Tag Archive for: Sandy Thomson

Thomson lining up dual challenge for Scottish National honours

Sandy Thomson plans to saddle both Hill Sixteen and The Ferry Master in his bid for an elusive victory in Saturday’s Coral Scottish Grand National.

The Berwickshire-based trainer would dearly love to win Ayr’s four-mile showpiece, having come close on a few occasions in recent years.

“I’ve been second, third and fourth, so it would be great to win one,” said Thomson.

“Dingo Dollar and The Ferry Master were second and fourth last year, Seeyouatmidnight finished third a few years ago (2016).

“It doesn’t appear to have been the luckiest race for us, but hopefully that will change on Saturday.”

The Ferry Master was beaten just over seven lengths in last year’s renewal and returns for another crack from 5lb lower in the weights, having been narrowly beaten as an odds-on favourite on his first start since undergoing wind surgery at Newcastle on his latest appearance.

Hill Sixteen is perhaps not as well handicapped, however, having received a hefty rise for finishing second to Nuts Well in the Premier Chase at Kelso at the start of the month.

“I’m delighted with The Ferry Master. He’d been off the track for a while before Newcastle,” the trainer added.

“We could have done without Hill Sixteen getting 9lb for his run at Kelso. If he’d not run there and been 9lb better off, he’d be a much shorter price, but that’s where we are and we’ll get on with it.

“Both horses go there with a great chance, I think.”

Kitty's Light (right) heads the betting
Kitty’s Light (right) heads the betting (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

A total of 31 horses were left in the Ayr marathon at Monday’s confirmation stage, with the weights now headed by Shark Hanlon’s Hewick on 11st 12lb.

Christian Williams has two leading contenders in Coral Trophy runner-up Kitty’s Light and Eider Chase winner Win My Wings, while Henry Daly could saddle Ascot scorer Fortescue.

Pat Fahy, who trained Mister Fogpatches to finish third 12 months ago, has this year confirmed Stormy Judge and History Of Fashion.

He said: “I need to have a look at the confirmations and we’ll go from there.

“Distance looks to be History Of Fashion’s forte because he always seems to be doing his best work at the end of a race. He stayed on well up the hill in Naas the last day over three miles and he’s in good form.

“I thought Stormy Judge ran a good race in the Leinster National (finished fifth). We felt he would need it and he kind of jumped himself into the race too early and petered out, but he still stayed on well at the end.”

Dingo Dollar heads to Doncaster for National prep

Dingo Dollar will complete his Randox Grand National preparations with an outing at Doncaster on Wednesday.

The 10-year-old, currently a general 50-1 chance for the Aintree feature, lines up in the Virgin Bet Veterans’ Handicap Chase on what will be his first start since finishing third in a strong renewal of the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle in November.

Dingo Dollar is currently rated 148 and should make the cut for the National with ease and trainer Sandy Thomson admits he was keen to protect that mark.

“That will be his prep-run for the National,” said Thomson.

“We are looking forward to that. We didn’t dare run him before that to save his weight.

“The ground is not ideal, but he will get a run and then it is all systems go to Aintree.”

Dingo Dollar will face five rivals at Doncaster, including Vintage Clouds and Black Op.

While Thomson has no concerns about Dingo Dollar making the Aintree line-up, he admitted his frustration that narrow Becher Chase runner-up Hill Sixteen will likely miss out.

He was beaten just a nose by Snow Leopardess over the National fences in December, but while the winner is a 14-1 chance and reasonably well-placed on the list at this point, Hill Sixteen sits well outside the top 40 on a mark of 138 after pulling up in the Welsh National and finishing fourth in the Sky Bet Chase last time.

“Unfortunately, it seems the Grand National qualification is totally ridiculous, as far as I am concerned,” said Thomson.

“You get something like Hill Sixteen that runs in the Becher and you just get beaten by a horse that is the top British challenger for the National, and he can’t get into the National.

“They need to start making a qualification procedure, and need to look at having some qualifying races, so these thorough stayers who will be ideally suited to Aintree get a chance to get in.”

While Aintree appears to be off the table, a National bid is still in prospect for Hill Sixteen.

“The Scottish National is probably the long-term plan for him,” confirmed Thomson.

“Whether he goes to the Grimthorpe Chase before that, I’m not really sure.

“He ran a hell of a race at Doncaster the last day on ground that was far too quick for him. The way the ground is at the moment, at Doncaster, over another two furlongs on softer ground, maybe he goes for the Grimthorpe.”

