SUE SMITH hopes Midnight Shadow can vindicate her faith in today’s Grade Two Relkeel Hurdle, the highlight of the high-profile New Year’s Day card at Cheltenham.
The winner of last year’s Scottish Champion Hurdle, Midnight Shadow produced a below-par run in Cheltenham’s Greatwood Hurdle in mid-November, which was won by Nietzsche for Brian Ellison.
However, the horse, owned by Aafke Clarke, won impressively at Aintree last month under Danny Cook and both the jockey and trainer want another crack at a big race’s honours at jump racing’s headquarters.
“We didn’t come across anything amiss after Cheltenham last time, and he ran very well at Aintree,” High Eldwick-based Smith told The Yorkshire Post. “We’re going to have a go and hopefully he will run a big race.”
Midnight Shadow faces five worthy adversaries in this two-and-a-half mile test named after Relkeel, a three-time winner of the Bula Hurdle at Cheltenham in the Nineties.
Cheltenham’s raceday also sees Phil Kirby’s Nautical Nitwit, winner of Wetherby’s West Yorkshire Hurdle, try to defy top weight in the Betbright Handicap Hurdle.
Meanwhile, the popular mare Irish Roe, trained by Northallerton farmer Phil Atkinson and his wife Lucinda, has top weight in the aptly-named Hogmaneigh Handicap Hurdle at Musselburgh. Henry Brooke rides.
Newcastle’s marathon Eider Chase is the target for Chef D’Oeuvre after providing Guiseley trainer Sam England with the most notable success of her training career when landing the Last Fling Chase at Haydock.
“He obviously wants an extreme test and extreme ground – last man standing sort of thing,” said England, whose husband Jonathan was in the saddle.