jump jockey Danny Cook could not have made a better start to his new alliance with Sue Smith’s stable as he extended his winning record to a perfect three from three starts courtesy of a double at Catterick yesterday.
Cook, whose career has been bedevilled by injury on too many occasions, appears to be the first beneficiary of Ryan Mania’s shock decision last week to quit the saddle just 18 months after winning the Crabbie’s Grand National on Auroras Encore.
The rider, who served a long apprenticeship with David Pipe before teaming up with Malton trainer Brian Ellison, rode the Smith-trained novice chaser Straidnahanna to a wide-margin victory at Newcastle on Saturday with the positive tactics favoured by the trainer’s showjumper husband Harvey.
Cook’s win on Oorayvic yesterday was made slightly easier by the final fence fall of Irish raider Harangue while Grate Fella’s jumping was rewarded with victory in the IJF John Oaksey Beginners’ Chase after four of the more fancied runners failed to complete the course.
The Smith team, and Cook, will be hoping that the race’s form holds up – the corresponding contest 12 months ago was landed by Jonjo O’Neill’s Holywell who is now a leading contender for next season’s Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
“That’s three from three for Sue and Harvey Smith so long may it continue,” said Cook. “It certainly couldn’t have started any better for me.
“Their horses are always fit and have been schooled well and I’m a positive jockey, I like to think, so the best way is to keep it simple; so far it has been working.
“Grate Fella has a lot of scope and will make a nice chaser. Whereas those at the head of the betting struggled with their jumping, he was great. He’ll get further and has a nice future.
“As for Oorayvic I reckon I had the faller covered, I was just coming at him again and jumped the last really well. Long may it continue like this.”
Cook’s cause has been helped by the fact that he is on the books of Bruce Jeffrey, one of the North’s leading agents, and he will try to ride for both Smith and Ellison wherever possible.
Thanks to his association with the aforementioned Mania, Jeffrey enjoys good links with the Smith team and this is set to continue in spite of the 25-year-old’s retirement.
As well as Cook, he also has Saltburn jockey James Reveley and several conditional jockeys on his books – including the likes of Jonny England, Callum Bewley and John Kington.
Willie Mullins expects Annie Power to return to full training following the busy Christmas period after scans revealed her injuries were not as bad as first feared.
The top-class mare was declared to make her reappearance in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse last Sunday, but was found to be lame two days earlier and was immediately withdrawn from the Grade One contest.
The champion trainer feared the six-year-old, an impressive winner at Doncaster earlier this year, could have suffered a potentially season-ending stress fracture.
Mullins said: “Annie Power will walk until Christmas and be checked again and then hopefully be back to full training. There is no fracture, just a stress reaction.”
Owned by Rich Ricci, Annie Power lost her unbeaten record when second to More Of That in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, before bouncing back at Punchestown.
Mullins is hopeful she will be fit in time for the 2015 Cheltenham Festival.