Two clouds and a pint – all the hot views on the North Yorkshire National
Watt Fences North Yorkshire Grand National Handicap Chase | 3m6f | Class 3 | 5YO+ | RUK
Auld acquaintances must not be forgotten as plenty of old friends are welcomed back for the track's richest race of the jumps season.
The Malcolm Jefferson-trained Sun Cloud won this in 2014 and is just 1lb higher in the handicap four years on, while Alto Des Mottes was second in 2016.
And Gonalston Cloud and Itstimeforapint try again too, having finished second and third 12 months ago.
Smith chasing a hat-trick
Sue Smith has won this race with Lackamon and Straidnahanna in the last two years and relies this time on I Just Know, who takes a drop in class after finishing last of four in a Listed chase at Carlisle in November.
National hero remembered
The winning owner receives the Denys Smith Memorial Trophy, named after the trainer who won the 1968 Grand National at Aintree with Red Alligator and sent out 146 winners at Catterick (89 on the Flat and 57 over jumps).
What they say
Nick Kent, trainer of Gonalston Cloud
I'm looking forward to it. He runs well at Catterick, he has two wins and a second there. He's 4lb higher than he was in this race last year but it doesn't look as strong a race and this has been on the agenda for a while. He's only 16.1hh and he has top weight but he won the Lincolnshire National off top weight.
Brian Hughes, rider of Sun Cloud
He's in good form, he's working nicely and he's been aimed at this for a while. He's 1lb higher than when he won the race but he's won off higher marks in the past. He's 11 now but he's won three of his last four starts.
Harry Hogarth, trainer of Alto Des Mottes
He's run well in this before and we've been aiming for it. We had to give him a prep run at Newcastle but that was over too short a distance. The ground will be all right for him and he has a good weight.
Evan Williams, trainer of Billy Bronco
I've got an inkling this sort of trip is where his future lies. It's a lovely track this time of year, the ground doesn't get too deep. He's a big horse who's just getting the hang of things and he runs like a horse who could turn into a stayer – it's quite quick to be going for a race like this but the experience is never lost on them.
Lucinda Russell, Itstimeforapint
He was being aimed at the Borders National, which didn't happen, but he's in good form and worked really well last week. He ran a super race in it last year and should have a chance again.
Donald McCain, trainer of Golden Investment
I have it in my head that he wants extreme trips and he's not had the chance to run over them yet. I'm not 100 per cent sure whether he's good enough for a race like this but it's not the strongest North Yorkshire Grand National there's ever been, he's run respectably at the track and is very fit.
32Red.com Handicap | 7f | Class 3 | 3yo+ | ATR
Middleham Park Racing take a leaf out of Coolmore's book by going mob-handed in this £17,500 handicap for three-year-olds.
They had six of the ten original entries and provide three of the five runners, even after main hope Bezos was ruled out with an infected foot.
Tim Palin, Middleham Park director of racing, said: "It's pretty simple – at 11.30am on entry day there were just six entries and we had a fair few who were qualified, there was great prize-money and there's appearance money too now.
"Joe's Spirit has the first colours and has the best chance. He's about to go up 2lb for running really well the other day and he's won over seven furlongs.
"If I was Newcastle I'd be a little disappointed, but we're guaranteed to pick up just over £3,000 whatever happens."
Munster Hurdle | 2m3f | 5yo+ | ATR
Draconien bids to build on a promising start for Willie Muillins, having barely broken sweat when running out a comfortable winner at Clonmel in December.
Gordon Elliott won last year's renewal with Runfordave and saddles Brelade, who reverts to hurdles after failing to score in five chase starts, and the Gigginstown-owned Balzac Turgot and Poli Roi, who, like Brelade, is fitted with a tongue-tie for the first time.
A potential dark horse is Ministerforsport, who was Noel O'Neill's first runner at Limerick when impressively landing a maiden hurdle a fortnight ago.
Cork-based O'Neill said: "He was tough at Limerick and I suppose he showed us something different there because he never really had to pull a race out of the bag before. He showed us he’s got guts.
"I've been delighted with him since. Long-term, I’m looking forward to going chasing with him, but we’ll find out a bit more about him after this.
"As Gordon Elliott said after Mick Jazz won at Leopardstown, 'If you're not in, you can’t win,' and we’re adopting a similar attitude. He’s in mighty form."
The seven-runner field is completed by last-time-out winner Beyond The Law and Our Boy Boru.
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