SUE and Harvey Smith’s monopoly of the North Yorkshire National continued when I Just Know made every yard of running to win this year’s renewal.
The horse’s success in the long-distance Catterick showpiece follows the successes of Lackamon in 2015 – the stable’s 1,000th winner – and Straidnahanna last year.
Like the 2016 victor, I Just Know runs in the light blue and yellow colours of South Yorkshire farmer Ray Scholey, a long-time supporter of jump racing, and his wife Margaret.
And winning jockey Sean Quinlan says there’s every possibility I Just Know could develop into a Grand National contender next year following his fourth win from 10 starts over fences.
Deputising for suspended stable jockey Danny Cook in the saddle, Quinlan, 34, said this prestigious prize – sponsored by Richmond-based Watt Fences – had always been the target since the second season chaser finished fourth to Malcolm Jefferson’s highly-regarded Waiting Patiently at Carlisle last November.
“He’s a horse we’ve always thought a lot of,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“Sue, Danny and I said all along that this race would suit him. He’s a front-runner, he jumps, he stays well and never misses a beat.
“We weren’t worried after Carlisle. Waiting Patiently is a Grade One horse in the making. That was two and a half miles and we were flat out from the off. This was three miles six furlongs.
“Fair play to Danny – he’s suspended but he came to Catterick and said the horse should win if he jumps. That gave me all the confidence I needed.”
After setting a steady tempo on the co-favourite, Quinlan and I Just Know increased the pace on the final circuit and put the jumping of their rivals under sustained pressure. They met the final three fences in the home straight perfectly and ran out a wide-margin 15 length winner.
Future plans have still to be finalised, but Quinlan ventured: “Next year he could be a National horse because he likes nice ground and is a spring horse.
“If not Aintree, he could go for the Scottish National. He ran very well at Ayr last April when finishing third. I’ll leave it to the trainer, owners and Danny.”
Quinlan splits his time between the Smith yard at High Eldwick and the Staffordshire stables of Jennie Candlish.
And he says the Smiths, and their longstanding assistant Ryan Clavin, remain expert at producing long-distance staying chasers in the mould of 2013 Grand National winner Auroras Encore.
“They fill you with confidence,” he added. “If Danny doesn’t ride them, it’s usually me unless they use a claimer to take some weight off the horse’s back. They’re very easy to ride for because they like their horses to be ridden very positively and they keep it simple. That’s the secret.”
Meanwhile the aforementioned Waiting Patiently could reappear at Kempton on Saturday. Owned by Richard Collins, the chaser has been handed two Cheltenham Festival entries by Malton-based Jefferson – the two mile Queen Mother Champion Chase and the two and a half mile Ryanair Chase.
The Champion Chase field is, as expected, headed by Nicky Henderson’s Altior; the Willie Mullins-trained Douvan and Henry de Bromhead’s defending champion Special Tiara. There’s a second Malton entry courtesy of Brian Ellison’s Forest Bihan.