Tag Archive for: Midnight Shadow

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.”

King George bid not yet ruled out for Midnight Shadow

Midnight Shadow could still yet go for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day following his fine effort in defeat at Cheltenham last weekend.

The eight-year-old, trained by Sue Smith, lost nothing in defeat when third to Coole Cody on Saturday, in his bid to follow up his victory in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at the Prestbury Park venue.

Smith is to discuss with Midnight Shadow’s owners whether to take up his entry in the three-mile Christmas feature, with just over two weeks between the races.

“We won’t know until we’ve got final confirmation. I haven’t spoken to the owners yet regarding it, but he’s come out of his race at Cheltenham very well,” said the Bingley trainer.

“The King George is still a possible. We’ll just have to wait on their answer.”

Looking back on Midnight Shadow’s gallant effort in trying to repeat his Power Power win in the Racing Post Gold Cup, Smith said: “I was very pleased with his run.

“He carried 11lb more than the winner and 9lb more than the second horse and he’s only been beaten two lengths. He put up a very good performance.”

Shadow chasing Cheltenham double for Sue Smith

Midnight Shadow is reported to be in fine shape as he goes for a rare double by winning the Racing Post Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday.

The Sue Smith-trained eight-year-old overcame a mistake at the final fence to lift the Paddy Power Gold Cup by three-quarters of a length from Protektorat, who has since franked the form with a facile triumph in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree.

Midnight Shadow has to defy a 7lb rise in the ratings for his victory that will not make life easy in his bid to win a second prestigious handicap chase at the home of jump racing and achieve a feat last accomplished by Exotic Dancer in 2006.

“He’s in good form to go there and hopefully he’ll run a very good race,” said Smith.

“It would be marvellous if he could win it but it’s a different race, different day. He loves it round there so we’re really hoping for a very big run from him.”

Paul Nicholls is hoping a pair of cheekpieces can give Lalor an extra boost following a promising effort in the Paddy Power.

The nine-year-old ran his best race for some time when third behind Midnight Shadow on what was his first run since his move from Kayley Woollacott’s stable.

“He ran a race full of promise on his debut for us in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, staying on strongly to finish third just behind Protektorat, who franked the form with an impressive win at Aintree on Saturday,” Nicholls told Betfair.

Lalor  bids to build on his promising first run for Paul Nicholls
Lalor bids to build on his promising first run for Paul Nicholls (David Davies/PA)

“He hadn’t finished a race for 22 months, so to run like that after loads of problems was really encouraging. He seems to have come on since then and schooled great on Thursday morning.

“One of Lalor’s best runs came at Cheltenham in cheekpieces on New Year’s day 2020, so I’m putting them on again to sharpen him up a little bit because Harry Cobden felt he raced a touch lazily.”

Coole Cody came down at the second-last when still going well in front in the Paddy Power.

He had won that race last year and his trainer Evan Williams is hoping the 10-year-old can bounce back.

“He ran a great race last time, a smashing race. It’s always difficult when you’ve had a fall to come back to another big race, but he’s a tough old genuine boy and it’s fingers crossed he’ll go well again,” said Williams.

“There’s a big difference in the two courses at Cheltenham. And there is no doubt his best form is on the other track. It’s a big pot so let’s give it a go.”

Alan King feels Deyrann De Carjac has come on for his comeback after five months off when when not disgraced in ninth place in the Paddy Power.

Silver Hallmark's chances would be improved by rain
Silver Hallmark’s chances would be improved by rain (David Davies/PA)

“He was only beaten nine lengths in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at the November meeting, a race which will have sharpened him up,” the Barbury Castle trainer told www.alankingracing.co.uk.

“Deyrann de Carjac was staying on all the way up the run-in, having been forced to go flat to the boards from the off. He jumped well, having been short of match practice, and I think he’ll build on that run with a race behind him.”

Fergal O’Brien would like to see some rain fall ahead of the race to boost Silver Hallmark’s prospects. The seven-year-old shaped well on his first start for nine months when fourth to Fiddlerontheroof at Carlisle six weeks ago.

