Russell will partner Vintage Star in Chase

Vintage Star with Ryan Mania on board (Picture John Giles/PA).
Vintage Star with Ryan Mania on board (Picture John Giles/PA).
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RYAN MANIA is set to ride Sue Smith’s Mr Moonshine, twice a winner this season, in the Crabbie’s Grand National following the retirement of last year’s Aintree hero Auroras Encore.

His decision explains why Irish veteran Davy Russell will be in the saddle when the Smith-trained Vintage Star lines up in today’s Baylis & Harding Affordable Luxury Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.

Vintage Star’s owner Trevor Hemmings is keen for the same rider to partner his horse at Cheltenham and Aintree, said High Eldwick-based Smith.

The trainer also saddles Catterick winner Herdsman in the four-mile Terry Biddlecombe National Hunt Chase for amateur riders.

Her Festival contingent is completed by Blakemount, a leading contender for Friday’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, and Cloudy Too, who will take his chance in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup on the same day.

The winner of Wetherby’s Rowland Meyrick Chase, he will be a first Festival ride for his regular jockey Jonathan England.

Smith, whose Mister McGoldrick was a 66-1 Cheltenham winner in 2008, told The Yorkshire Post: “To win one race at the festival is tough. To win a Grade One is even tougher.

“They are four of our nicest horses and the main thing is that they all come back in one piece. They all go there in good form.

“Ryan is going to stay on Mr Moonshine for Aintree; he ran well in the Becher, and Trevor asked for the same rider for both races for Vintage Star. Cloudy Too has done nothing wrong all season and deserves to take his chance in the Gold Cup.”

Today’s Yorkshire-trained runners see Richard Guest, based near Wetherby, saddle the outsider Sky Khan in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the first race of the meeting. Jake Greenall takes the ride.

Malton trainer John Quinn’s Cockney Sparrow will bid to foil Quevega when the mare seeks a record-breaking sixth successive win in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle – the booking of AP McCoy is a significant plus.

Drying ground should play to the strengths of Malcolm Jefferson’s 2012 Festival winner Attaglance in the concluding novice handicap chase.

The horse’s rider Brian Hughes, based near Thirsk, already has a career-best 72 wins to his name this season – the only omission from his CV is a Festival winner.