Grand National not a viable option for Wakanda – Smith

EVEN though Sue Smith’s stable stalwart Wakanda turned 10 on New Year’s Day, the horse’s form – and consistency – remain as good as ever.

Wakanda and Damnny Cook (left) return to Haydock where they won the Peter Marsh Chase last month.

Victorious in the Grade Two Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock last month, he lines up in the William Hill Grand National Trial today at the Merseyside track under Danny Cook.

While Aintree’s Grand National is not on the agenda, the step up in trip to three-and-a-half miles will help decide whether or not the Scottish equivalent is a viable proposition.

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Running in the colours of Margaret Scholey, and her late husband Ray, Wakanda’s 34 career starts have yielded nine wins to date – including the 2018 Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster – and nearly £300,000 in prize money.

Wakanda (left) won Haydock's Peter Marsh Chase last month under Danny Cook.

“He won quite well round Haydock last time on good ground,” the 2013 Grand National-winning trainer told The Yorkshire Post. “With a bit of luck it should be nice ground, which should suit.

“Stepping up to three and a half, we’ll see how he gets that before we make a decision about the Scottish National.

“At the Grand National weights launch in the week people asked why Wakanda wasn’t entered. He’s not really a Grand National-type of horse. I know small horses have won, but Auroras (Encore) was bigger than Wakanda. That said, he’s a grand little horse and I wouldn’t mind a few more like him.

“I’ve just bought him in after he went out for a pick of grass. He’s fantastic. He just wants to please you all the time.”

Trained at High Eldwick by Smith and her husband Harvey, Wakanda’s rivals include the lightly-weighted Chef D’Oeuvre for Guiseley trainer Sam England and her husband Jonathan, who will be in the saddle.

While Smith has no ground concerns for Wakanda, conditions may not suit David Pipe’s 2017 winner Vieux Lion Rouge or this season’s Welsh Grand National runner-up Ramses De Teillee, who both hold Grand National entries.

“Both horses are in good form. They would appreciate softer ground,” said Pipe. “Vieux Lion Rouge probably did too much in the blinkers last time, so we’ve gone back to sheepskin sidepieces.

“Ramses De Teillee obviously ran a very good race in the Welsh Grand National. We were thinking about running him beforehand, but the ground wasn’t right. The ground is drying out again, but it will be tacky old work out there. They’ve all got to go on it.”

Impulsive Star heads to Haydock on the back of victory in the Classic Chase at Warwick.

The nine-year-old was put up 6lb for that success, which his trainer Neil Mulholland believes was fair.

“He did well last time out in the Classic Chase. Thankfully, the handicapper didn’t go too mad,” he said.

He also runs Carole’s Destrier, who has a nice pull in the weights with his stable companion from Warwick, where he was a creditable fourth.

“He’s run well on his last couple of runs and the ground drying out all the time will be in his favour,” added the trainer.