National hero is on the way home after successful operation

Sue Smith with Grand National winner Auroras Encore and jockey Ryan Mania, at the stables at High Eldwick.
Sue Smith with Grand National winner Auroras Encore and jockey Ryan Mania, at the stables at High Eldwick.
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Auroras Encore could return to Sue Smith’s Bingley stables tomorrow to continue his recuperaton following a successful operation to repair a fracture in a leg.

The Grand National winner suffered the career-ending injury to his off-fore during last Saturday’s Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster and underwent surgery on Tuesday to have screws inserted.

The 12-year-old will not race again, but the first Yorkshire-trained winner of the world’s greatest steeplechase since 1960 is said to be making a fine recovery from what was described as a serious injury.

As well as the fracture knitting together, there are always risks when any man or animal undergoes a general anaesthetic – particularly the nerve-wracking period when they come round from the surgery.

“He’s all okay. He’s had all his bandages and everything taken off and, hopefully, we are going to pick him up on Sunday morning,” said the trainer who used to ride out Auroras Encore on a regular basis and was in the saddle when the horse paraded at last summer’s Great Yorkshire Show.

“He’s been at our own vet, down at Aireworth vets in Keighley. They’ve done an exceptionally good job.

“It’s only two miles down the road from us which was a great bonus obviously dealing with him quickly before he had his operation.

“They have done a very good job and all is well with the horse.”

Smith and husband Harvey have entered Mr Moonshine and Vintage Star in this year’s National, but their angst this week over Auroras Encore was illustrated by the reaction from stable jockey Ryan Mania who was in the saddle at Aintree.

“I haven’t been thinking ‘oh no, there goes my ride in the National’ – I just want him to be okay,” said the 24-year-old.

“It will be good to get him home. He’s going the right way, thankfully, and now all we can do is hope he keeps improving.

“He’s a hardy old soul, so he’ll keep fighting.”

Colin Tizzard admits he is leaning towards the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup as the preferred Festival target for Cue Card.

The Betfair Chase winner and King George VI Chase runner-up will only switch to the Ryanair Chase if the ground is heavy.

Though less prestigious, Cue Card did win the Ryanair Chase last year and many think the trip – five furlongs shorter than the three-and-a-quarter-mile card – plays to the strengths of Tizzard’s stable star.

“He’s fine and he’s just starting to do some faster work now,” said the Dorset trainer.

“We are definitely siding with the Gold Cup, but if it came up heavy then we could swing back the other way.”

Nicky Henderson is praying today’s meeting at Sandown is given the green light to allow Oscar Whisky to continue his education over fences in the Betfred TV Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase.

The top-class hurdler was narrowly beaten by Taquin Du Seuil on his chasing debut at Cheltenham in November, but has struck twice at Prestbury Park since and will aim to complete the hat-trick against just two opponents – Benvolio and Manyriverstocross – in today’s Grade One feature.

Testing conditions are assured for the extended two-and-a-half-mile contest, but Henderson is more concerned about the fixture going ahead.