Aye gets it Right in Rehearsal Chase

Aye Right claimed the big-race victory he has long promised in a thrilling renewal of the Betfair Exchange Rehearsal Handicap Chase at Newcastle.

One of just a handful of horses trained by Harriet Graham, who is also clerk of the course at Hamilton, the eight-year-old has flown the flag admirably for his small yard over the years.

As well as winning on seven previous occasions, Aye Right was last season placed in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury and at the Cheltenham Festival, so few will begrudge him his day in the sun – or snow, as was the case at Gosforth Park.

Down the field over an inadequate trip at Kelso on his return to action at Kelso last month, the eight-year-old appeared far more at home stepping back up in distance.

Always to the fore in the hands of Callum Bewley, 5-1 chance Aye Right fenced fluently to ensure many of his rivals were under pressure a long way from home.

After seemingly mastering 9-2 market leader Good Boy Bobby, a final fence error gave favourite backers renewed hope, but Graham’s pride and joy clung on by a diminishing head.

Graham said: “It wasn’t the easiest trip to get here. We left early and we needed all the time we had.

Aye Right leads the way at Newcastle
Aye Right leads the way at Newcastle (Tim Goode/PA)

“It was an excellent result in a snowstorm, but who cares?

“He deserved to be in front this time, he really did. Callum rode him brilliantly and thanks to the owners and everybody involved – it’s just brilliant. I’m really made up.”

Paddy Power make Aye Right a 50-1 shot for the Grand National in the spring, but Graham is in no rush to decide whether he will line up for the Aintree spectacular.

“We need to discuss it with the owners,” she added.

“We’ve got the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster on our radar – he was second in that last season. He’ll possibly go there, but let’s see how he is.”

Graham has Rehearsal Chase on the cards for Aye Right

Aye Right is to go for the Betfair Exchange Rehearsal Handicap Chase at Newcastle on November 27, after connections ruled out another crack at the Ladbrokes Trophy on the same day.

The eight-year-old was runner-up in the Newbury feature last season, but trainer Harriet Graham is keeping him closer to home this time.

She also wants to give him a lighter campaign to 2020-21 when he ran seven times and was placed in three other top staying chases – the Charlie Hall, the Sky Bet Chase and the Ultima Handicap – without getting his head in front.

“We took him out at Newbury because we decided we’d go to Newcastle instead for the Rehearsal Chase,” said the Jedburgh handler.

“He ran incredibly well in the Ladbrokes last year, but there will probably be 24 runners, with a lot coming over from Ireland, and we thought we’d stay local and go for the Rehearsal.

“He’s fine. We just decided we’re not going to over-race him. We went once too often last time and didn’t go to Wetherby (for this season’s Charlie Hall) which had been on our plan.

“We’ll go for the Rehearsal and see how we go from there.”

Mighty performance could keep Scottish National at home

Lucinda Russell relies principally on the improving Mighty Thunder as she supplies two of the nine contenders bidding to keep the Scottish Grand National at home.

The big Ayr prize has headed south of the border in each of the seven renewals since Merigo posted his second success in the space of three years for Scotland in 2012.

It was a significantly longer wait before then for the home contingent too, but Scottish trainers have collectively readied a team which can have high hopes on Sunday of resisting the big-gun travellers.

Russell’s Big River will accompany his stablemate, while Harriet Graham’s Aye Right is likely to start favourite – and Sandy Thomson’s duo of Dingo Dollar and The Ferry Master, Nick Alexander’s top-weight Lake View Lad, Sandy Forster’s Claud And Goldie and Iain Jardine’s Cool Mix and Dino Boy join the gathering of the clans in the 22-runner marathon.

Russell, who admits to concerns about forecast good ground for Big River, has a more obvious chance with Mighty Thunder – already winner of the Edinburgh National and second in the Midlands version this season.

“He’s a very straightforward horse, still only a novice chaser – but I’d like to think we’ve taught him well at home,” she said of the eight-year-old

“We gave him an extra season over hurdles, because his jumping wasn’t that brilliant, and I think that’s benefited him.

“He hasn’t run that often, but he’s certainly taking himself to the heights.”

Russell – who claimed the Aintree National in 2017 with One For Arthur – is hoping Mighty Thunder, who will be ridden by Tom Scudamore in place of the injured Blair Campbell, can continue to provide a glimpse of a brightening future.

