SUE SMITH'S horse have hit form with a vengeance since the start of December and four wins from only seven runners from New Years Eve tell the story that the Bingley trainer has started 2017 with a bang.
Smooth Stepper and Hainan were successful, respectively, at Newcastle and Wetherby at the weekend and there have been plenty of further encouraging performances with Wakanda finishing runner-up in the Grade 3 Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day and Delusionofgrandeur and Vintage Clouds fighting out the finish of a decent-looking beginners chase at Catterick earlier in the month.
The results echo very much the long term aim of Sue to produce horses with longetivity who will be reaching the peak of their powers in handicap chases and with the likes of Cloudy Too, Straidnahanna and Wakanda still firing it is policy that clearly work.
The Bingley trainer landed the 2103 Grand National with Auroras Encore and has taken two Castleford Chases with Mister McGoldrick and there are sure to be plenty in her current team that will have similar ambitions in the future.
Sue kindly spoke to Tony Elves of ATR about some of her leading lights and those she hopes can progress through the ranks.
9 br g Presenting - Smashing Leader
132 rated chaser. Finished third, beaten 14 lengths, to Hollywoodien when favourite for a handicap chase at Wetherby (2m 3 1/2f) on Boxing Day off a mark of 134.
"He hasn't run bad races this season but is in need of three miles and doesn't necessarily need a bog but good to soft ground is ideal. I am sure we get going with him before long as he is getting down to a good mark now."
10 br g Westerner - Back To Stay
100 rated chaser. Finished a creditable third, beaten six and a quarter lengths, to Bankhall in a handicap chase at Wetherby (3m) on Boxing Day on his latest start.
"He is just a good fun horse and he ran a great race at Wetherby last time. He likes three miles and for his first run over fences we were very pleased with him. He jumped great and let's hope we can find an opportunity for him in due course."
11 b g Cloudings - Curra Citizen
140 rated chaser and 128 rated hurdler. Finished fifth, beaten 14 ½ lengths, to Pete The Feat in the Veterans Final (Handicap Chase) at Sandown (3m) on Saturday off his current mark. Winner of a handicap hurdle at Uttoxeter (2m 7 1/2f) in November off a mark of 122.
"He has been in good form over fences this season with out winning in that sphere and finished second in a qualifier for the Veterans Series at Kelso in December before running a reasonable race in the final at Sandown on Saturday. The ground and trip suited him but it was a very competitive race and he has been a great servant to us over the years. I think he will get back to winning ways this season."
6 b g Robin Des Pres - Crack The Kicker
117 rated hurdler. Scored by a length from One Forty Seven in a novice hurdle at Uttoxeter (2m 4f) in October.
"We are thinking we might drop him back as little in trip and he does want just a little bit better ground. He loves to bowl along in front and is quite an exciting prospect for novice chasing next season."
10 b/br g Overbury - Stony View
116 rated chaser and 109 rated hurdler. Finished fourth, beaten 12 lengths, to Bennys King in a handicap hurdle at Uttoxeter (2m 4f) on New Years Eve off a mark of 112.
"We haven't got going with him over fences just yet. Hopefully, next time out he will go over fences and I did go to Leicester but took him out on the ground which I didn't deem fit. We ran him at Uttoxeter over hurdles instead and he ran a creditable race on very heavy ground and he is very versatile. I feel he will definitely get back to winning ways over fences as the season progresses."
7 b g Mahler - Olivia Rose
139 rated chaser. Returned to winning form when making all for a six length victory from stablemate Vintage Clouds in a beginners chase at Catterick (3m 1f) in December.
"He was a horse that ran well over hurdles last year and I think he is going to be a real nice horse. He showed he was a nice horse over fences at Catterick last time and hopefully, it is onwards and upwards with him. He likes three miles and soft ground but not a bog and I think he's a nice prospect."