O’Brien happy Rowland Meyrick is ‘right race’ for Silver Hallmark

Fergal O’Brien is hoping for rain over Yorkshire ahead of Silver Hallmark’s bid to land the William Hill Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day.

The seven-year-old was fourth behind subsequent Ladbrokes Trophy runner-up Fiddlerontheroof when last seen on his seasonal debut in the Listed Colin Parker Chase at Carlisle.

A step up to three miles now beckons for the lightly-raced grey, who has point-to-point form over the trip and is bred to see out a staying distance.

“I’m glad to have Adam Wedge to ride him as he knows him best,” said O’Brien.

“We’re hoping for a good run, the step up in trip we think won’t do him any harm though we did want to wait a little bit longer before going over three miles.

“It’s the right race and hopefully he’ll go and run his race.

“He wants soft and that’s why we didn’t run him at Cheltenham, it was lovely going but it was too quick for him so we just want soft ground – fingers crossed.”

Sandy Thomson’s Empire Steel will seek a first Pattern-race success when he takes his place in the race having finished second by a length and a half to Christian Williams’ Strictlyadancer on his last outing at Haydock in November.

He was an initial entrant in the Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase at the same venue last weekend, but Thomson opted to veto that engagement and now heads for this Grade Three assignment.

“We decided to give Haydock a miss, but we’re very happy with him,” the trainer said.

“Hopefully he’s a young, progressive horse and he should run a big race.”

As a novice chaser Empire Steel won two of his four starts and looked highly promising when beating Dan Skelton’s Protektorat at Kelso in February.

Protektorat then went on to score at Grade One level in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree in April and has continued to impress this season when finishing second in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham and then landing the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree.

“He has got some nice novice form, obviously he’s got that bit of form with Protektorat which you could take either way,” Thomson said.

“We were delighted with his run at Haydock and we’re looking forward to it.”

Empire Steel has performed well on surfaces ranging from good to soft to heavy, and while Thomson would not want particularly quick going at Wetherby, he is happy that his horse will be effective on most types of ground.

“I think it was probably quicker ground at Haydock as it usually is, but I would have thought he’d handle most ground,” he said.

“He won at Kelso in the soft, he ran well at Haydock on the better ground.

“He wouldn’t want it too quick, but we’d be happy enough with good to soft ground.”

Cloudy Glen won the Ladbrokes Trophy last time
Cloudy Glen won the Ladbrokes Trophy last time (Steven Paston/PA)

Also in a field of 10 for the Wetherby highlight is last month’s Ladbrokes Trophy hero Cloudy Glen. Venetia Williams’ charge will shoulder top-weight of 11st 12lb, with the Phil Kirby-trained Top Ville Ben and Richard Hobson’s Lord Du Mesnil also carrying that burden.

Popular veterans Lake View Lad and Takingrisks are others to feature, along with Good Boy Bobby, Windsor Avenue and Debece.

Thomson relies on Dollar and Master for second Rehearsal success

Sandy Thomson fires a twin assault in his bid for back-to-back victories in the Betfair Exchange Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle on Saturday.

The Berwickshire-based trainer saddled popular veteran Yorkhill to claim a surprise victory in the Listed contest 12 months ago and is this year represented by a pair of course and distance winners.

The market leader is The Ferry Master, who having rounded off last season by finishing fourth in the Scottish Grand National, made a promising return when third at Musselburgh earlier this month.

His stablemate Dingo Dollar filled the runner-up spot when favourite for the Scottish Grand National and is expected to improve from his comeback fourth at Kelso.

Thomson said: “It was a very competitive race that Dingo Dollar ran in at Kelso and it probably wasn’t an ideal preparation for The Ferry Master at Musselburgh, but it was the only place to go.

“We were delighted with both runs. Dingo Dollar is in great form, he’s run well in a couple of Ladbrokes Trophys in the past and he’s in on a nice mark.

“If you’re going to be realistic, you hope The Ferry Master is a progressive, young horse. Whether he quite stayed in the Scottish National, we’re not sure.

“I hope they’ll both run nice races on Saturday.”

The weights are headed by Ann Hamilton’s Nuts Well, who steps up to three miles for the first time after finishing fifth when defending his crown in the two-and-a-half-mile Old Roan Chase at Aintree.

Next on the list is the Harriet Graham-trained Aye Right, who blew away a few cobwebs when fifth behind Nuts Well at Kelso last month.