She added: “He’s another exciting young horse for us, and I think that’s what we’re having to base our hopes and dreams on – these young horses coming through now and producing properly.

“I wouldn’t want it to be good to firm, because I think he’s a nice horse for the future. But he’s a little bit more flexible (than Big River), in terms he’ll go on good ground as well.”

Among the very credible raiding party is Paul Nicholls’ Soldier Of Love, Brian Ellison’s Eider Chase hero Sam’s Adventure and Notachance from Alan King’s yard.

Some Chaos is another notable opponent for the Russell yard.

The 10-year-old is trained by Michael Scudamore – son of Peter, who is Russell’s partner and assistant.

“He’s in great form,” said the Herefordshire handler.

Peter Scudamore and Lucinda Russell will be cheering for the home contingent on Sunday
Peter Scudamore and Lucinda Russell will be cheering for the home contingent on Sunday (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We tried him over hurdles the last couple of times, but he’s not the same horse doing that.

“Hopefully his last run will have blown away the cobwebs for Sunday.”

Graham, meanwhile, is hoping Aye Right can make light of his big weight, prove himself at the marathon trip and gain overdue reward for his admirable but winless season.

“He has been so consistent, and he would be a deserving winner,” said the Jedburgh trainer.

“It would be really special for the owners Geoff and Elspeth (Adam), who are the ones who invested him as a three-year-old and have been very loyal to me and loyal to (jockey) Callum (Bewley).

“They are proper Scottish owners, keeping those horses trained in Scotland – and that’s what we need people to be doing up here.

“We don’t want them sending them to Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson. We want good Scottish horses trained in Scotland – and it would be great, very deserving for the horse, and we’d be just totally made up.”

Graham is mindful of another tough task, but confident Aye Right is in fine form.

“We’re all ready to go and excited about it,” she added.

“He’s very well, and I think the ground will be right for him.

“It would have been lovely to be going off 10st 12lb, rather than 11st 11lb – that would be my only negative.

“He does like Ayr – he’s won there twice. Obviously there is a question mark about him staying, but we feel he will – he certainly finishes his races the way he starts them, he seems to me to warm up.

“He’s got that lovely galloping rhythm that makes you think he should stay. That’s the whole reason for stepping him up to nearly four miles.

“But that question will be answered on Sunday.”

Bewley returns, having had to miss Aye Right’s placed effort at the Cheltenham Festival last month.

“Callum knows him really well – it’s just twice he hasn’t ridden him (in 23 career starts),” said Graham.

“Obviously that’s an advantage.

“The Cheltenham race became quite messy. It didn’t go to plan for us, and he was in among the bunch with people jumping into him – and I think that just shows how tough he was, because he still ran on at the end.

“He is a really tough horse – whereas lots of horses might have got upset about that and stopped.

“We’re hopeful, but we’re realistic as well. It’s a long way and unknown territory.

“There’s a lot of nice horses in the race off lower weights, and there’s an argument for the lot of them – those ones carrying two stones less.

“There’s lots that have every right to win the race – but unless we are there, we’re not going to, so we’re giving it a go.”

Sam’s Adventure is another obvious threat, following his dour victory at Newcastle – but his trainer admits softer ground would have been preferable.

“Good to soft will be fine,” said Ellison.

“He would have won one day on good to soft at Kelso (in a novice hurdle won by Mighty Thunder), but he ducked out at the last.

“Basically, the horse is so well in himself. So we said we’d go for the Scottish National.

“The Midlands National probably just came a bit too quick after Newcastle. But he’s in great form – I couldn’t be happier with him. It’s just the ground (worry) obviously.

“That is an issue. He hasn’t had many chances on that kind of ground, because we’ve always thought he wanted it soft, heavy – which he does. He loves it.

“His form going into the race is great.”

The well-fancied Dingo Dollar was also a Newcastle winner, on stable debut for Thomson last month.

The Berwickshire trainer said: “This was the plan before Newcastle.

“It was always the plan to have a run, and hope it would be good enough, and then he would run in the Scottish National.

“He was favourite two years ago, I think (when with Alan King), but they didn’t run because of the firm ground.

“It should be all right this time, though.

