Smith confident Vintage Star is better prospect

Sue Smith with racehorse Vintage Star. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Sue Smith with racehorse Vintage Star. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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SUE SMITH could be double-handed as Yorkshire’s Grand National-winning trainer bids to win the world’s most famous steeplechase for the second time in three runnings.

Victorious in 2013 with Auroras Encore, the High Eldwick handler has entered Vintage Star – pulled up last year – and Lackamon in this year’s Aintree renewal.

As well as the Smith pair, there are two other Yorkshire-trained runners among the 98 initial entries for the £1m Crabbie’s Grand National on April 11 – the well-regarded Night In Milan and the outsider Rose Of The Moon.

The field is headed by last year’s Gold Cup hero Lord Windermere and Michael Scudamore’s ever-popular former Welsh National winner Monbeg Dude, whose owners include Otley-born rugby international Mike Tindall.

If the Jim Culloty-trained Lord Windermere prevails, the nine-year-old would bid to become the first horse since L’Escargot 40 years ago, and only the third in history, to win the Gold Cup and Grand National. Golden Miller won both races in 1934.

Culloty has also entered Spring Heeled who emerged as a potential Aintree contender when making most of the running to win the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last March.

Victorious in 2002 when riding Bindaree to glory, Culloty is bidding to join Algy Anthony, Tommy Carberry, Aubrey Hastings, Fulke Walwyn and Fred Winter, who are the only men to have ridden and trained Grand National winners since 1900.

As for Smith, she said the Trevor Hemmings-owned Vintage Star “jumps well enough” and is likely to be better for the experience of last year’s race.

“The horse has plenty of talent,” she told The Yorkshire Post.

Though the 10-year-old Lackamon has an abundance of stamina – the horse has finished first and second in the last two renewals of Sedgefield’s Durham National – his low handicap rating means he is not guaranteed to make the 40-runner cut.

Smith hopes she can find a chase for Lackamon to win before the weights are published on February 17 when the 2015 National will begin to take shape.

“He is a brave little horse and he seems to get extreme distances fairly well. Hopefully, he can win a race between now and the weights,” she added.

The same applies to Nawton trainer David O’Meara’s aforementioned Rose Of The Moon, who fell in last year’s race.

However, Night In Milan, trained at Saltburn by Keith Reveley and ridden by his son James, is virtually guaranteed a run on the back of a series of impressive performances at Doncaster where the steeplechaser appears to thrive – the Grimthorpe Chase on February 28 will almost certainly be the horse’s Aintree prep race.

King George runner-up Dynaste will not defend his crown in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham next month after being ruled out for the season.

David Pipe’s nine-year-old beat Hidden Cyclone at the Festival last year, but returned sore after finishing third to leading Gold Cup contender Many Clouds in last month’s BetBright Cup Chase at the Cotswolds venue. His jockey Tom Scudamore said it was a big disappointment.

“David rang me this morning to tell me he would miss Cheltenham,” said Scudamore. “It’s obviously a big blow.

“It’s very disappointing and he’ll leave a big hole as far as our Cheltenham is concerned, that’s for sure, but we’re thankful for what he did for us last season and hopefully he’ll be back better than ever.”

Following the defection of Dynaste, Betfred make Gordon Elliott’s Don Cossack the 4-1 favourite for the Ryanair.

Today’s meeting at Doncaster is the latest weather casualty.