“Last year it was incredibly exciting to go to Newbury (finished second in Ladbrokes Trophy). We made a decision fairly early on that we won’t going there this year – it seems a very strong renewal of the race,” Graham told Sky Sports Racing.

“Newcastle is 45 minutes away, the Rehearsal Chase is also a competitive race and we decided to go local rather than go all the way to Newbury to take on the Irish.

“He so deserves to win a race. He’s come on immensely for that run (at Kelso) and we’ve also taken him to Carlisle for a racecourse gallop.

“He’s been working really well at home and schooled really well – it’s all systems go.”

Dan Skelton is keen on the chances of Spiritofthegames, who was only beaten seven lengths in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham a fortnight ago.

He said: “I’m starting to fancy him for this race. In the Paddy Power, he didn’t quite have the legs for two and a half miles.

“He’s a bit older, he’s been to all those two-and-a-half-mile dances and we’re now going to go to all the three-mile dances.

“Hopefully we can win one – he deserves to.

“I can see him going really well at Newcastle on decent ground.”

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).”

Ever-popular Yorkhill retired due to injury

Trainer Sandy Thomson hailed Yorkhill a “superstar” after confirming the dual Cheltenham Festival hero had been retired due to injury.

The 11-year-old claimed back-to-back victories at the showpiece meeting when trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins – landing the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle in 2016 and JLT Novices’ Chase 12 months later, but subsequently lost his form.

After owners Graham and Andrea Wylie opted to take a break from racing last year, Yorkhill moved across the Irish Sea prior to the start of this season to run in the colours of David Armstrong, his wife Donna and top golfer Lee Westwood.

And while he was pulled up on his first run for his new connections in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree in October, the following month he rolled back the years to land a popular all-the-way victory in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle.

However, having suffered a tendon injury when being prepared to run in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster last month, time has now been called on the mercurial gelding’s racing career.

Thomson said: “It’s disappointing news, but it’s been a huge privilege to train Yorkhill – I can’t thank Dave and Donna and Lee enough.

Yorkhill and Ruby Walsh on the way to victory at Cheltenham in 2017
Yorkhill and Ruby Walsh on the way to victory at Cheltenham in 2017 (Mike Egerton/PA)

“It was a very special day when he won the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle. It was great for everybody, including all of Dave’s staff, who did a lot of hard work with him before he came to us.

“He’s going out in one piece, he’ll have another life and he’ll love it.

“We’re lucky that we’ve been involved with such a superstar.”

Yorkhill won 11 of his 27 races under rules, amassing almost £350,000 in win and place prize-money.

Seeyouatmidnight ‘pencilled in’ for Midlands National

Connections of Seeyouatmidnight are considering the Midlands Grand National for the ever-popular 13-year-old following his victory at Sandown.

Seeyouatmidnight’s career has been littered with injury problems – but he showed he retains plenty of ability when taking the spoils in the final of the 2020 Veterans’ Chase Series at the Esher track earlier this month.

“He’s grand. We’ve half got the Midlands National pencilled in,” said Thomson.

“Sandown was great for everybody – great for racing and great for us. These are the stories we need because we’ve got this opportunity to captivate a new audience and get more people involved. That’s brilliant.”

Another old favourite, Yorkhill, was among a team of five horses Berwickshire handler Thomson took to work at Newcastle racecourse on Thursday.

The 11-year-old, who sprang a 66-1 shock in the Rehearsal Chase at the Gosforth Park track in November, galloped on the all-weather surface with Elf De Re and Duc De Grissay, who should have run in the North Yorkshire Grand National had Catterick not succumbed to the wintry weather.

The Ferry Master and Coolkill were also put through their paces.

“It was grand. There was no snow between here and Newcastle really,” said the trainer.

Yorkhill and The Ferry Master hold entries in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster on January 30.

“The Sky Bet is more likely for Yorkhill than The Ferry Master,” said Thomson.

Thomson in no hurry to map out Seeyouatmidnight plan

Sandy Thomson reports stable stalwart Seeyouatmidnight to be in good shape following his heart-warming success at Sandown on Saturday.

Just a day after officially turning 13, the once-retired gelding proved the fire still burns bright with a thrilling victory in the final of the Veterans’ Chase series under Grand National-winning jockey Ryan Mania.

In the immediate aftermath of his latest triumph, his proud trainer nominated the Scottish Grand National as a potential spring target

However, Thomson feels he has other candidates for the Ayr marathon, and is in no rush to finalise plans for a horse who made a winning debut for the yard over seven years ago before going on to win the 2014 Rendlesham Hurdle and the 2016 Dipper Novices’ Chase.