“Hopefully we’ll get a bit more rain and it’s fingers crossed. He just needs a bit more rain and a bit of luck and all the rest of it,” said O’Brien.

“It turned out a nice race at Carlisle. If we get the rain, we’d be hopeful of a good run.”

Midnight Shadow on course to claim rare Cheltenham double

Midnight Shadow is among a field of 15 as he attempts to join an elite list by winning the Racing Post Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday.

Sue Smith’s eight-year-old won the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November and will join Pegwell Bay, Senor El Betrutti and Exotic Dancer as winners of both races in the same season. Smith also runs Joke Dancer.

Jeremy Scott chose not to declare Dashel Drasher, meaning the weights are now headed by the Venetia Williams-trained Cepage.

Williams, who won the Ladbrokes Trophy with Cloudy Glen, is also represented by Farinet, last seen winning at Sandown in March on just his second outing for the yard.

Several of those who finished behind Midnight Shadow last month will take him on again.

Among them are Paul Nicholls’ Lalor, Evan Williams’ Coole Cody, who still held every chance when coming down two out, the Philip Hobbs pair of Dostal Phil and Zanza and Alan King’s Deyrann Du Carjac.

Fusil Raffles, Silver Hallmark, Francky Du Berlais, Siruh Du Lac, Beakstown and Topofthecotswolds complete the field.

King’s Sceau Royal is one of seven for the Unibet International Hurdle.

Sceau Royal (left) is back out again this weekend
Sceau Royal (left) is back out again this weekend (David Davies/PA)

It has been a busy first half of the season for the nine-year-old, who will be having his fourth outing. He was last seen finishing a close third in the Fighting Fifth behind the dead-heating Not So Sleepy and Epatante.

Tom Symonds’ Song For Someone will defend the title he won 12 months ago and arrives on the back of a solid reappearance at Ascot when he was second to Buzz.

Henry de Bromhead saddles Ballyadam, who was second to Appreciate It in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in March and returns to the smaller obstacles after two unsuccessful efforts over fences.

A second Irish-trained runner is Paul Hennessy’s mare Heaven Help Us, a nine-length winner of the Coral Cup last season.

Heaven Help Us was a startling winner of the Coral Cup
Heaven Help Us was a startling winner of the Coral Cup (Tim Goode/PA)

Wilde About Oscar, Guard Your Dreams and Hunters Call also take part.

Dan Skelton’s My Drogo faces three in the bearrene.com Novices’ Chase, with Bob Olinger an absentee as expected.

My Drogo was a faller at the second-last in an eventful race on his chasing debut when he only other rival also made a terrible error at the same fence, only for Rachael Blackmore to maintain her partnership with Gin On Lime before going on to win.

Captain Cuckoo, Jay Bee Why and Torn And Frayed take him on.

Charles Byrnes’ Blazing Khal stars in six for the Albert Barltett Novices’ Hurdle, with Paul Webber’s Indefatigable reverting to handicap company later on the card.

Mania back on the crest of a wave – with retirement a distant memory

It is not looking a bad decision from Ryan Mania to return to the saddle, having bagged yet another big-race success through Midnight Shadow in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Mania prematurely called an end to his career just a year after scaling his Everest, when winning the 2013 Grand National on Auroras Encore.

Just shy of his 25th birthday at the time, it shocked many people, but Mania cited weight problems and that he no longer got the kick out of winning that he once did. He went to work as a hunt master in Scotland, as well as being assistant trainer to his father-in-law, Sandy Thomson.

By October 2019, however, the itch returned and Mania, with his weight now back on an even keel, was back in the saddle. Both metaphorically and literally.

Having resumed his role as principal rider for Auroras Encore’s trainer Sue Smith, due to the enforced retirement of Danny Cook through an eye injury, Mania enjoyed his first Cheltenham Festival winner in March on Vintage Clouds.

And it was for Smith he enjoyed further Cheltenham success on Midnight Shadow, who had finished second in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup last December.

