SUE and Harvey Smith’s stable star Cloudy Too is reported to be “fighting fit” ahead of the old stager’s tilt at the 32Red Veterans’ Handicap Chase Final at Sandown tomorrow.
The one caveat is the ground for Danny Cook’s mount. If the Surrey track does not receive the forecast rain, the 11-year-old maybe withdrawn.
Testament to the enduring popularity and longevity of staying steeplechasers, the race has attracted horses of the calibre of Dynaste, the 2014 Ryanair Chase winner at the Cheltenham Festival under Tom Scudamore, who appears well-handicapped if back to his best form and will only have to carry 5lb more than Cloudy Too.
Also in the line-up is the Paul Nicholls-trained Rocky Creek who enjoyed a stirring victory at Sandown last month under in-form conditional rider Jack Sherwood.
However Cloudy Too, who won Wetherby’s Rowland Meyrick Chase in 2013 before competing in the following year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, has nine career victories to his name, including a reinvigorating over hurdles at Uttoxeter earlier this season.
“I’m told he’s very well,” said owner Neil Howarth of Formulated Polymer Products Ltd.
“He’s in fighting fit form. He’s done a couple of pieces of good work.
“He’s a fantastic horse. We have been very lucky to have him. One in a lifetime.
“The only problem is that there are some horses who look extremely well handicapped like Dynaste, who runs off a mark of 145. It’s a top-class field. Should there have to be more races like this? There seem to be more horses in training. I would expect Cloudy to stay in training next year.
“The more rain, the better. If it doesn’t rain, we might pull him out at the last minute and put him in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock in two weeks time.”
Howarth also harbours high hopes for recent acquisition Sharp Response who made a winning debut over hurdles at Wetherby in October.
The horse has run with credit on three subsequent starts and could reappear at Haydock next month following a winter lay-off.
“They say he’s come on a storm,” says Howarth who anticipates that the six-year-old Sharp Response will go steeplechasing next season. “He’s a light-framed horse but he’s put on a bit of weight.”
Middleham jockey Joe Colliver will attempt to put a troubled six months behind him when he returns to competitive action at Wetherby today.
Jailed for perverting the course of justice following a drink-driving incident on Boxing Day 2015, his licence has now been renewed by the BHA.
Provided the course passes an 8am inspection, Colliver is booked to ride Skywards Reward for his boss Micky Hammond.
“He’s fit and raring to go,” said Hammond, who has stayed loyal to the Sheffield-born rider. “A National Hunt flat race is probably a good starting point.”
Cole Harden could have another run over fences before he potentially bids to regain his crown in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Warren Greatrex’s stable star was an all-the-way winner of the three-mile Grade One in 2015, but could only finish fourth behind the brilliant Thistlecrack last March. Connections are keeping their options open after a disappointing novice chase debut at Wetherby last month.