Auroras Encore, an agonising second in the Scottish National in April, is one of two entries from Smith’s Bingley yard in the Betfair Rowland Meyrick Chase – the highly-rated Mr Moonshine is also due to line up in the stamina test over three miles.
“They are both in good form and we are hoping for a big run from both of them,” said Smith, the former show-jumping legend who runs the stables with his wife Sue.
“Auroras Encore is coming back into form and we are hoping for the Grand National with him – he’s got the scope for it. Mr Moonshine just needs more experience. He’s been done no favours by the handicapper but he needs to do his apprenticeship over fences before going up to the next level. We like him a lot. I just hope the meeting beats the weather – there are so few opportunities for horses like this.”
With stable jockey Ryan Mania suspended, the experienced Peter Buchanan rides Auroras Encore, who is the probable top-weight as Middleham Park Racing’s Junior has been declared for today’s Kempton’s King George VI Chase. Shane Byrne, a very capable conditional, will ride Mr Moonshine – his three-pound weight allowance could make a crucial difference.
Locally, Ferdy Murphy will saddle Going Wrong in the Rowland Meyrick while the in-form Tim Easterby is represented by Zitenka as Malton-based jockey Harry Haynes looks to record a second successive victory in the Wetherby feature after According To Pete’s brave victory 12 months ago for the Nelson family from Helperby, North Yorkshire.
He went on to win a big race at Haydock and was in the Grand National leading group when coming to grief in the most tragic of circumstances at Aintree last April. His trainer, Malcolm Jefferson, is represented by Cape Tribulation, last season’s Cheltenham and Aintree hero, who is back steeplechasing because his handicap mark is so high.
As for conditions, they will be very testing but clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson is still hopeful that the track will pass an 8.30am inspection today.
He says racing could have taken place on Christmas Eve with some obstacles being by-passed and was hoping for Wetherby to miss the worst of the wet weather.
“Around 70 or 80 per cent of the waterlogging has gone and we now have some small areas of standing water which we could probably weave around,” he said. “It would be touch and go but, after seeing Ascot and Haydock at the weekend, we could work around it.”
Racing is also due to be held at the track tomorrow when the Castleford Chase is the feature.
Boxing Day racing: Pages 18-20.