A solitary figure on the steps of a desolate Sandown grandstand, the proud Scot punched the air with his left arm at the moment of triumph.
And with good reason – this was the bargain buy purchased at the Doncaster sales that rose up racing’s ranks before being retired through serious injury after the 2018 Grand National.
However Thomson nursed the 13-year-old horse back to fitness, culminating in an emotional win in the Veterans’ Chase at Sandown after repelling allcomers late on. But this only tells part of the story – Seeyouatmidnight, running in the now familiar black and yellow colours of Thomson’s wife Quona, was ridden by their stepson-in-law Ryan Mania who had retired from the saddle before making a comeback.
It came just weeks after the recuperative benefits of the family’s stables near Kelso celebrated a resurgent win of former star Yorkhill in Newcastle’s Rehearsal Chase for golfer Lee Westwood and owner David Armstrong – Doncaster’s Sky Bet Chase is next.
And while Thomson is renowned for nurturing horses of more advanced age, the now retired Harry The Viking being an obvious example, the Seeyouatmidnight story is all the more satisfying because he’s been ever present at his stables since 2013.
Then the former Scottish rugby player had around 10 horses in training and preferred to describe himself as an ‘enthusiast’. Now his yard is home to 50 horses – in part because of the standard-bearing Seeyouatmidnight.
“He’s grand, absolutely fine after the race,” Thomson told The Yorkshire Post. “He hasn’t done very much since the race – we will see what happens. The Midlands National might be a possibility.
“It’s taken a large amount of time and effort and worry to get him back so there’s a real sense of achievement when something like this happens.”
Fate also played its part with Seeyouatmidnight. The Thomsons had travelled to Doncaster with an order to try to acquire another horse. Yet their eyes were taken by this son of the sire Midnight Legend, his ears pricked and with real presence, who had gone unsold and was available for less than the £20,000 asking price. “You have to trust your judgement and go with your judgement,” says Thomson.
That was vindicated with three successive wins over hurdles – some highly-rated horses were no match for the then unheralded horse – and gallant performances at both Cheltenham and Aintree before being switching to larger obstacles.
A highlight, says Thomson, was winning the Grade Two Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day in 2016, and a third place in the Scottish Grand National. Purchased by the late David Thompson and his wife Patricia for the 2018 National, Seeyouatmidnight’s stamina faltered and a suspensory ligament injury was diagnosed.
Gifted back to the Thomsons, the steeplechaser – now the winner of nine races and over £200,000 – was effectively put out to grass. “He was very much retired – vets in America were adamant that the injury would not stand training,” said Thomson. “He’s part of the family – we love having him around the place – and he started cantering and we just wondered...”
Fourth on his comeback at Kelso last February, he then held on gamely to win at Carlisle just before the first lockdown and Thomson says they’ve been able to take their time because there’s no pressure from owners.
Pulled up on his seasonal reappearance at Haydock, Seeyouatmidnight then went to Sandown – he was kept company on the journey south by the mischievous pony Bridget – where he jumped for fun under the rejuvenated Mania from flag drop in the competitive three mile race. But it is the outpouring of goodwill this past week that has so touched Thomson and his team who hope that their success gives more owners the confidence to back jump racing in the North. “I’m just glad both the horse and jockey came out of retirement,” he added. “You couldn’t write the script.”
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