Harriet Graham’s Aye Right will carry the hopes of the north when he heads to Newbury on Saturday for the Ladbrokes Trophy.
The seven-year-old is vying for favouritism in the historic three-and-a-quarter-mile handicap, after a third-placed finish behind Cyrname in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
Piloted by regular jockey Callum Bewley, Graham’s charge was beaten seven lengths by Paul Nicholls’ Gold Cup hope, with the Kim Bailey-trained Vinndication taking the runner-up spot.
“It was a great performance,” said Jedburgh-based Graham, who trains alongside her role as clerk of the course at Musselburgh and Hamilton Park.
“We would have been quite content, coming into the Ladbrokes Trophy, had we been fifth or sixth. Cyrname, let’s be really honest here, he probably could have beaten us by 20 or 30 lengths. We were all probably relying on him making a mistake, he is an incredibly classy horse, a dream horse.
“Aye Right is probably not a Cyrname, but he’s a really good galloping, jumping horse.”
Aye Right will meet Vinndication again this weekend, this time on 7lb better terms with five lengths to make up.
“Vinndication is a really good horse and Kim Bailey is a very good trainer, I really respect Kim Bailey,” Graham said in a conference call hosted by Great British Racing.
“You have to think there’s maybe a chance that we could get closer. You don’t need to look at the betting, you just need to look at the horses.
“There would be an argument for most horses winning the race, and we’re very, very aware of that. We’re real realists up at the Borders, we know anything can go wrong and we just hope to God that it doesn’t.
“Everybody’s there and everybody’s going to be wanting to win the race. That’s what makes National Hunt racing. They’ve not only got to gallop, they’ve got to jump all of those fences, they’ve got to have the right tactics and it’s all got to go right.
“Most of all they’ve got to have a lot of luck as well, whoever wins it.”
Bewley – who will be riding at Newbury for the first time – was equally impressed by his mount’s Charlie Hall effort.
“Saturday is a big day for everybody, and I do think the horse has done nothing wrong,” he said.
“At Wetherby, the Charlie Hall – that run was solid, he ran a cracker I thought. He jumped and put a lot of horses under pressure, good horses. It will be very interesting going in on different terms this time, weight-wise.
“He’s the best I’ve ridden, he’s just so straightforward from a jockey’s point of view. He’s very forward going, he jumps very well and he’s maybe not the biggest horse in the world but in terms of what he can do out on the racecourse, he’s very special.
“The way he can jump and travel, he seems to get horses off the bridle a long way from home and he finds that he’s still in his comfort zone.”
Bewley has partnered Aye Right in all but one of his 19 racecourse appearances and has long been an admirer of the horse.
“I always said, from day one, whenever he started, that I thought an awful lot of this horse. Always,” he said.
“It’s easy to say now, but I’ve always thought the world of him. Even when he’s been beaten in his races, the heart he shows is serious. He just tries so hard for you and he won’t back down.
“I suppose that’s why he’s so good, he’s a good one and hopefully he can prove it on Saturday.”