DE VOUS A MOI
9 b g Sinndar - Dzinigane
133 rated chaser. Unplaced in two starts this term but winner of handicap chase at Newcastle (2m 4f) in March off a mark of 130 (beating Special Catch five lengths) and at Wetherby (2m 3 1/2f) in November 2015 (beating Indian Temple six lengths).
"He was a good horse for us last season and, perhaps, got a bit high in the handicap. He does like a bit softer ground and I think he is very nice horse who could shine next time out. He could go to Kelso for his next run."
FILL THE POWER
11 b g Subtle Power - Our Alma
117 rated chaser. Finished seventh, beaten eight lengths, to Gonalston Cloud in the Lincolnshire National at Market Rasen (3m 3 1/2f) on Boxing Day off a mark of 119.
"He had a season off with a small injury and he's back now and in good form. He has run some creditable races this season so far and is really one of those horses that wants a Carlisle or Towcester with a stiff uphill finish. He is a grand jumper and he likes a bit of softer ground. I am sure we will pick up a race with him before the end of the season."
9 b g Acclamation - Enamoured
108 rated chaser. Winner this season at Newcastle (2m 1/2f) in December when beating Rosquero a length and a quarter off a mark of 105.
"He won at Newcastle in December and I probably made the mistake of running him at Market Rasen on Boxing Day. It was a bit too sharp for him around there. Again, he is a grand jumper who we do have a few problems with windwise so we have to pick and choose our races with him."
6 gr g Laveron - Honor Smytzer
118 rated chaser. Made all for a nine length success from Crosspark in a handicap chase at Wetherby (3m) on Friday off his current mark.
"He is an improving young horse who ran well over hurdles last year. It took a little time to get him going over fences as he is slow to react and I was absolutely delighted with him at Wetherby on Friday as he got his jumping together and Danny (Cook) gave him a great ride. Three miles on soft ground are ideal for him and I think there is more improvement to come from him yet."
I JUST KNOW
7 b g Robin Des Pres - Desperado Queen
114 rated chaser. Winner of a handicap chase at Hexham (3m) in November by ten lengths from Smuggler's Stash off a mark of 105 and runner-up twice since most recently when beaten two lengths by Two Smokin Barrels at Wetherby (3m) in December off his current mark, and winning at Doncaster on Monday.
"He has been very consistent this season and we are very pleased with him. He possibly likes a bit better ground but he is a very good jumper suited by three miles. He tries his best for you every time he goes out and as long as the handicapper doesn't finish him off he will continue to do well. Continued our good run when winning at Doncaster on Monday and hopefully can progress further."
4 b g Authorized - Missy Dancer
Unplaced on his only start in a bumper at Newcastle in December.
"He ran well up to a point on his debut in a bumper at Newcastle then weakened but he is more of a horse for the future and I think he is a very nice horse."
7 b g Kayf Tara - Just Kate
107 rated chaser. Finished third, beaten 13 lengths, to Angus Man at Kelso (2m 5 1/2f) in December off a mark of 110.
"He has been knocking on the door and nearly doing things right. He jumps a bit big and deliberately but he is improving and we will have to persevere with him. A step up in trip possibly to three miles and the ground not too soft could help. Hopefully, we will get there eventually with him."
6 b g Kayf Tara - Georgia On My Mind
Winner of a bumper at Carlisle in November and third, beaten three and a quarter lengths, to Craggaknock on his hurdling debut at Wetherby (2m) at the end of December.
"He is one of Trevor Hemmings horse and first time out this season at Carlisle he won his bumper. Trevor always looks long term at his horses being chaser and ultimately this is what he is going to be. We think a lot of him and he ran over two miles over hurdles at Wetherby just after Christmas and ran a super race to finish third. He still has a lot to learn but we are very pleased with him."
MAXED OUT KING
9 ch g Desert King - Lady Max
105 rated chaser and 100 rated hurdler. Made all to win a novices' handicap chase at Sedgefield in December by 14 lengths from Distant Rain off a mark of 89 and followed up with a nine length defeat of Money Maid at Newcastle (2m 4f) six days later.
