SUE SMITH hopes Crabbie’s Grand National history will repeat itself when Mr Moonshine completes his Aintree build-up at Kelso today.
Her now retired Auroras Encore was fifth in the corresponding race 12 months ago before becoming the first Yorkshire horse in 53 years to win the National.
The difference today is that Mr Moonshine is in the form of his life for the High Eldwick trainer and her showjumper husband Harvey after recording back-to-back wins at Musselburgh and Warwick under stable jockey Ryan Mania.
Those races were over two and a half miles and today’s trip is just short of three miles. The question, however, is whether Mr Moonshine – who runs in the famous blue and yellow Auroras Encore colours – will have the stamina for Aintree’s four-mile three-furlong marathon after being pulled up in the race last year.
Understandably, Smith is taking it one race at a time.
“The horse is going there in good form,” she told the Yorkshire Post. “The ground should suit him because they haven’t had a huge amount of rain. It’s the right trip and he’s in good form.
“As for Aintree, we know where we are with him because he ran so well there in December when third in the Becher Chase.
“And he does seem to be in better form this year – those two wins have done his confidence the world of good and I’m hoping Kelso, it’s a good race, will be the icing on the cake.”
Clever Cookie will be bidding to maintain his excellent record when he lines up for the totepool.com Premier Kelso Hurdle at the Borders track.
The six-year-old has won four of his six starts and finished second in the other two. He holds an entry in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham, but Malton trainer Peter Niven is looking no further than this Grade Two test.
“Hopefully, as long as it’s not too soft he should run a big race,” he said.
Admission prices at Pontefract are being pegged for a fourth successive season ahead of a 16-day Flat campaign which starts on April 8.
The cost of annual membership also remains the same at £190 (single) and £255 (joint) for a campaign which will once again offer prize money in excess of £1m.
The West Yorkshire track’s Loyalty Card scheme will continue and enable patrons who pay to enter the Grandstand & Paddock Enclosure for six meetings the chance to get free admission to another meeting of their choice.
Notable Pontefract winners in 2013 were footballer Michael Owen’s Brown Panther and Libertarian, who then landed York’s Dante for Karl and Elaine Burke before finishing second in the Epsom Derby.
Top Irish trainer Dessie Hughes has given an upbeat report on Our Conor’s form before the JCB Triumph Hurdle winner contests the Stan James Champion Hurdle in 10 days time.
He said: “I wish the race were next week, he’s so well. The thing about our horse is that he excels at Cheltenham. His win in the Triumph was exceptionally good and we are hoping he can repeat that performance again this year. Hopefully, he is in the same frame of mind.”