Can Smith Train Another Yorkshire Grand National Winner?
Yorkshire-based trainer, Sue Smith, etched her name in the history of the Grand National as her charge, Auroras Encore, produced a brilliant performance to win the contest in 2013. Auroras Encore was a rank outsider for the crown at odds of 66/1 but delivered a perfect display to win the race by nine lengths ahead of his nearest rival.
A rare Yorkshire victory
It was the first victory for a Yorkshire-trained horse in over 50 years. Merryman II was the last horse based in Yorkshire to triumph in the Grand National in 1960, highlighting the achievement of Smith and her team as well as jockey Ryan Mania in the saddle.
2013 #grandnational winner Auroras Encore alongside Vintage Clouds about to set off to @AintreeRaces, there will be no prouder person than Reece Jarosiewicz (travelling head lad) should Vintage win. #SSRacing 🐎. pic.twitter.com/aVHo5z5kue
— Sue Smith Racing 🐎 (@suesmithracing) April 6, 2019
Yorkshire have struggled to conjure another winner since Auroras Encore’s victory, with Brian Ellison’s Definitly Red being pulled up in the race in 2021 and Smith’s Vintage Clouds falling at the first hurdle in 2019.
Looking at the Grand National ante-post tips there are a number of quality competitors at the top end of the odds, including the 2022 winner Noble Yeats, who produced a similar performance to Auroras Encore, winning the race as a 50/1 outsider.
Noble Yeats and Auroras Encore’s victories should give Smith plenty of confidence that she could have another charge that is capable of stunning the field if she can secure his entry into the famous race at Aintree.
Could Small Present give Smith another Aintree gift?
Small Present has shown solid form in the 2022/23 season to date, although it might take a late push and a couple of withdrawals for him to secure a berth in the National. After a disappointing end to the last campaign, Small Present made his first appearance of the season at Carlisle in the Varlien Vyner-Brooks Memorial Handicap Chase, where he finished fourth and off the pace of the winner, Court Dreaming.
Small Present and Thomas Willmott win Haydock’s fifth race for Sue Smith. It’s Thomas’s first ever win at the venue. pic.twitter.com/XLU2Od2kaz
— Steve Mullington (@mulldog) January 22, 2022
It was a similar story at Wetherby in the Grahame Suttle & Steve Currer, Racing Forever Handicap Chase as he was solid on the track, but lacked the pace to compete with the front-runners, placing in the middle of the pack in 10th. At Market Rasen, Small Present did make a charge for his first win of the campaign, and although he was in contention down the stretch, the Irish thoroughbred just lacked the pace to close out the victory, finishing in third.
Small Present was put forward in the Grand National Trial Handicap Chase at Haydock Park to test his credentials against elite horses that will definitely be taking their place in the line-up at Aintree in April. He competed extremely well over the course of the race, but perhaps lacked the experience and speed when it mattered the most against his more established rivals. He finished in a respectable sixth place out of 14 competitors, placing ahead of race favourite Fontaine Collonges.
Even after his strong placing at Haydock Park, there’s no guarantee that Small Present will be booked in for a slot at Aintree. However, given how he raised his game and Smith’s past experience in the National, Small Present is certainly a name to look out for in the running, especially for Yorkshire bettors.