National hero Auroras Encore finally handed seasonal debut

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YORKSHIRE’S Grand National hero Auroras Encore is set to make his seasonal debut in the Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day.

The 11-year-old, a 66-1 shock winner of the world’s greatest steeplechase at Aintree in April, was fourth behind Cape Tribulation in the Wetherby feature last December.

Trainer Sue Smith reports Auroras Encore to be on course to return to action in what is the highlight of Wetherby’s two-day William Hill Yorkshire Winter Festival.

Auroras Encore has not raced since being pulled up in the Scottish National two weeks after his Aintree heroics.

“All being well, Auroras Encore will start off in the Rowland Meyrick,” said the Bingley trainer.

“We had hoped to have him out earlier, but the ground went against us so we just left him be. He is in very good form at the moment though, but it will be his first run of the season and it’s difficult to know what to expect.”

Malcolm Jefferson’s Attaglance, meanwhile, will bypass Doncaster’s meeting tomorrow in favour of a tilt at Cheltenham’s Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup.

Attaglance was fourth to Jonjo O’Neill’s Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Johns Spirit, who heads the line up tomorrow.

Cheltenham’s prestigious two-day pre-Christmas meeting begins today with the father and son team of Colin and Joe Tizzard hoping to continue their rich vein of form.

Victorious in the Betfred Chase with Cue Card, the ante-post favourite for Boxing Day’s William Hill King George VI Chase, they saddle Hennessy third Theatre Guide in today’s Majordomo Hospitality Handicap Chase.

Tizzard junior said: “He came out of Newbury well and we think the Hennessy might just have made a man out of him.”

His opponents include last year’s Welsh Grand National hero Monbeg Dude, who is co-owned by rugby union star Mike Tindall. The Grand National at Aintree is his long-term target this term and trainer Michael Scudamore is confident of a bold show.

“He’s rated 138, which was bottom weight in the National last season,” he said. “It would be nice if we can get into the early 140s to hopefully guarantee ourselves a run.”

Yesterday’s action saw Nicky Henderson’s Riverside Theatre, the 2012 Ryanair Chase winner, roll back the years to take the prestigious Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon under a never-say-die Barry Geraghty ride.