“Unless you’ve run in a National, there’s very few horses that have run over this trip. But you would have to say he looks like he’ll stay all right.

“He’s obviously run some nice races, and I always knew what the plan was (when he arrived) – and fortunately so far, it’s coming to fruition.”

Champion jockey Brian Hughes will ride Dingo Dollar, with Sean Quinlan on The Ferry Master.

Thomson said of the latter: “There’s probably more of a question mark about him staying.

“But I thought we’d go at this stage of his career – because if he obviously doesn’t stay, then we will know that’s not where he’ll be campaigned, and be at three miles (instead).”

Aye Right leads Scottish charge in search of home National victory

Scottish trainers will be strongly represented at Ayr on Sunday as they try to keep their own Grand National trophy at home for the first time since 2012.

Harriet Graham’s Aye Right is ante-post favourite for the Coral-sponsored showpiece, but must concede weight to all his 22 opponents following his string of placed efforts in hugely-competitive races.

Graham trains a small stable of eight alongside her role as clerk of the course at Musselburgh and Perth, and has overseen the Ayr showpiece herself too when covering for maternity leave.

The Jedburgh handler describes Aye Right as “the star of the yard”, although victory has eluded the eight-year-old this season despite his series of gallant performances.

Aye Right (right) finishing second behind Cloth Cap in the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury Racecourse
Aye Right (right) finishing second behind Cloth Cap in the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Aye Right was third behind Cyrname in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby, second in Newbury’s Ladbrokes Trophy and again runner-up in Doncaster’s Listed Sky Bet Chase.

Also third in the Ultima Chase at Cheltenham last month, he is one of nine Scottish-trained runners in this weekend’s big handicap.

Aye Right’s rivals travelling north include Sue Smith’s surprise Ultima winner Vintage Clouds and Brian Ellison’s Eider Chase hero Sam’s Adventure – as well as Paul Nicholls’ Soldier Of Love, Dan Skelton’s Oldgrangewood and Notachance from Alan King’s yard.

“I’m really, really proud and privileged to be training him,” Graham said, on a call hosted by Great British Racing.

“Let’s remember his owners, Geoff and Elspeth Adam, who are Scottish as well – and Geoff has had horses in training in Scotland for many, many years.

“He’s right behind keeping his horses in Scotland to be trained – he’s been incredibly loyal to me and to the jockey, Callum Bewley, who’s also Scottish.

“I’m probably the least Scottish of the lot of them, having been brought up in Devon, but I have lived in Scotland now longer than I’ve lived in England.”

Graham will be up against some of the most powerful yards in Britain – but she believes running a smaller operation has its benefits, and is not intimidated by her high-flying opponents.

“We’re taking on the people with the numbers, which we obviously haven’t got,” she said.

“I think small trainers can give the individual horse much more hands-on contact – I don’t think anybody should ever be frightened of going to Cheltenham or Aintree from a small yard if you’ve got a good enough horse.

“We are doing it as a smaller trainer because we want to stay small – we don’t want large numbers.

“I want to know my horses and I want to know my owners really well. It’s just a different model of going into it.”

The community surrounding Graham’s yard is equally engaged in the success of Aye Right, having followed his near-misses – and he will be well supported as he looks to return the title to Scottish soil.

“It’s a real racing area here, and everyone’s into their horses,” she said.

“They’re all asking after him and saying he deserves to win one.

“When you look at his form he definitely does – there’s a really nice, good feeling behind him.”

Although Graham is naturally hoping Aye Right can cross the line in front, she would be delighted with any Scottish winner – and, with a smile, even served up a cheeky reference to home domination akin to last month’s Irish success at Cheltenham, which caused such consternation for many in Britain.

Mighty Thunder, ridden by Blair Campbell, on the way to finishing second in the Marston’s 61 Deep Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter racecourse
Mighty Thunder was runner-up in the Marston’s 61 Deep Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter (Mike Egerton/PA)

“It would be lovely if it was Aye Right – but it would be lovely if it was another one of the Scottish trainers as well,” she said.

“Maybe we could have the one-two-three-four – with Aye Right number one!

“That would be a good headline, ‘What are the English going to do about the Scottish runners?!'”

Prominent among others capable of delivering a home victory is Lucinda Russell, who runs both Mighty Thunder and Big River.

