Cheltenham Festival: One eye on the Grand National for Vintage Clouds

SUE SMITH is hopeful of a big run from Vintage Clouds in today’s fiercely-competitive three-mile Ultima Handicap Chase – one of the last trials for next month’s Grand National.

Vintage Clouds, pictured winning at Haydock under Danny Cook, will line up at Cheltenham today for Sue and Harvey Smith.

Victorious at Haydock before being pulled up in the Welsh National at Chepstow after not acting on the desperately sticky underfoot conditions, the grey has subsequently undergone a wind operation to assist his breathing.

However, Smith – who trains near Bingley with her husband Harvey – believes fresh ground will play to the strengths of the Trevor Hemmings-owned horse who will be ridden by Danny Cook.

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After failing to complete the course in the corresponding race in 2017 when still a novice, Vintage Clouds ran with enormous credit to finish third 12 months ago to Coo Star Sivola who, once again, heads the entries for trainer Nick Williams and jockey Lizzie Kelly.

“He’s going there in very good form,” said Smith, whose only previous Festival winner came courtesy of Mister McGoldrick in 2008.

“Everything should be there to suit him. Ground-wise, it is not going to be as desperate as Chepstow.

“We’re quite happy with the form he is in. What will be will be. We would like him to run a big race, come back in one piece and get a run in the National.”

With Smith still unconvinced Vintage Clouds will be make the 40-runner cut for the National – her horse is 61st in the handicap at present – she said the chaser will be handed a precautionary entry in the Irish equivalent as a back-up.