HENRY BROOKE believes the time is right for Shades Of Midnight to develop into a top-class stayer in the coming seasons.
The North Yorkshire jockey described the horse’s wide-margin victory in the Grade Two William Hill Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock as “right up there” in his career wins.
Trained in the Scottish Borders by Sandy Thomson who faced bureaucratic hurdles to beat the equine flu restrictions still in place, this high-profile meeting was, regrettably, overshadowed by an ugly fight between racegoers during the final race.
And while Shades Of Midnight, who runs in the colours of the Potassium Partnership, will miss Cheltenham, his win franked the form of Paisley Park – the leading contender for next month’s Stayers’ Hurdle.
When the pair met at Haydock last November, Paisley Park prevailed by just half-a-length before going on to win two top class hurdles.
In turn, Shades of Midnight, from the stable that had so much success and enjoyment with the now retired Seeyouatmidnight, broke his duck over fences at Kelso before this latest win over established hurdlers like Yanworth, who was pulled up.
Brooke, from Middleham, believes the horse is “a better hurdler” than steeplechaser – and that the horse “had a lot left” after pulling clear of long-term absentee Kilcooley on the run-in to the delight of cheering connections.
Thomson said: “Brian (Hughes) always said Paisley Park must have been very good to fly past this lad as he did in November.
“We then ran him over fences at Kelso, but he was nowhere near right. I was in the same situation once with Seeyouatmidnight, who won a race without being ready and it fooled me into thinking he was and we took him straight to Cheltenham.
“I learned from that and brought him here today. He tries so hard. He’s always been tough, but we used to ride him from behind and now we go from the front with him, which he seems much happier doing.
“He was in the Eider next weekend but that was never really under consideration.”
On the horse being able to make the line-up for this race, Thomson revealed: “Fortunately this lad missed his flu jab in August/September otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to run.
“We then had him done in January and the vet put the wrong date on, he put January 31, 2018, instead of 2019 so when we got here today we had to ring the vet. It’s been a crazy fortnight.
“He could go to Aintree for the three-mile hurdle if it’s soft enough or the Scottish National, but it must be soft for him to run over fences as he doesn’t jump quick enough in the good races.”
A dramatic Grand National Trial saw Robinsfirth, trained by Colin Tizzard, swoop in the dying strides to deny Ramses De Teillee and Chef D’Oeuvre in a thrilling finish to the extended three-and-half-mile heat.
The win was the second leg of a high-profile treble for jockey Sean Bowen whose day to remember began with an eyecatching win on Quel Destin in the Victor Ludorum Hurdle.
Now a leading contender for next month’s Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, Quel Destin’s success was one of eight winners across the country for Paul Nicholls, the resurgent former champion trainer.
Robinsfirth does not hold an entry in the National, but Aintree – and next season’s Becher Chase over the course’s iconic fences – is the target for the progressive Chef D’Oeuvre who is trained at Guiseley by Sam England.
Her husband, Jonathan, was in the saddle and said: “I’m proud of the horse. It was just a a bit tacky, but he ran a blinder. The softer the ground, the better.”
The disappointment was course winner Wakanda for the Sue Smith team. He never travelled and was pulled up by jockey Danny Cook. However, the High Eldwick team have a nice prospect in The Paddy Pie who won a two-mile, three-furlong chase in which half of the eight runner field failed to complete.
The horse appeared to be getting the better of Slanelough who fell heavily at the final fence.
“The step up in trip brought out more improvement and he’s getting stronger all the time,” said Smith.
“Another summer on him and I think he will be a very nice horse. He’s won here now and hopefully he’s one for all the nice races here next season – if the handicapper doesn’t go mad.”