Racing Aintree and Cheltenham
The popular Smad Place turns back the clock to triumph in the Grade Two race made famous by another great grey, Monet’s Garden
IT was to be a celebration of greys past, present and, quite possibly, future as National Hunt racing made a glorious return to Aintree on Sunday (29 October). Prior to the 188Bet Monet’s Garden Old Roan Chase there had been an appearance from the horse that this Grade Two race is named after, with the 19-year-old Monet’s Garden looking as exuberant as ever parading back at the course upon which he won five times.
The mantle of most popular active grey has long been taken up by Smad Place, particularly after his swashbuckling victory in the 2015 Hennessy, so it was highly appropriate that Alan King’s 10-year-old picked this occasion to deliver another irresistible display of neat jumping and courage under pressure.
Smad Place and Wayne Hutchinson moved to the front approaching the final three fences in the home straight but he suddenly looked a sitting duck with the darker and younger grey Cloudy Dream coasting in behind under a motionless Brian Hughes.
They were level at the last, where Cloudy Dream got in too close, and Smad Place seized the initiative to finish three-quarters of a length clear. There might be another day for the runner-up but this was another memory to cherish for connections of a horse who, surprisingly, had not struck for 21 months.
“I’ll clear a space in the garage for him,” said Hutchinson. “He’s been a great servant for the whole yard, to be still competing at that level at the age he is.
“The original plan was to go to Wetherby for the Charlie Hall but we came here instead and it was a great shout. Slower ground helped and he was 8lb better off at the weights this year,” he added.
“You just try to sit there and do as little as possible with him and try not to interfere.”
Smad Place (Wayne Hutchinson, left) seals his win in the Monet’s Garden Old Roan chase with a footperfect leap at the last to defeat Cloudy Dream