Grand aces shine at Catterick
On the eve of the release of the weights for the Crabbie's Grand National, last year's winning trainer and jockey doubled up at Catterick.
Unfortunately Auroras Encore has been forced into retirement and will not be able to bid for a repeat, but despite that recent blow Sue Smith and Ryan Mania have been enjoying a good season.
In Mr Moonshine they have a National possible on their hands after his win at Warwick and youngster Blakemount is a lively outsider for the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival.
Herdsman and Pinerolo were their two winners, with Mania donning Festival-winning silks on both occasions as Herdsman is owned by Trevor Hemmings and Pinerolo runs in the old Mister McGoldrick colours.
Herdsman (11/2) won the £12,000 Weatherbys Private Banking Handicap Chase by two and a quarter lengths from the staying-on Everaard and could be Eider Chase-bound.
"I think he's best in small fields, he sulked a bit at Haydock last time out," said Mania.
"He's got loads of scope and stays all day, but he's had plenty of problems.
Hemmings' racing manager Mick Meagher said: "We'll think of something like the Eider Chase but you'd have to worry about that being on, it's only a week on Saturday (at Newcastle).
"He's in the four-miler at Cheltenham but we'll have to see, he stays very well."
Pinerolo (13/8 favourite) justified strong support in the market to win the Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Handicap Chase in fine style.
Last of three behind two classy types at Wetherby, he was far from disgraced and with the winner of that contest Many Clouds heading for the Reynoldstown and the runner-up, Indian Castle, subsequently winning at Cheltenham, the form is clearly useful.
Smith said: "I think the step up to three miles has helped him, but I was concerned about the ground, it is very sticky out there.
"I'm pleased for the owners, it's been a long time since Mister McGoldrick was winning races for them. He wasn't disgraced at Wetherby, I suppose, but he was beaten a fair way."
Smith's husband Harvey said: "I think the others just stopped, hopefully the handicapper will take that into consideration."
Mrs Smith added of Mr Moonshine: "I rode him myself this morning, he's absolutely fresh as a daisy. Given who the owners are they are obviously very keen to have a crack at the National with him.
"He's won his last two races over two and a half miles, though, so there's also the Topham to consider, we'll have to talk it through."
Smith and Mania were denied a treble when top weight The Clock Leary wore down long-time leader Blake Dean in the yorkshire-outdoors.co.uk Handicap Hurdle.
Hailing from the red-hot yard of Venetia Williams, The Clock Leary was only fourth at Southwell when well fancied.
As with so many from his stable he showed endless reserves of stamina to just get the better of Blake Dean by half a length after a terrific tussle on the run-in.
Aidan Coleman was once again seen to good effect on the 100/30 chance as he took his strike-rate for February to over 30 per cent.
"I think I rode him wrong the last day at Southwell, I tried to make the running," said Coleman. "He's only a novice still, so to win a handicap off top weight is a good effort."
Champion jockey Tony McCoy has been a regular visitor to Catterick of late and was also rewarded with a double.
His first win came as a surprise in the racinguk.com Novices' Hurdle when Jonjo O'Neill's Capote (4/1) got the better of the long odds-on favourite I Need Gold.
McCoy had done his homework and kept a wide passage throughout, whereas Jason Maguire stuck tight to the rail and while the favourite drew level again at the last, Capote, also owned by Hemmings, pulled out more to win by a length and three-quarters.
Meagher said: "That was nice, Tony said he did everything right and he'll make a nice chaser."
It was McCoy and Maguire who dominated the finish to the Cheltenham Preview Evening February 28th Handicap Hurdle, with McCoy coming out on top again on Hawaii Five Nil.
This time McCoy was on the favourite as O'Neill's six-year-old was sent off at 11/4, but Maguire changed his tactics and also took the wide route.
Hartside still had claims at the last, too, and while Maguire forced Short Takes up to challenge McCoy after the final flight, Hawaii Five Nil eventually prevailed by a length and a quarter.
Alan Swinbank's Georgian Firebird (6/1) was an impressive nine-length winner of the bumper under Paddy Brennan.