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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.

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“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.

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“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.”