SUE Smith has identified two possible races for Midnight Shadow before a likely tilt at the Grade One Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The six-year-old, one of the rising stars of Northern jump racing, could line up in Cheltenham’s Cleeve Hurdle on January 26 or head to Haydock for the Rendlesham Hurdle on February 16.
Midnight Shadow, winner of last season’s Scottish Champion Hurdle, confirmed the trainer’s high regard for the six-year-old when winning the prestigious Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day under Danny Cook.
Though Smith believes Midnight Shadow is a steeplechaser in the making because of his size and scope, the three-mile hurdling division remains wide open and Cyril and Aafke Clarke’s horse would be a worthy contender for the Stayer’s Hurdle at the National Hunt Festival in March.
First the horse will step up in trip to three miles for the first time – the Relkeel Hurdle, in which Midnight Shadow beat worthy adversaries in Old Guard and Wholestone, was over two and a half miles and, significantly, Cook’s mount was running on with vigour at the end of the race.
“Midnight Shadow has been in good form since Cheltenham,” said the High Eldwick trainer.
“We were delighted with the performance on New Year’s Day and he saw the trip out very strongly. He is a horse that just improves the further he goes.
“I think his future at the moment is going to lie over two and a half or three miles. I think as he continues to step up in trip the better he will become. He is a special horse.
“We have a couple of options and the Rendlesham (February 16) at Haydock or the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham are the main possibilities.”
Meanwhile, Master Dino has undergone an operation for a hairline fracture on a hind leg and will miss the Cheltenham Festival.
Sent over from France for a race at Plumpton on Sunday, the Guillaume Macaire-trained five-year-old easily accounted for Gary Moore’s classy Knocknanuss.
A dual Grade One winner over hurdles in his homeland, he was catapulted towards the head of the betting for the JLT Novices’ Chase in March.
Macaire had hoped to run him in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown before then, but all plans are now on hold.
He is owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede and their racing manager Anthony Bromley, tweeted: “Very disappointing news to report that Master Dino will miss this year’s Cheltenham Festival. (He) has had surgery to insert three screws in his hind leg. Glad to say he is fine after the operation. Now the long road of recuperation.”
Former Grand National winner One For Arthur is due to reappear in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock on Saturday week.
Trained by Lucinda Russell and her partner Peter Scudamore, the 10-year-old misses this weekend’s Classic Chase at Warwick owing to concerns about the unseasonably dry ground.
One For Arthur won Warwick’s marathon race in 2017 before winning the National under Derek Fox.
However, a long lay-off then saw the horse unseat its rider at Aintree last month in the Many Clouds Chase, won by Brian Ellison’s Definitly Red.
“We’re in the middle of another dry period and the ground will be plenty quick enough there. If we’d tried we could have got him ready, but he really needs it to rain,” explained Scudamore.