"He has been great this season and he is a horse we had as a young horse from Doncaster. He showed a bit of promise over hurdles then got an injury and was left out there for quite awhile but he's come back and since he's been over fences he's a different horse. He is a great big horse and a super jumper. We have just given him a bit of time as he had two quick runs over fences and hopefully we will get a bit more improvement out of him. His trip is two to two and a half miles."
4 b g Midnight Legend - Holy Smoke
Easy winner of a mile and six and a half bumper at Newcastle in December.
"He won very impressively on his only start at Newcastle and looks to be an exciting prospect. He coped with the ground and did his job absolutely lovely and we are really looking forward to him. It is a possibility he and Joke Dancer could go for the DBS Bumper at Newbury."
12 b g Oscar - Roxy River
110 rated hurdler. Confined to hurdling so far this season and solid effort at Market Rasen (2m 2 1/2f) on Boxing Day when third, beaten five and a half lengths, to Kauto Riko.
"He is a good old servant we have had for a good few seasons now. He ran at Market Rasen last time over hurdles and he finished third. He ran a stormer and it is very difficult with him as he really prefers to go right handed but there's not that many right handed tracks. He can alternate between hurdles and fences and is basically one of the old lads in the yard that we will try and find the right race for."
6 br g Robin Des Pres - Hardabout
101 rated chaser and hurdler. Winning point-to-pointer. Finished fifth, beaten 21 lengths, to Vinnie Red at Market Rasen (2m 5 1/2f) on Boxing Day.
"He is a new horse to us this season and we are just learning about him. He had his first run over fences at Christmas time and in hindsight I should have gone a shorter trip with him but hindsight is always easy. He jumps and travels so well so next time out I will try him over a shorter trip. He is a fantastic jumper and a great big horse who has improvement in him."
10 b g Kayf Tara - Poor Celt
131 rated chaser. Finished third, beaten seven and a quarter lengths, to Bun Doran at Newcastle (2m 4f) in December off a mark of 133.
"No Planning is another one of those horse that has been with us a long time now and wins his races every year. Again, he is one of those horses that has probably fairly well up in the handicap so it is not easy to find races for him. He is a very consistent horse and jumps well and he's unlucky to fall at Newcastle when travelling very well. He is a great stalwart for our yard."
NOT A BOTHER BOY
9 b g Flemensfirth - Cab In The Storm
114 rated chaser and 108 rated hurdler. Best effort this term on latest start at Bangor (3m) in November when third, beaten nine lengths, to I Am Colin.
"He won two chases and a hurdle for us last season and hasn't been as good this year but handicapping wise he is just a good old fun horse who has been great to help the lads on their way. He stays three miles and extreme distances so that is what we will be looking for now."
9 gr g Great Palm - Lucy Cooper
129 rated chaser. Last win in a limited novices' handicap chase at Carlisle (2m 5f) in December when beating Revocation a lengths off a mark of 125.
"He's been super and I feel he was very unlucky when he unseated at Wetherby over Christmas. You don't know if he would have won or not but the chips were down and it didn't pay off. The horse has been a revelation since put over fences and since Danny (Cook) has ridden him. I am delighted with him and a step up to three miles might be in his favour now. He has been a very consistent horse and hopefully there's a bit of improvement in him."
7 br g Robin Des Pres - Cowanstown Miss
113 rated hurdler. Winner at Bangor (2m 7f) in May and returned from a break to beat Spiculas a length and three quarters at Sedgefield (2m 1f) in December off a mark of 107.
"He is a tiny little horse and he always runs his race and is very capable. We have never tried him over fences yet purely as he isn't very big but I am sure has scope enough to jump fences. He will get three miles this season but first time out he won over an extended two miles at Sedgedfield. I have had him entered up all over the place but the meeting has been abandoned or we have decided to go somewhere else with him. I'm sure he will be out shortly."
