Heading into the Ladbrokes Trophy on Saturday, few of the field will count just seven horses as stablemates, but that is the case of Aye Right who represents the small yard of Harriet Graham.
Graham who divides her time between training her small string and acting as Clerk of the Course at Musselburgh and Hamilton Park is keeping everything crossed for a big run from her stable star at Newbury.
Third in the Charlie Hall Chase behind Cyrname last month, the eight-year-old sits atop many antepost lists for the Grade 3 event, and he appears to be in fine fettle ahead of his next big challenge.
“He’s really well and did his last bit of work out on the hills this morning ,” Graham told the Tote.
“We’ve got a 70 acre field which he’ll just be kept lobbing around in to keep him right for Saturday, before we set off down to Newbury on Friday morning.”
Early season form working out well
The son of Yeats has finished in the frame on two occasions this term, with his Wetherby outing following a smart effort in second behind Nuts Well at Kelso, with his conqueror that day landing the Old Roan Chase at Aintree next time.
“That really gave that form a boost. That race for us was a real prep race for us to go to the Charlie Hall, simply because there wasn’t anything else around locally for him to go for.
“What it did do was sharpen his jumping up, going at a two mile pace with some good two mile horses, and it showed in the Charlie Hall that he really learned a lot from that race.
“He ran really well, and Callum Bewley said the horse thought he had to go around again and he struggled to pull him up at the end.”
“His performance there gave us the confidence to go for the Charlie Hall where he ran another great race. We’d have still gone to the Ladbrokes Trophy had we been fifth, sixth or seventh at Wetherby because it was a good field of horses and Newbury had been our radar for him since he won a two horse race at Newcastle.”
Learning more at Wetherby
At Wetherby, Aye Right ran a cracker to be just seven lengths behind the King George-bound Cyrname, and in front of a number of horses boasting higher official ratings.
And while his trainer clearly thought a lot of her stable star going into the race, there was still plenty to be learned from his performance that day.
“What surprised us in the Charlie Hall was the fact that his pace seemed to get quite a lot of horses that I really respect off the bridle quite quickly. While one doesn’t know at what stage those horses were at, some of them were being pushed along in the back straight. I think that just shows that although he might not appear to be going that fast, he can get into a good rhythm and his jumping is superb.
“Cyrname could have beaten us by 20 lengths, let’s be honest, but you look at Vinndication, and yes he beat us, but we’re better at the weights and my feeling was that we still had a bit left at end, so it gave me the confidence to go south with him.”
‘Not a lot phases him’
Taking on one of the best chasers in the country out of the way, Aye Right has a new challenge facing him on Saturday, facing what is likely to be one of the biggest fields he has run in.
All but one of his seven victories have come in single figure fields, but according to Harriet Graham, that’s all been coincidental, and she has no qualms that her runner will handle the hustle and bustle of the Ladbrokes Trophy.
“It’s kind of the make up of the races up here. We’ve never been concerned about having lots of other runners in races. Is that just a reflection of racing in the north and Scotland once you get above a certain grade, there aren’t that many taking you on?
“Obviously we’ll have 16 or 17 runners on Saturday and that’s something we haven’t learned about the horse, but there’s not a lot that phases him. I know he’s got a fairly front-running style, but he doesn’t have to bowl along in front, he certainly wasn’t when he won over hurdles at Ayr.”
While Graham is keen to focus on one day at a time and put all the efforts into Saturday’s Grade 3 contest in Berkshire, there’s clearly a case to be made for Aye Right to be tackling more severe tests of stamina going forward:
“His strengths are his rhythm and his jumping, while his weakness is that he probably doesn’t have the greatest burst of speed at the end of a race and that’s why we think that the further we go with him the better he’ll be,” she told the Tote.
Having recovered sufficiently from an accident that saw her run over by her own lorry, the Jedburgh-based handler will make the trip south to watch her representative lineup on Saturday in what could be a fascinating renewal of the Ladbrokes Trophy.