Sue Smith names Grade One target as Midnight Shadow escapes injury after final fence fall

SUE SMITH is eyeing up a Grade One novice chase for Midnight Shadow – despite her stable star suffering a heavy final fence fall earlier this week.

Sue Smith's Midnight Shadow won the 2018 Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr under Danny Cook.
Sue Smith's Midnight Shadow won the 2018 Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr under Danny Cook.

The former Grand National-winning trainer reports the horse to be “A1” after coming to grief in a chase at Carlisle under regular rider Danny Cook.

The 2018 Scottish Champion Hurdle-winner, running for just the second time over larger obstacles, had been foot perfect until the mishap.

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Midnight Shadow was fortunate to escape unscathed – the pursuing Djingle also fell independently at the same fence in a race won by Hell’s Kitchen.

Midnight Shadow (left) won the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year's Day.

Now Smith, who trains at High Eldwick near Bingley, has set her sights on the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown on December 7 – Tingle Creek Chase day – with Midnight Shadow who was also a high-profile winner at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day in the colours of Aafke Clarke.

“He was back to his old self and ran a cracking race,” she told The Yorkshire Post. “He stood off at the last – it was just a novicey mistake.

“He’s a very exciting prospect. He’s fine. He’s cantered this morning and is absolutely A1 fine. We’re looking forward to his next race.”

Meanwhile Smith confirmed that Aintree’s Becher Chase on the same day is the next intended target for her staying steeplechaser Vintage Clouds.

Second at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, the Trevor Hemmings-owned grey was a first fence casualty in the Randox Health Grand National after pitching on landing.

Smith and her husband Harvey, the showjumping legend, want the horse to gain experience of Aintree’s unique fences before a second tilt at the National next April.

They have also entered I Just Know, a 2018 Grand National casualty, and Sharp Response in the £150,000 race over three and a quarter miles.

A competitive 59-runner field includes the Paul Nicholls-trained and Harry Cobden-ridden Give Me A Copper who was an empathetic winner of Wincanton’s Badger Beers Trophy last weekend in the colours of football legend Sir Alex Ferguson.

Walk In The Mill, victorious last year for trainer Robert Walford, holds an entry while other notable contenders could include Malton trainer Brian Ellison’s stable star Definitly Red – the Grand National rather than the Cheltenham Gold Cup is the horse’s top target – and recent Charlie Hall Chase winner Ballyoptic.

Meanwhile Catterick trainer Phil Kirby has entered second season chaser Top Ville Ben who was unplaced in the Charlie Hall.

Kirby’s standard-bearer Lady Buttons also features among 14 entries for the Grade One Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on November 30.

Connections have always favoured a chase at Newbury on the same afternoon for Lady Buttons – the horse won the corresponding contest last year in spectacular style under Adam Nicol.

However, with many racecourses hit by waterlogging, Kirby has given Lady Buttons a provisional entry in the Newcastle feature, which is headed by dual Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D’Air.

Trained by Nicky Henderson, Buveur D’Air won the Champion Hurdle in 2017 and 2018 before suffering an uncharacteristic third flight fall in this year’s renewal.

Buveur D’Air was beaten again when second to Supasundae in an Aintree Hurdle run in desperate weather, but reversed the form in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle in May.

Henderson thinks that form again sets the standard this term. “I thought he was very good at Punchestown, as he jumped with his usual slickness, and it was marvellous to finish the season on a good note,” he added.

“It was sad what happened at Cheltenham when we were trying to win a third Champion Hurdle, but these things happen. He is still probably the one they all have to beat on paper. There are some young horses coming through such as Klassical Dream, but it would be great if he could make it to Cheltenham again this year and win a third Champion Hurdle.”

Wetherby clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson is anticipating no weather problems ahead of Saturday’s meeting at the West Yorkshire track.

He said the going is currently soft, good to soft in places, ahead of a forecast six to eight millimetres of rain today.

“We’re not looking too bad,” he added.