6 b g Oscar - Lambourne Lace
113 rated hurdler. Scored by a length and a half from Cloudy Monkey in a novices' hurdle at Wetherby (2m 3 1/2f) in October.
"Again, he is a new horse to us for this season. He has been very consistent and is a nice horse who will be better over fences. He wants three miles and the ground not too soft but I am really looking forward to when he goes over fences."
8 b g Alflora - Jazzy Reform
125 rated chaser. Jumped well and made all when returning to winning form with a seven length victory from Bigirononhiship in a handicap chase at Newcastle (2m 7 12/f) on Saturday off his current mark.
"He had been a bit disappointing but he bounced back to form at Newcastle on Saturday where he jumped well and made all. I thought he was going to be a much better horse than he is at this minute in time but hopefully, that victory will act as a spur to further success. He wants three miles and softer ground."
8 ch g Alflora - Oso Special
117 rated chaser. Returned to winning form with a 11 length success from Rock On Rocky at Uttoxeter (2m) on New Year's Eve off a mark of 112.
"The old lad has run very well this season and two and a half miles is ideal although I did drop him back to two at Uttoxeter last time where the ground was very heavy. That was in his favour and we were lucky I think as Lucinda's (Russell) horse fell and I don't know if we would have caught him on the run in. He is a terrific horse and versatile regards trip."
8 gr g Medaaly - Sue's Song
132 rated chaser. Unplaced in two outing this season at Haydock (3m) in November and Doncaster in December off marks of 137 and 135.
"Our opportunities have been quite limited with him this year. He goes to Catterick next week for the North Yorkshire National and is a very good jumper. He didn't show his form at Doncaster and I don't think we would go there again. He is a course winner around Catterick and it is a new trip but I am sure he will get it."
7 gr g Cloudings - Rare Vintage
136 rated chaser. Runner-up in three decent novice chase this term and beaten six lengths by stablemate Delusionofgrandeur at Catterick (3m 1f) in December on his most recent start.
"He has run very well in defeat this year and is a horse that wants three miles. He is a good jumper but just a little bit careful but he's an exciting prospect and once the penny drops he is going to be a very nice horse. He probably goes for the Peter Marsh at Haydock next."
8 b g Westerner - Chanson Indienne
150 rated chaser. Best effort this term in the Grade 3 Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day when runner-up, beaten seven lengths, to Definitly Red off a mark of 149.
"The ground was too fast for him in the Charlie Hall and he went back to Wetherby at Christmas and ran a cracker behind Definitly Red. He is a tiny horse who has been lumping a lot of weight and, hopefully, he can get his head back in front now he has come down the weights a little. He is a tough good jumping little horse that likes a bit of soft ground and stays three miles all day long."
8 b g Flemensfirth - Dame O'Neill
115 rated chaser. Opened his account for the stable when making all to beat Ray Diamond a length and a half at Uttoxeter in December off a mark of 110.
"He has been knocking on the door and is a horse that arrived to us from George Moore's. Fortunately he got his head in front at Uttoxeter and ran a good race and jumped well. We were delighted with him and he's an enjoyable horse to go to the races with as he's so consistent."
DELUSIONOFGRANDEUR - looked the typical stamp of a horse the stable excels with when winning at Catterick and plenty more chasing success to come.
JUST MINDED - bumper winner who made a promising start over hurdles at Wetherby in December and can soon get off the mark when stepped up in trip.
MIDNIGHT SHADOW - impressive bumper winner who can rise through the ranks.
SMOOTH STEPPER - back to winning form at Newcastle at the weekend and can find further success.
VINTAGE CLOUDS - unlucky to finish runner-up in three starts over fences this term but can soon rectify that situation.
WAKANDA - tough as teak individual who came back to something like his best in the Rowland Meyrick and can soon go one better.