The Grand National heroes Auroras Encore and Ryan Mania will be re-united at Ayr on Saturday in the Scottish version of the marathon chase. The horse, who came out of Aintree unscathed and has been in good form since, was given the go-ahead yesterday by his trainer, Sue Smith, and the rider, who injured his neck in a fall the day after his headline triumph, by the sport’s chief medical adviser, Michael Turner.
Mania, 23, spent two nights in hospital after being airlifted from the track at Hexham, but the damage, which included a small fracture to a vertebra, proved less severe than first feared. “My own GP sent the results of tests to Dr Turner and I’ve got the all-clear to ride,” he said. “I’ll give Auroras a spin at home on Thursday and the plan is to come back race- riding at Ayr on Friday.”
Auroras Encore will carry top weight as, ground allowing, he goes for a National double last completed by Red Rum in 1974. “It’s a huge task,” said Smith yesterday, “and if we had any doubts at all about his well-being we wouldn’t send him. But he went really well in his work this morning and is in grand order.”
The 11-year-old, a 66-1 shot at Aintree, is around 12-1 for Scotland’s richest race; the favourite is Rival D’Estruval at 6-1.
But despite the continuing presence of jumping celebrities on British and Irish racetracks – there will be many more at Punchestown next week including, it seems increasingly likely, the peerless Sprinter Sacre – the elite Flat season is gathering momentum. But, if the fighting talk from Faringdon Place stables in Lambourn is translated into deeds, those fillies who acquit themselves well in tomorrow’s Nell Gwyn Stakes, the first of the traditional domestic preps for the 1,000 Guineas, will be playing only for place money in the Rowley Mile Classic.
The al-Thani family of Qatar have invested massively in bloodstock over the past few years and, through their investment company, Qipco, sponsor next month’s Guineas festival, the Champions Weekend in October and the season-long Champions Series in between, to the tune of some £14m.
But they have yet to have a winner of either of “their” Classics, an omission that may be rectified on 5 May with Charlie Hills-trained Just The Judge. The filly is among the favourites for the 1,000 Guineas and is, according to al-Thani racing manager David Redvers, “the real deal”.
“She has done so well over the winter,” he said yesterday. “She was always the type to train on, with her size and scope, and she is now a massive, powerful individual, as wide as she’s tall and looks like a colt among fillies. God help the others.”
Small-time trainer Ian McInnes will face welfare charges at a disciplinary hearing next month. He is accused of running Commando Scott after “de-nerving” surgery to a hind limb. Another trainer, Howard Johnson, was banned for three years after being found guilty of a similar offence.