National hopes are in the Clouds

SUE SMITH’S staying steeplechaser Vintage Clouds is the sole Yorkshire-trained representative in this year’s Randox Health Grand National.

Haydock winner Vintage Clouds is the sole Yorkshire entry in this year's Grand National.

The horse – who just missed the 40-runner cut for last year’s Aintree marathon – features amongst 112 entries for the world famous race on April 6.

However the grey’s handicap mark means he is likely, form and fitness permitting, to make the starting line-up.

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Vintage Clouds is owned by Trevor Hemmings who has previously won the National with Hedgehunter, Ballabriggs and Many Clouds.

2018 Grand National winner Tiger Roll is pictured clearing the last fence under Davy Russell.

And Smith, who won the 2013 National with Auroras Encore, has made no secret of her desire to win the race for Hemmings.

He has been a long-standing supporter of the High Eldwick stables that she runs with her redoubtable husband Harvey, the legendary showjumper.

The trainer also reports Vintage Clouds to be in “good order” after an eye-catching win at Haydock last November was followed by an attritional race in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow when the horse was pulled up by jockey Danny Cook.

Connections believe the deep – and sticky – going at the Welsh track were to blame and are preparing the horse for a Spring campaign on better going.

Possible prep races include Doncaster’s Grimthorpe Chase on March 2 – or the Premier Chase on the same day at Kelso.

“He’s very well and he’s in good order,” Smith told The Yorkshire Post. “He had quite a hard race at Chepstow and we are just freshening him up.

“He’s a winner round Aintree last season and I think the track will suit him. Vintage schooled over the National fences at Malton very well when we took him there last March in case he made last year’s race.

“He’s a very willing horse and likes to do his best for you.”

The field for the £1m race is headed by defending champion Tiger Roll and runner-up Pleasant Company.

The pair, separated by a photo-finish last April, feature among a record 47 Irish-trained entries.

They also include Sandymount Duke, who is owned by Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood.

The most successful current British trainer in the National is Nigel Twiston-Davies, who has won the great race twice courtesy of Earth Summit and Bindaree.

He has nine contenders this year – more than any other British trainer – including Go Conquer who won last Saturday’s Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster under Tom Bellamy.

Twiston-Davies said: “Go Conquer came out of the Sky Bet Chase well. It was a really good performance at Doncaster and we have always thought a lot of him.”

The 2017 National went to Lucinda Russell’s One For Arthur, who became only the second winner of the Aintree spectacular to be trained in Scotland after Rubstic.

However, he missed the whole of last season through injury and has failed to complete on either of his two starts since returning to action.

Russell said: “One For Arthur is in good form. He has been fine since the Peter Marsh at Haydock and he will either run again at Haydock in the Grand National Trial (February 16) or go to Kelso. We are yet to make a decision. Obviously, the long-term plan is to return to Aintree in April.”

The other Scottish-trained entry is Nick Alexander’s Lake View Lad, who has registered impressive successes this season in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle and the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby under Middleham-based jockey Henry Brooke.

Weights for the Grand National are unveiled at the iconic Cunard Building in Liverpool on February 12 for the first time.

Meanwhile Malton trainer Ruth Jefferson’s Waiting Patiently heads a 13-strong field for next month’s Grade One Ascot Chase at the Berkshire track.

The horse – owned by Richard Collins and ridden by Brian Hughes – won last year’s renewal when getting the better of the now retired Cue Card in a thrilling renewal.

After being brought down in last month’s King George VI Chase at Kempton, Jefferson has opted to swerve possible engagements at this weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.

“I rang the course clerk and was told that the ground is good. They’re not due much rain until Thursday which due to the cold temperature may come as snow, and it’s unlikely to be good to soft by Saturday,” she said.