‘Superb’ day has Smith celebrating after perfect opening to racing year

A PERFECT four winners from four runners gave Grand National-winning trainer Sue Smith a flying start to 2014.

The in-form handler had left her High Eldwick stables at 6am for the 206-mile drive to Musselburgh where both Mr Moonshine and Swing Hard prevailed for jockey Ryan Mania in the colours of Aintree hero Auroras Encore.

Smith’s husband Harvey, the former showjumper, was on duty at Catterick where Emral Silk and Grate Fella provided confidence-boosting victories for Shane Byrne, a talented but tall horseman who has been working hard to get his weight back under control.

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The most high-profile success was Mr Moonshine. Pulled up in last year’s National, a shorter trip and better ground played to the chaser’s strengths.

The trainer is unsure whether Mr Moonshine will have another crack at the National; he might be better suited to the Topham over one circuit of Aintree’s world famous course.

“It has been a superb day, crazy. We’ll be singing on the way home. I think it’s the first time we’ve had four winners in a day,” said an elated Smith.

“The Topham is definitely a race that he will be entered in. This is only the third time that the horse has won over fences, though he ran a good race in the Becher, and he’s been crying out for two-and-a-half miles and a little ease in the ground. The rain came after his race.

“Swing Hard ran well and the double at Catterick will settle Shane down and help his confidence.”

She also confirmed that Auroras Encore will continue preparations for his National defence in the Skybet Chase at Doncaster at the end of the month.

The aforementioned Mania completed a personal treble on Sandy Thomson’s Any Given Moment to take his winners for the current campaign to 30 – one shy of his personal best in 2009-10.

In a coincidence, Mr Moonshine’s brother Double Ross galloped through the rain and mud to follow up his December Gold Cup success at Cheltenham with victory in the Fairlawne Handicap Chase at the same course for Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies, while Willie Mullins’s top hurdler Annie Power extended her unbeaten run to nine with an impressive victory.

Meanwhile, top Irish trainer Dessie Hughes accepts that his 21-year-old stable jockey Bryan Cooper will become first rider to Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud in succession to the sacked Davy Russell.

Cooper rode a double for Hughes at Punchestown on the Gigginstown-owned Lieutenant Colonel and Off The Chart for JP McManus.

“It would be a good job for him, but a big blow for me,” said the trainer. “Hopefully, he would still ride for me as much as he can.”