Having fallen at the first in the 2019 Grand National and pulling up in the Becher Chase, it was anticipated that ten-year-old Vintage Clouds wouldn’t be entered into the 2020 renewal of the famous steeplechase on 4th April. Nevertheless a wide-margin win in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock Park prompted owner Trevor Hemmings into a rethink and both he, and trainer Sue Smith have decided to aim the runner at the showpiece Aintree Festival race on 4th April.
Stable jockey Danny Cook will be committed to riding Definitly Red for Brian Ellison and connections initially approached Leighton Aspell who has subsequently retired from the saddle, therefore the call was put in to Ryan Mania who hasn’t ridden with the Sue Smith stable since quitting racing late in 2014, just eighteen months after winning the Grand National on Auroras Encore.
Since making a comeback over four months ago, Mania has returned 14 wins from his 89 rides and he will be partnering Vintage Clouds for the first time in the Ultima Handicap Chase at next week’s Cheltenham Festival.
Sue Smith said: “The lad’s got experience round there (Aintree). “He will be able to get in to ride the horse fairly regularly until Cheltenham and, hopefully all being well, going to Aintree.
“He’s always been a good jockey – you can never knock him for that in all the times we won with him and, most notably of all, in the National with old Auroras.”
Scottish-born Mania is only too aware that this is very much a one-off which came about due to Aspell deciding to retire from the saddle, however it is a clear sign of the jockey’s maturity given that he now has his weight under control – this being the reason for his retirement six years ago.
Vintage Clouds is a general 33/1 shot for the 2020 Randox Health Grand National with some bookies going as high as 66/1.