to graduate to Grade One honours today.
He is an eye-catching entry in the Betfred Melling Chase that was won so emphatically 12 months ago by the now injury sidelined Sprinter Sacre.
“He was very good at Cheltenham but everybody knows he is not the most consistent horse in the yard,” said Scudamore.
“Everybody saw how good he was at Cheltenham though, and if he were to repeat that run then he would be very hard to beat. However, since he joined us he hasn’t put two good runs together back-to-back.”
Tom George hopes a victory for Module will finally silence his critics after his horse posted a career-best when a staying-on third behind Sire De Grugy in the Queen Mother at Cheltenham. Some have questioned the merit of that form, but George feels Module has even more to offer.