“I’m sure it is emotional for most jockeys, but it is especially emotional for me to have retired and come back and do all this for my family. To come down and ride these big winners is amazing,” said Mania

“Coming down the chute in front of the crowd was really emotional and then getting back to the paddock to see Sue, I had a lump in my throat. We’ve shared a few big days now, it’s unreal.

“They keep supporting me and keep producing these big winners. They deserve all the credit.

“In March it was empty so we could take things in a bit more than normal, today you are distracted by the crowd, they were unbelievable and it makes it more special.

“I never say I regret retiring because ultimately it was the best thing I ever did, but coming back was also the best thing I could have done. Everything happens for a reason and works out the way it’s supposed to. Days like this are the reason.”

Midnight Shadow jumps the last in isolation
Midnight Shadow jumps the last in isolation (David Davies/PA)

Midnight Shadow is now Smith’s flag bearer, but while she has been famed down the years for picking up major staying chases with the likes of the aforementioned Vintage Clouds, The Last Fling, Wakanda and of course Auroras Encore, Smith is hoping this one might just be a bit better and is planning an ambitious tilt at the King George.

Given he will now be rated in the mid 150s and Mania felt he was idling in front, he is certainly entitled to have a go.

“He got a little bit lonely which he can do in his races if he is in front for too long, and the lack of concentration maybe didn’t help,” said Mania.

“In fairness, he was never being beaten as he is very game and I could feel the horses coming to me but he was never going to let them past.

“He is a very easy horse to ride in a race as he jumps and he travels, so you can do what you want with him. He is a jockey’s dream really and I’m very lucky to ride him. Everything went to plan and he barely missed a fence, so I can’t complain.

“He ran a really good race last time out and the only negative was that it was three weeks ago and I thought he might have had a hard race in the Old Roan at Aintree, but he has come here and he has never felt any effects of that race, thank God.”

He added: “There are no plans to retire, I’ve got a good 10 years in me yet.”

Midnight Shadow strikes Paddy Power gold

Midnight Shadow claimed the spoils in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham after last year’s winner Coole Cody fell at the second-last when leading the field.

Midnight Shadow was one of those in close pursuit and jumped the last in front – but he made a mistake there and was all out up the hill to hold the late challenge of Protektorat to land the prize for the Grand National-winning partnership of trainer Sue Smith and jockey Ryan Mania.

The eight-year-old was just three-quarters of a length in front at the line to strike at odds of 9-1. Protektorat (11-2 favourite) was half a length ahead of Lalor (7-1) in third, with Dostal Phil (16-1) a length back in fourth place.

There was a strong pace from the start, with Coole Cody getting into the lead once the field settled down. Simply The Betts was prominent in the early stages, as was Al Dancer while Midnight Shadow was fairly handy.

Paint The Dream took closer order as the tempo increased, but his challenged petered out. Coole Cody looked certain to take a hand in the finish, only to make a dramatic exit at the tricky penultimate obstacle.

Smith – whose finest hour came with Auroras Encore and Mania in the 2013 Aintree spectacular – said: “I probably get more emotional these days because I’m that much older!

“It’s special, it’s special for everyone because we’re only a small yard and northern trainers don’t get to do this very often, so it’s lovely.

“I’ve probably got about 45-50 in training, but they are not all Midnight Shadows! I probably had a few more in when we won the National, but these are once-in-a-lifetime horses, the same as Auroras Encore was – and he’s still in the field looking very well now.

“He was bought at Doncaster by Harvey (Smith) and he was bred by Mr Smith-Maxwell who actually runs the horse ambulance service here.”

Smith revealed an ambitions target for Midnight Shadow at Christmas.

She said: “I think the plan could be to go to Kempton for the big race – the King George.

“We’ve been thinking of stepping him up to three miles for some time so we may as well do it then, if you don’t try these things you don’t know. Eventually he will get three miles, I’m sure.

“You don’t often come across a horse like this, so it’s amazing to have him in our yard – he’s obviously the best horse in our yard.”