Midnight Shadow expected to go the distance in Sky Bet Chase

Sue Smith will be on a “learning curve” when Midnight Shadow steps up to three miles for the first time in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster on Saturday.

The nine-year-old has had a tremendous season being campaigned at around two and a half miles, with victory in the Paddy Power Gold Cup and third place in both the Old Roan Chase and the Racing Post Gold Cup.

Now connections have decided to try him over three miles in a valuable contest Smith took with Wakanda in 2018.

“He ran a nice race at Cheltenham last time and he has done nothing wrong this season at all,” said the Bingley handler.

“You can’t ask for a lot more than what he has been doing. This will be his first time going up to three miles over fences. It will be a learning curve for us on Saturday.

“He is in very good form, and the feeling is that he will stay every inch of the three miles, but you just have to wait and see.

“As long as the ground is safe – good ground, without the word firm in it – that will be the main thing.”

Brian Ellison is bullish about the prospects of Windsor Avenue, who is is equipped with headgear for the first time.

Brian Ellison fancies the chances of Windsor Avenue
Brian Ellison fancies the chances of Windsor Avenue (Mike Egerton/PA)

“He’s worked absolutely tremendous with the blinkers on and I think he’s got a massive chance,” said the North Yorkshire handler.

“He ran well on his first run of the season at Bangor, then he ran in the Rowland Meyrick (at Wetherby) and got stuck on the inside and he doesn’t like horses around him.

“We’re putting the blinkers on him on Saturday and to be honest, we couldn’t have him any better. I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t run a big race.”

Christian Williams is delighted the weights have gone up 4lb as it means Cap Du Nord is now in the handicap proper and will run off bottom weight of 10st.

Cap Du Nord runs off his proper mark in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase
Cap Du Nord runs off his proper mark in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Cap Du Nord was third 12 months ago when the ground was unsuitable and the Glamorgan trainer cannot wait to the nine-year-old having another go at the prestigious prize.

“The top weight has come out so we’re bang in the handicap proper and we’re looking forward to it,” he said.

“He ran well in it last year on messy ground so we’re hoping the ground might suit him a bit better on Saturday.”

Debece returns after 322 days off the track with trainer Dan Skelton hoping the 11-year-old can put up a good show.

“He has has a chance. He’s not getting any younger, but he did have a good run for us last year,” he said.

“He’s made of glass, so I’ve not told him he’s declared yet!”

Sandy Thomson has drawn a line through Hill Sixteen’s run in the Welsh Grand National and is hoping for a similar performance that saw the nine-year-old go down by only a nose to Snow Leopardess in the Becher Chase at Aintree.

Sandy Thomson saddles Hill Sixteen in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase
Sandy Thomson saddles Hill Sixteen in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase (John Giles/PA)

“Hill Sixteen, like many horses, Chepstow just didn’t happen for him. The ground was deep and for whatever reason he didn’t handle it,” he said.

“He has won over hurdles on good ground and the owner is keen to go for the National, but obviously he is not going to get in at the moment, so he will have to run a big race on Saturday.

“Ryan (Mania, assistant trainer) has obviously jumped ship (for Moonlight Shadow), but I am not sure he is correct – time will tell. There is only one way to find out!”

Bryony Frost is looking forward to riding Grand Sancy for Paul Nicholls, who also saddles Kapcorse.

“He has no weight at all and hopefully it’s good ground, which will make it easier for him,” she said.

“I’ve been riding him a little bit at home and he’s in brilliant health, so fingers crossed.”

Kerry Lee is happy with her two runners, Demachine and Storm Control.

Demachine began the season with an excellent fifth behind Cloudy Glen, who reopposes, in the Ladbrokes Trophy but unseated his rider at the first fence at Ludlow.

“It was unfortunate what happened at Ludlow but that’s racing. I was still very happy with the way he ran in the Ladbrokes Trophy and hoping to build on that,” she told Sky Sports Racing.

“He ran a very solid race, but the trip was probably a tiny bit too far for him and it was a tall order for him first time out this season. I’d like to think he’s come on for that and back to three miles on very nice should really suit him. He’s in very good form going into the race.”

With limited opportunities Lee is happy to turn out Storm Control again after his victory at Newbury recently.

“I was absolutely delighted with his Newbury performance. There aren’t any options for him either. He’s gone up 5lb and he’s running off 137,” said the Presteigne handler.

“Daire McConville, who’s a very promising conditional jockey, attached to the yard, takes 10lb off. He gave him a great ride at Newbury. He’ll be running off 9st 12lb so you have to have a go.”

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