“He’s a bit weary, but all good,” said the Lambden handler.

“We’ll see what the handicapper does. He’s won a veterans’ chase and Crosspark (runner-up) probably isn’t brilliantly handicapped. We’ll keep both feet very much on the ground and see.

“We’ll be looking at a nice, staying handicap somewhere, but I haven’t really been through the programme book to pick anything out.

“We’ve had some fantastic days with him and Saturday was right up there.”

Asked whether the Scottish National was on the agenda, Thomson added: “It’s slightly complicated because we have one or two other horses who are perhaps pencilled in for that.

“We own Seeyouatmidnight ourselves and other people pay a lot of money to have their horses in training, so it’s a case of trying to keep all the balls in the air and keep everybody happy.

“Whilst it would be lovely to go to the Scottish National, it might be that Seeyouatmidnight goes somewhere else. We’ve got all these nice novices and I’d like to think one of them might prove really well-in in the Scottish National, so we’ll see.”

Earlier in the season, Thomson revived the fortunes of dual Cheltenham Festival hero Yorkhill to win the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle.

Having sidestepped the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day, he could be bound for the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster later this month.

Yorkhill after his Newcastle win
Yorkhill after his Newcastle win (Nick Robson/PA)

“It’s quite complicated with him, because he wants to go left-handed and a lot of races for him are right-handed at places like Ascot and Sandown,” said Thomson.

“We’ll try to get him to Doncaster. Failing that, we’ll have to make another plan.”

Yorkhill was one of two former Willie Mullins stars to join Thomson last summer along with Irish Gold Cup and Punchestown Gold Cup winner Bellshill, who finished last of five on his first start for his new connections in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.

Thomson added: “He’s had a wind operation since Haydock and his plan is the Grand National.

“The weather has caused us problems, but we should have plenty of time to get there.”

Midnight strikes in Sandown Veterans’ highlight

Sandy Thomson enhanced his reputation for restoring horses to their former glories as he sent out Seeyouatmidnight to land the Unibet Veterans’ Handicap Chase at Sandown.

Having revived the fortunes of Grade One scorer Yorkhill to win the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle last November, the Lambden handler saw his magic touch work wonders again as his stable stalwart rolled back the years in the three-mile prize.

Racing prominently throughout, the dual Grade Two scorer moved into a lead he would not surrender jumping the last out of the back straight, despite being faced with a host of challengers.

Meeting the final two fences on a good stride, the 10-1 chance answered jockey Ryan Mania’s every call to hold off the late thrust of Crosspark by a length, just a day after officially turning 13.

Thomson said: “We are here today because of him. If it wasn’t for him, where would our training career be? It is such a shame he hasn’t been a sounder horse throughout his career, but he has given us so many great days. You just have to enjoy the good ones.

“This will give me immense pleasure, as has any race he has won, because he has very seldom gone out in a little novice chase or hurdle – he has always had to go out with the big boys.

“He has kicked most of the fences out the twice he has been to Haydock (where he was pulled up on his latest start), but he did a great bit of work with Yorkhill a fortnight ago and that is when I thought we were going to go (to Sandown).”

Seeyouatmidnight jumps the last at Sandown
Seeyouatmidnight jumps the last at Sandown (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Seeyouatmidnight was initially owned by Thomson’s wife Quona, but was sold to David and Patricia Thompson before finishing 11th in the 2018 Grand National.

However, the Thompsons gifted the gelding back to Thomson after he was retired following that Aintree spin.

Thomson added: “The Thompsons very kindly said ‘we are not going to go on with him, you may have him back and do as you wish’.

“He was officially retired. He came down to Newmarket and the vets did all the tests – he had scans and things and they sent them to America. They came back and the verdict was the horse wouldn’t stand training. We just started riding him at home and he kept sound.

“There were a couple of nights I went into his box and thought it was over, but we have then given him an easy time and it has been a little flare-up or a knock, and here we are.”

Though Thomson has enjoyed many memorable days with Seeyouatmidnight, he believes he could have gone on to even greater glory had his career not been interrupted at various points by injury.

He said: “We bought him at Doncaster and it was almost seven years ago to the day that he won at Hexham.

“That was the beginning, then it was on to Musselburgh and the Rendlesham, then the novice hurdle at Aintree. Then it all sort of went wrong.

