Cook closing in on career-best tally of victories

THE aptly-named Grate Fella could have booked his ticket to Aintree in April after the young chaser defied top weight at Catterick.

Wakanda and Danny Cook, left, win the CE Facilities Novices Chase at Haydock. Picture: John Giles/PA

The seven-year-old, having only his fourth run over fences, disposed of several seasoned campaigners when making all the running in the Handicap Chase.

In-form rider Danny Cook set a merry gallop from early on and the Sue Smith-trained gelding found more when the pack tried to close in the straight to score by six lengths from Russborough, to register his third course triumph.

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“Danny rode him quite positively and it pays off with him,” said Ryan Clavin, assistant to the High Eldwick trainer and her husband Harvey. “Hopefully, he can keep improving and there might be a big race in him somewhere.

“He’s still learning the job, but he’s a lovely horse and will definitely come on from this.

“There’s nothing in mind for him at the minute but Mr Ashby (owner) would like to have a runner at Aintree’s Grand National Festival, so hopefully we can find something suitable there.

“That might be the main goal this year. He’ll either go there or to Ayr.”

Cook was completing a double after taking advantage of Tango De Juilley’s untimely exit at the fourth-last to bring Yorkist home a facile winner of the three-runner novice chase.

The 8-11 favourite was tanking along nicely in front when he got too close to the obstacle, giving the aforementioned Coleman no chance of staying in the saddle and leaving Brian Ellison’s runner to cross the line unchallenged by 23 lengths from Calculated Risk.

“Danny said he still had loads of running left in him, so it would have been interesting,” said Malton-based Ellison, who has given his charge an Arkle entry.

Both Ellison and Smith are key supporters of Cook as the North Yorkshire rider continues to make up for lost time after four weeks on the injury sidelines with a broken forearm.

In eight races since returning from injury at Musselburgh last Friday, North Yorkshire-based Cook has won four races – including a high-profile Group Two success at Haydock last Saturday aboard the front-running Wakanda – and been no worse than runner-up in his remaining four contests.

The run of success has left Cook on the 29-winner mark for the season, one shy of the career-best tally of 30 victories which he recorded in 2012-13 before switching agents and teaming up with Bruce Jeffrey.

Cook will be looking to add to his tally at Doncaster’s two-day Sky Bet Chase meeting which is due to begin tomorrow on Town Moor. Conditions are also encouraging – the snow cleared from the South Yorkshire track yesterday and large parts of the course remain under covers. The current going is good to soft.

Leading Aintree contender Unioniste tops a list of 42 entries for the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock on February 14.

Paul Nicholls’s charge is among the favourites for the Crabbie’s Grand National after running out a comfortable 10-length victor in a three-mile chase at Sandown earlier this month.

The Alan King-trained Godsmejudge is also prominent in the Aintree market and is a notable entry along with the likes of Welsh National winner Emperor’s Choice.

Harry Topper, Wetherby’s 2013 Charlie Hall Chase winner, has been given the option by Kim Bailey, with last year’s winner Rigadin De Beauchene in line to defend his title.

Monbeg Dude is another notable runner for trainer Michael Scudamore while local hopes rest with Vintage Star for the aforementioned Sue Smith. He was a weary third in Saturday’s Peter Marsh Chase at the Merseyside track.