cloudy Too took advantage of soft conditions to land Wetherby’s William Hill Rowland Meyrick Chase and confirm his credentials as a future Grand National contender.
This was a particularly satisfying result for Sue and Harvey Smith, whose Aintree hero Auroras Encore also jumped well during his seasonal comeback race at the West Yorkshire track as he steps up his preparations for his National defence next April.
The soft ground was always going to neuter Auroras Encore’s class – he is a horse who comes into his own in the Spring – but Cloudy Too, still only seven, has time on his side and could be a significant player in future Nationals if the ground is soft.
Smith, the former showjumper, was making no rash predictions after young conditional rider Jonathan England recorded the most significant victory of his burgeoning career with a well-timed run.
He took up the running on the turn for home when the challenge, and jumping, of Donald McCain’s highly-rated Sydney Paget began to flounder and the only concern was a couple of unconvincing jumps at the final two fences when well clear of Tullamore Dew and 2012 winner Cape Tribulation.
England had told the Yorkshire Post on Christmas Eve how he wanted to repay the loyalty shown towards him by the Smith stable, and he did so in style.
“He’s a nice horse, he’s coming on the right way. With a bit of luck he will be all right. We will let him have a month off now and then go again,” said High Eldwick-based Smith.
There was also an upbeat report from National-winning jockey Ryan Mania on the run of Auroras Encore who jumped well before fading to finish fifth. “He ran well. I was really pleased with him,” he said.
“He hated the ground but he has travelled and jumped well for most of it. It was just turning in that he got a bit tired so I just jumped him home. It was the perfect start.”
Mania is back in action at Wetherby today when he rides the Smith-trained Clan William and then Pinerolo in a three-runner novice chase.
The feature William Hill Castleford Chase has attracted six runners with Yorkshire hopes resting with King Of The Wolds for the in-form combination of trainer Malcolm Jefferson and jockey Brian Hughes.