Kerry Lads was second for the Kinross trainer back in 2004, and she would love to go one better.

“When I first started training back in 1995 it was always the aim,” she said.

“It’s a race over four miles, and I tend to train stayers – even back in those days – so it was always the aim for the horses.

“Kerry Lads got us very close. He was second and placed a couple of times, so it’s always been an aim.

“I think it’s a race that would just complete my CV. It’d be rather nice.”

Merigo provided the most recent home win, taking the race in 2010 and 2012 – and before that, Scottish trainers had been out of luck for decades.

Russell, who became only the second Scottish trainer to win the Grand National at Aintree when One For Arthur prevailed in 2017, has since noticed an increase in investment in the racing industry north of the border.

“I do think that four or five years ago, racing was really in the doldrums up here,” she said.

“I think it’s really picked up – we’re attracting a lot more media exposure, which is great.

“The owners have invested money in really nice horses, (and) the trainers have upgraded their facilities.

“It’s not just going to be this year. I think in the future you’ll find a lot more Scottish influence in the Scottish National and in the big handicaps.

Grand National winner One For Arthur pictured with Lucinda Russell at her yard in Kinross, Scotland
Grand National winner One For Arthur with Lucinda Russell at her yard in Kinross (Ian Rutherford/PA)

“It’s fantastic and it’s credit to the owners who stick with us and look after us and keep investing in horses with us.

“Hopefully it’s the start and it will continue – and it won’t be long before we have more Scottish winners of the Scottish National and of the other big races down south as well.”

Russell has also noticed an increased sense of camaraderie between northern and Scottish trainers, particularly after her 66-1 success with Ahoy Senor in the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.

“I think that there is a really good bond between the Scottish trainers and the northern trainers, and there’s quite a buzz about the place,” she said.

“When you have a winner at Aintree in a Grade One and your peers come up and say well done to you, rather than being too competitive about it, I think it’s just a better feeling. Is that (as a result of) Covid? I’m not sure, but I think it might be.

“We’re a little bit more emotional and a bit softer about things, realising that we’ve got to do it for the good of the sport up in here in Scotland.

“We’ve got to keep supporting it and promoting it, whoever it is that’s doing the promoting.”

Scottish National could be crowning moment for Aye Right

Aye Right may bid for the most deserved of victories in next month’s Coral Scottish Grand National.

Harriet Graham’s stable star once again did her Jedburgh yard proud on another southern raid as a highly honourable third in last week’s Ultima Handicap Chase on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.

That was the fourth time in succession the remarkably consistent eight-year-old has been placed at graded or Listed level this season.

Graham returned from the 600-mile, 10-hour round trip full of pride for his efforts – but admits to a tinge of frustration too that, for all his honesty and determination, Aye Right has registered just one victory over fences, and none in his last six attempts spread over 14 months.

Aye Right has recovered from his latest exertions, after just a short break so far – and Graham is considering a shorter trip to the races next time, but a longer one on arrival in the marathon Ayr showpiece.

“We’re not guaranteed that we’ll run him again this season because once you get to here, there is very little (to choose from for him),” she said.

“There’s the Scottish National, and I think there’s two races at Sandown at the end of the month – and that’s about it.

“It will be ground dependent, and other entries. But we’re certainly going to be aiming him for that (Scottish National), and then take it how it comes.”

A continued dry spell will provide further encouragement, at a meeting which played to Aye Right’s strengths when it last took place two years ago – with a good handicap victory over hurdles.

Graham added: “He does like good ground, so we’d be very tempted to run him on that and see if he gets the trip.

“He always finishes his races well.

“He’s one-paced, we know that, but he’s not stopping – he’s just not going any faster at the end, basically.”

As for the prospects of an overdue eighth career victory for Aye Right, she said: “It would be lovely to win one – that’s why we’re here.

“We want to win them.

“It’s a little bit frustrating, but I guess when you’re rated 150 plus, there’s no easy races.

“You basically don’t have any choices – you’ve just got to go where you can.”

There would be no more rewarding success for the small Borders yard than in one of Scotland’s most famous races.

“That would be really sweet, very sweet,” said Graham.

“But it’s another race that will be ultra-competitive and you’ve got to have some luck as well.”

