danny cook is the first to attribute his run of success to the influence of Sue and Harvey Smith – and the confidence that Yorkshire’s Grand National-winning training team have instilled in him.
It was self-evident at Catterick on Thursday when Cook refused to give up when Lackamon blundered badly, and at regular intervals, in the North Yorkshire National before overhauling long-term leader Alto des Mottes, and jockey Brian Hughes, on the line after being 10 lengths in arrears at the last of 24 obstacles.
This was a remarkable reversal in fortune for Cook. Thirty minutes previously, he suffered the indignity of a final-flight fall from Brian Ellison’s Always Resolute when horse and rider had the novice hurdle at their mercy.
Thanks to his new-found confidence, Cook was able to conjure a winning ride out of Lackamon, which had to be seen to be believed – this was the horse’s first win in nearly three years and it was fitting that the Smiths should record their 1,000th career win in such a race.
They, after all, are pre-eminent when it comes to the training of staying steeplechasers.
“They suit my style riding a lot,” said Cook whose four rides at Wetherby today include the Ann Ellis-owned Vendor, who was a course winner at the beginning of last month. “They train for stamina on their big gallop. Their horses are not going to quicken – but they can maintain the pace throughout a race. I gelled with them straight away. My first 15 rides for Sue, I think I won on eight occasions.”
Cook, who is equally grateful for the opportunities provided by the aforementioned Ellison, cites other factors in this increasingly successful alliance.
He says it gives him “great confidence” that he is not tied down by instructions, one reason why he is accruing fewer bans for riding infringements.
“They leave it to me and it gives me great confidence that they trust me to make the right decisions,” says Cook, who also acknowledged the invaluable role of his agent Bruce Jeffrey.
“I always try hard, but I think there were times when I was trying too hard because I was under pressure to succeed, and putting myself under pressure to win.
“As I have become more experienced, I feel I have become more relaxed because I know I have the confidence of the owners and trainers that I ride for. I now feel able to ride horses to suit the race, and that makes all the difference.”
Cook also says the quality of his rides is improving – he believes the Smith-trained Wakanda and Straidnahanna, and the Ellison-trained Definitly Red, who lines up at Warwick today, are horses that can take his career to the next level.