Vintage Clouds has been a solid performer in the National Hunt in his career, but he will have to produce the performance of a lifetime to win the Grand National. Sue Smith’s charge has been in the running for major crowns throughout his career, although success at the highest level of the sport has eluded him since making his bow in 2014.
The Irish horse has found a semblance of his best form in the current campaign, notching an impressive victory at Haydock Park. It was a step in the right direction for the bay gelding, but to etch his place in the history of Grand National horse racing, the 25/1 antepost selection will need to be flawless at Aintree in April to join a truly elite list of competitors.
Vintage Clouds made an impression in the early stages of last season with an impressive win at Aintree in the Interactive Chase. He was a slight outsider for the event, but with Danny Cook in the saddle, he rose to the occasion with a smooth ride to claim the win by 18 lengths.
Future King George VI Chase winner Clan Des Obeaux would defeat the Irish horse in his next outing at the Graduation Chase at Haydock Park by seven lengths, with Smith’s charge just lacking the pace down the stretch to challenge his rival. Although he missed out on the victory, his form was good enough for him to be considered the leading contender for the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.
Cook took the reins for the event and made a strong start to the contest. The Irish horse appeared to be on track for a charge for the win, but he made a crucial mistake at the 12th fence which disrupted his rhythm. He managed to claw back ground, although it was only good enough for fourth place.
A second-place finish at Wetherby handed Smith’s charge some momentum ahead of Cheltenham Festival and Ultima Handicap Chase. He was a slight outsider behind Coo Star Sivola for the victory, although once again Vintage Clouds was able to make a good impression in the opening furlongs of the contest. However, he lacked the pace in the crunch down the stretch as Coo Star Sivola and Shantou Flyer battled it out for the win, with the latter edging the race by a neck. The Irish horse still put forward a decent effort to finish in third slightly off the pace of the leading duo.
The eight-year-old still had enough left in the tank to compete in the Scottish Grand National. He was a slight outsider for the event, although he was competitive once the race began making strides in the leading pack. A slight mistake at the 23rd fence knocked him slightly off the pace, and although he was in contention down the stretch, the Irish horse was unable to make ground on 33/1 outsider Joe Farrell, who took the crown ahead of Ballyoptic by the nose.
Vintage Clouds returned for the new campaign with a win at Haydock Park. On this occasion, the bay gelding did have the pace when it mattered the most to close out the victory ahead of Takingrisks by half-a-length. He had momentum to take into his return to the Welsh Grand National. However, he endured a nightmare display, failing to find his rhythm after a couple of early mistakes. Smith’s charge pulled up shortly after the 17th fence, ending his race. There’s talent in the Irish horse, but whether he has enough to put it all together on the big stage at Aintree is another matter.