Aye Right is at his best dictating the pace, and it was to his credit that he was beaten under eight lengths by a resurgent Vintage Clouds despite failing to find any jumping fluency up the inside rail in such a competitive race at Cheltenham.

“It probably didn’t pan out quite the way we thought it might,” added Graham.

“He didn’t get an easy lead and he was right among the field all the time – he’s probably better when he can use his front-running style.

“But he was very, very brave and we were very proud of him.

“He’s very consistent. He can make a mistake, but he doesn’t really know that he has – so he just carries on, which is a really good thing.”

Aye Right justified his rating of 154 once more – under Richard Johnson, with his regular jockey Callum Bewley suspended – and the move up to a new trip is therefore a remaining option to try to eke out further improvement.

He has had six starts so far this season, since October, but Graham reports he appears well after his latest long-range assignment.

“He’s been fine,” she said.

“He was a bit tired when we got back – it’s a long trip back – so he’s had a few days off.

“The handicapper hasn’t done anything to him, so he’s on the same mark.

“It’d be nice to have been dropped a wee bit, but he probably was the mark that the handicapper used (to rate the race).”

Richard Johnson in line to ride Aye Right at Cheltenham

Harriet Graham is hoping to book Richard Johnson for Aye Right in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.

The ride has come up for grabs as Aye Right’s regular partner Callum Bewley will be serving a suspension during the Festival.

Bewley has ridden Aye Right in all but one of his 22 races, with Johnson on board when the horse won a handicap hurdle at Kelso in September 2019.

Jedburgh trainer Graham said: “He’s on track to go to the Ultima at Cheltenham.

“I’m thinking Richard Johnson will probably be on him. Callum is banned for Cheltenham, so he can’t ride him. He would normally have ridden him.

“It’s all systems go for Cheltenham.”

Graham decided against a trip to Kelso this weekend as part of the eight-year-old’s preparation.

“We would have liked to have gone to the Premier Chase at Kelso,” she added.

“But it’s just a bit too close to Cheltenham, so we decided not to.”

Aye Right has performed with great credit in all his four starts over fences this season, without getting his head in front. His efforts include a third in the Charlie Hall Chase and second in both the Ladbrokes Trophy and the Sky Bet Handicap Chase.

His form from the Ladbrokes Trophy was boosted at Kelso on Saturday when race winner and Grand National favourite Cloth Cap landed the Listed Premier Chase with ease.

Aye Right stars on bumper card at Newcastle

Harriet Graham’s Ladbrokes Trophy runner-up Aye Right is the headline act at Newcastle on Wednesday.

The Gosforth Park venue was scheduled to stage a National Hunt card, but the meeting was called off in the middle of last week as the track was unraceable with little prospect of improvement.

That fixture has been replaced with a ‘jumpers’ bumpers’ card and for a horse like Aye Right, who is trained in the Scottish Borders, it has come at just the right time.

He lines up in the QuinnBet Casino “Jumpers’ Bumper” National Hunt Flat Race over an extended two miles.

“We’ve obviously been stopped a bit by the weather over the last three or four weeks and we thought it would be a good, strong bit of work for him,” said Graham.

“Obviously it is probably a mile too short for him and there are no jumps which will be a disadvantage, but we’ve had horses there recently as our grass gallops are either saturated or frozen at the minute.

“We just think it’s a good opportunity to take him and it’s a big thanks to the British Horseracing Authority as originally his race wasn’t there and he didn’t qualify for any of the others.

“It will be a strange race, there’s all sorts of different types – Jimmy’s (Moffatt) horse (Golden Town) even ran in Kingman’s Greenham back in the day.

“We’re aiming him at the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster, but the way the forecast is and because we won’t be running him on heavy ground, we’ve just got to take the opportunities when they are there.”

Aye Right ‘absolutely bouncing’ after fine Newbury run

Aye Right is “absolutely bouncing” after his Ladbrokes Trophy exertions and has earned himself a short break with his fine effort to finish runner-up at Newbury.

Harriet Graham’s seven-year-old ran a tremendous race on Saturday, behind all-the-way winner Cloth Cap in one of the best staying handicap chases of the entire season.

Aye Right was always prominent, but the task of giving Cloth Cap 14lb proved too much as he went down by 10 lengths, but was still able to hold Cheltenham Festival scorer The Conditional by a length and a half for second.

