SUE SMITH’S Vintage Clouds is now guaranteed a place in the 40-runner Randox Health Grand National following the latest declarations.
The grey – one of the favourites for Saturday’s showpiece race at Aintree – has now risen to number 35 in the official handicap.
In a possible omen, it is the same number that the Smith-trained Auroras Encore carried to victory in the world’s greatest steeplechase in 2013.
And the confirmation avoids any risk of last year’s drama when Vintage Clouds, owned by Trevor Hemmings, who has won the National three times previously, missed the cut-off by one place.
With Phil Kirby’s Blaklion ruled out through injury, Vintage Clouds will be the sole Yorkshire-trained runner in the £1m race.
“We’re delighted he is in,” said a relieved Smith who trains at High Eldwick with her husband Harvey.
“He’s in very good form and has done all his schooling. All we have got to do is wait for Saturday to come round and keep him in good order.”
Vintage Clouds warmed up for the National with a fine second place finish at last month’s Cheltenham Festival under regular rider Danny Cook.
The field is still headed by defending champion Tiger Roll who will bid to become the first dual winner since Red Rum in the 1970s.
Trained in Ireland by Gordon Elliott who still holds multiple entries, Tiger Roll could go off one of the shortest-priced favourites in the race’s history following a second successive triumph in the Glenfarclas Chase at Cheltenham last month.
Tiger Roll will now have to carry 11st 5lb after the weights were raised 4lb following the defection of Bristol De Mai.
Heading the handicap is the Tony Martin-trained Anibale Fly, who was fourth last year and finished second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on his latest start.
Pleasant Company, who failed by only a head to claw back Tiger Roll last year, is among six remaining from the Willie Mullins stable. Also in the Irish champion trainer’s team are Rathvinden, Pairofbrowneyes, Up For Review, Livelovelaugh and Isleofhopendreams.
Other Irish possibles include Pat Kelly’s Mall Dini and Jessica Harrington’s Magic Of Light and Sandymount Duke.
The home contingent is headed by the aforementioned Vintage Clouds and the Nick Alexander-trained Lake View Lad who will be ridden by Middleham’s Henry Brooke.
Among others in the mix are Lucinda Russell’s 2017 winner One For Arthur, Mark Bradstock’s Step Back, Philip Hobbs’ Rock The Kasbah and the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Go Conquer.
Meanwhile David Pipe has confirmed jockey arrangements for his two runners with David Noonan on Welsh National runner-up Ramses De Teillee and Tom Scudamore on Aintree regular Vieux Lion Rouge.
“Ramses and Vieux Lion Rouge both schooled well over our National style fences and are in great form, although they would both appreciate some rain,” said the Devon handler.
“The weather forecast suggests we may get some.”
Number 40 is Captain Redbeard who is trained in the Scottish Borders by sheep farmer Stuart Coltherd.
The horse is due to be ridden by his son Sam who, coincidentally, is a conditional rider at the Smith stables at High Eldwick near Bingley.
Final declarations will be made on Thursday.
Joe Colliver is confident of being fit to ride Sam Spinner if he runs in Saturday’s Ryanair Stayers Hurdle at Aintree.
Leyburn trainer Jedd O’Keeffe’s seven-year-old bounced back to his best when chasing home Paisley Park at the Cheltenham Festival. Colliver expects to be ready for action despite missing his weekend rides after aggravating an old back injury in a fall at Wetherby on Friday.