“He was bang there at the last in the (2015) World Hurdle, but it was his second run of the season and he wasn’t quite fit enough probably.

“He had a great novice chase career, winning the (2016) Dipper, then beating Bristol De Mai – then it really did go a bit wrong.

“We got him back, he had the National as his second race and it was a complete nightmare because we had to go to Newbury (before running at Aintree), as we couldn’t go for a racecourse gallop. He ran a hell of a race in the National, but he just got tired.”

Coronavirus may have scuppered Thomson’s plan to run Seeyouatmidnight in last year’s Scottish National, but the Grade Three prize at Ayr will once again be his target in April.

Thomson added: “Last season he went to Kelso, we were delighted he got round and were amazed he won at Carlisle 15 days later, as that was the race to get him fit for the Scottish National, but that didn’t happen.

“Anything could be a possibility. We would love to run him in the Scottish National. We are very fortunate we have got a lot of nice horses. As he is ours, we will take it day by day. We will get him home, he will get a good break and the Scottish National might be something.”

Yorkhill sparkles again with shock Rehearsal Chase success

Multiple Grade One-winner Yorkhill rolled back the years and caused a 66-1 shock in the Betfair Exchange Rehearsal Handicap Chase at Newcastle.

A top-class performer in his days with Willie Mullins, for whom he won twice at the Cheltenham Festival, he badly lost his way in recent seasons and when previous owner Graham Wylie stepped away from the game, his friends David Armstrong and golfer Lee Westwood sent him to Sandy Thomson to see if any ability remained.

There was not much encouragement to be taken from his first run in new colours at Aintree, but set alight by Ryan Mania at the head of affairs, he looked to be back in love with the game, putting in some prodigious leaps.

Whatmore, Pym and Armstrong’s other runner Cool Mix closed to challenge, but Yorkhill dug deep to beat Whatmore by a length and three-quarters.

Thomson said: “Dave said to Ryan to go out and make it – it was his call and he loved it.

“We were really happy with him coming into the race. He had an away day on Thursday and loved it.

“Harry The Viking (ex-Paul Nicholls, Borders National winner) was the model to go against to freshen these old horses up, you just fiddle away with them to get them right.

“He did a nice gallop at Carlisle two weeks ago and today he was brilliant. At 10 he’s just a youngster!”

Yorkhill was introduced into the Grand National betting at 50-1 by Betfair, while Thomson and Mania were also on the mark with The Ferry Master (6-1) in the three-mile novices’ handicap chase.

Ella Pickard registered the biggest winner of her career to date when Getaround made all the running in the Newcastle Flooring “The French Furze” Novices’ Hurdle.

Having finished fourth in the Persian War at Chepstow behind McFabulous on his penultimate run, Getaround found himself able to dominate here.

Favourite Ask A Honey Bee made a late bid for glory, but Bryan Carver had just enough up his sleeve to hold on by a head on the 10-1 chance.

“We always thought he wanted better ground,” said Pickard.

“It was a really good ride from Bryan, who has ridden him all the way through.

“We’ll look to step back up class again now, this was one of the last chances for him to run as a novice, so it was important to get more experience into him.

“It took seven hours to get here, but you’ve got to go where the races are.

“We’ve got about 15 horses in, but this would be the biggest winner.”

James Ewart’s Ascot De Bruyere notched up a fourth win at Gosforth Park with a pillar-to-post success in the D J Jeffreys Racing Handicap Chase.

Running for the first time since a wind operation, champion jockey Brian Hughes got him jumping elaborately out in front and he never looked like being caught.

Ewart said: “He’s a lovely horse and everyone knows he’s a Newcastle specialist and that’s his fourth win here now.

“His best performance was actually over two and a half miles, so I said to Brian to make sure he made plenty of use of him today as I was actually worried the ground might be too good.

“Last year he had lots of little issues and it was the first season we’ve had him we didn’t win a race with him.”

Ewart later doubled up with the Rachael McDonald-ridden Fostered Phil (4-1)

Alan King tends to find a smart juvenile or two each year and Son Of Red made a winning transition from the Flat in the opening Alnorthumbria Veterinary Group Introductory Juvenile Hurdle.

Rated 66 on the Flat, he needed every yard of the trip to reel in the front-running State Crown, who had the benefit of experience.

Winning rider Daryl Jacob said: “That was a nice performance, he ground it out for me. He’s a lovely jumper, as you get from Alan King, and I was very impressed. That was his first run over hurdles and, please god, he’ll keep improving.”