National review after Smith’s horse omitted

Scotland-bound: The grey Vintage Clouds and Danny Cook.
Scotland-bound: The grey Vintage Clouds and Danny Cook.
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CONNECTIONS of Sue Smith’s Vintage Clouds are hoping for swift compensation after the staying chaser controversially failed to make the cut for the Grand National.

The well-regarded grey, owned by Trevor Hemmings, is a leading contender for this Saturday’s Scottish National at Ayr where he is set to be joined by stablemate Straidnahanna.

It comes after the omission of Vintage Clouds from Saturday’s showpiece race at Aintree prompted the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to announce a review of its policy on eliminations. Though 40 horse were declared for the National last Thursday, four reserves were also announced.

Three runners were taken out by the final 1pm deadline on Friday. Yet, while this saw the Smith second string Delusionofgrandeur make the line-up, Vintage Clouds still needed another defector.

However, because two other horses were then withdrawn on the morning of the race, it was not possible to add Vintage Clouds to the field and just 38 runners lined up for the world’s greatest steeplechase which was won by the Davy Russell-inspired Tiger Roll.

Now the BHA has pledged to look again at the issue – reserves can be added to contests in Ireland on the morning of the race – after an impassioned plea by Hemmings who has won the National on three previous occasions

Fourth in the Welsh National and third at the Cheltenham Festival, Vintage Clouds will be joined at Ayr by the Hemmings-owned Vicente who was one of the horses withdrawn from Aintree because of the heavy ground.

Trained by Paul Nicholls, Vicente is now bidding to make Turf history by winning three successive renewals of Scotland’s premier steeplechase.

On Vintage Clouds, Mick Meagher, racing manager to the aforementioned Hemmings, said: “It was frustrating. When you’re fourth reserve you don’t expect a run.

“But when three get in, you are next in line and two more come out and you still don’t get a run, it’s hard to take.

“At least he can run this weekend. Sue says he’s in great form and he’s run well all season so you’d hope he’d have a chance.

“The forecast is for it to dry up, and that would suit Vicente. Vintage Clouds will go on anything, he has a reputation as a mud-lover but he goes on decent ground too.

“Vicente hasn’t had his ground all year.

“He’s 4lb higher than last year but he’s run well off his new mark before the ground has found him out a few times.

“He looks well. Of course he was declared for Aintree, but when it rained Thursday night into Friday that put paid to it. On good to soft we would have run him.”

Nicky Henderson’s Gold Present, owned by West Yorkshire businessman John Cotton, will need to defy top weight following the withdrawal of Blaklion who was a first fence casualty in the Grand National.

Meanwhile Saint Are has been retired by trainer Tom George after the veteran’s heavy fall at the Chair fence.

Teenage conditional rider Thomas Willmott recorded the biggest win of his promising career to date when partnering Lowanbehold to a gutsy three-and-a-quarter mile chase win at Kelso yesterday.

Mark Johnston’s 2000 Guineas contender Elarqam is due to have a racecourse gallop at Newmarket today before this afternoon’s meeting at Flat racing’s HQ.

Beverley’s season-opening meeting tomorrow is subject to an 8am inspection today. Parts of the track are waterlogged.

Top Flat rider Frankie Dettori and Chicky Oaksey, widow of the late Lord Oaksey, have been made vice-patrons of the Injured Jockeys Fund.