“He’s fine, he’s absolutely bouncing,” said Jedburgh-based Graham.

“He’s been stretching his legs out in the field and is having a few easy days before we make some plans going forward.

“We’ve got some ideas, but we’re going to have a sit down. He’ll probably won’t run again until next year now, but that’s too far away now.

“The potential goal might be the Scottish National, but we actually haven’t talked about it yet. We’ll wait until we’ve all calmed down a bit, because he ran such a great race.”

Aye Right’s fine Newbury effort followed good runs behind Nuts Well and Cyrname respectively, on his first two starts this season.

Hopes high for Aye Right team in Ladbrokes Trophy

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.

Harriet Graham aboard her big-race hope Aye Right
Harriet Graham aboard her big-race hope Aye Right (Harriet Graham)

“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.

Callum Bewley has a big day ahead at Newbury on Saturday
Callum Bewley has a big day ahead at Newbury on Saturday (Richard Sellers/PA)

“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.”

Graham hoping to be in attendance for Aye Right’s Trophy bid

Harriet Graham has still not given up hope of being at Newbury when Aye Right runs in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday.

Graham, who also acts as clerk of the course at Musselburgh and Hamilton, only trains a small string in the Scottish Borders and Aye Right has already taken her to the Cheltenham Festival.

He caught many an eye when third to Cyrname in the Charlie Hall Chase last time out, and ever since has been among the favourites for one of the most prestigious handicaps of the season.

Graham’s attendance has been in doubt, though, since she was run over by her own lorry when attending to what she thought was a driver in distress. In the accident Graham broke her pelvis.

“I’m definitely better than I was and getting better by the day,” she said.

“I’m still hoping to go. I’ll make a decision on Wednesday, all I need to be able to do is sit in the lorry and hobble around when I get there. So I’m hoping to go, but it’s not definite yet.”

As for Aye Right, having been second on his seasonal debut over an inadequate trip at Kelso to subsequent Old Roan winner Nuts Well, he ran a career-best at Wetherby.

“He’s very well at home, we haven’t changed his routine, he’ll do a bit of work on Monday or Tuesday and then he’ll just lob and canter until we go down.

Aye Right in the parade ring at Cheltenham
Aye Right in the parade ring at Cheltenham (Harriet Graham)

“His first run this season we always viewed as a prep race, the trip was always going to be a bit sharp, but it sharpened his jumping up because he jumped really well at Wetherby.

“Being a small trainer we can only train with the horses we have here. We sometimes take him to other yards to school and he did have a school around Perth, but there’s nothing like a race to sharpen him up.”

She added: “I think we need to be honest with ourselves and Cyrname could have beaten us a lot further if he’d wanted, but I don’t think Vinndication was that far away from us. Cyrname is a different class to Aye Right, and most of the others in Britain to be honest.

“We think in time he’ll stay even further than this, he just jumps and gallops, he doesn’t really have a turn of foot. The Scottish National has been mentioned, but in this day and age that is a long way off, it didn’att happen last year.”

Graham eyes big-race targets for Aye Right

Harriet Graham believes Aye Right can win “a big one somewhere” after his excellent effort behind Cyrname in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

The seven-year-old made a gallant bid to lead all the way and kept on stoutly to take third spot behind Britain’s highest-rated chaser on Saturday.

Graham has been looking at options for Aye Right in the next four or five weeks – including the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, Newcastle’s Rehearsal Chase and the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree.

The Jedburgh trainer said: “He’s absolutely perfect – he’s having a couple of easy days in the field, no problem with him at all.

“It’s early days. We want to see what the handicapper does with him.

“He’s got an entry for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury – also the Many Clouds at Aintree and the Rehearsal (at Newcastle) in that timescale. We’ll be looking at all of those.”

Graham was delighted with Aye Right’s performance, but has also put it in perspective.

“He ran an absolutely fantastic race, but we know he’s not a Gold Cup horse or a King George horse,” she said.

“But he’s certainly the next level down, and I’d have thought he’ll get a big one somewhere.

“He’s small but he jumps really well. He didn’t have that hard a race. He was still jig-jogging when he came in.

“You can’t get near that Cyrname when he’s like that. He’s a joy to watch when things go right.”