Connections give warning to punters for Vintage Clouds

Vintage Clouds produced his best performance for some time when he was the emphatic winner of the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock last Saturday.

Under the hands of Danny Cook, the pair were always prominent in the race but led after the eighth fence. They drew clear after the third obstacle from home, eventually prevailing by seven lengths.

The bookmakers reacted to the success by cutting the 10-year-old’s odds to 20/1* for the Grand National in April. However, Trevor Hemmings’ racing manager, Mick Meagher, said after the race at the Lancashire course that “he is unlikely to go to Aintree”.

Earth Summit was the last horse to win the Peter Marsh Chase and then score in the National. He managed that feat in 1998, three years after first winning the Haydock contest.

Although his trainer Sue Smith has yet to rule Vintage Clouds out from the world’s most famous steeplechase, Meagher’s comments should concern punters who were thinking about backing the grey for Aintree glory.

Debut was short-lived in 2019 National

Vintage Clouds was well-backed going into the 2019 Grand National as he had the perfect profile of a horse who would run well in the 4m2½f contest.

Unfortunately for those connected with the horse, his race did not last long as he came down at the first fence after going off at 14/1.

Smith’s chaser then appeared a week later for the Scottish equivalent of the National, finishing sixth of 23 runners in his bid to improve on his third place in the race in 2018.

Vintage was far from great in Becher

A second shot at the Grand National fences did not end much better for Vintage Clouds in the 2019 Becher Handicap Chase over the shorter trip of 3m2f. He blundered the Chair (sixth fence) before pulling up prior to the eighth obstacle.

That disappointing appearance in the Becher may have led to connections concluding that their chaser just doesn’t enjoy the National course. Some horses never quite take to the bigger fences so the 2020 Grand National may no longer be on the radar for the Peter Marsh Chase winner.

Cheltenham looks more likely

Vintage Clouds has performed really well at the last two Cheltenham Festivals without success. In 2017 he finished third in the Ultima Handicap Chase behind Coo Star Sivola and Shantou Flyer respectively.

In 2018 the Yorkshire-trained horse went one place better at the meeting in the Ultima Handicap Chase, coming home second behind Beware The Bear in the day one contest.

Vintage Clouds is now as short as 10/1* to finally land the Cheltenham Festival handicap. The National Trial at Haydock and the Scottish Grand National are all possible targets for the horse later in the campaign.

Smith knows what it takes to win the National

Smith knows exactly what is required to train a horse for the Grand National. She was successful in the race in 2013 when Auroras Encore prevailed at odds of 66/1. She became the third female trainer to win the race behind Jenny Pitman and Venetia Williams.

Auroras Encore was successful by nine lengths at Aintree, finishing in front of Cappa Bleu and Teaforthree respectively. That victory gave Smith the biggest win of her career and proved what many in the north had believed for many years, that she is up there with the very best when it comes to preparing her horses for staying chases.

*Odds subject to change.

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