Horse Racing with Jason Hall

From her base atop the old Lewes Racecourse, the National Hunt trainer Suzy Smith enjoyed a successful campaign last season despite being without her two stable stars throughout the winter.

Aimigayle and Emmaslegend are full sisters and both have been on the sidelines with injuries that have required time.

Now the pair appear to be fully over their ailments and with the stable gently starting its preparations for the busy months ahead, hopes are high that Suzy and her hard-working team can reproduce the impressive strike rate they had with their runners last season and for the returning siblings to rediscover their best and make an impression in the decent staying handicap chases at which they will be aimed.

Earlier in the week, I spoke with Suzy’s assistant Sergio Gordon-Watson.

“We’re delighted to have Aimigayle back and she’s doing well in her work.

“Her enthusiasm is as good as ever and we have got to the point where we think it’s time to get her back on the track.

“We have a few options this weekend but it’s very likely she’ll go to Southwell for a hurdles race there.

“Obviously she’s been off a while and will need the run this weekend but the signs she’s giving off are good.

“Let’s see how she gets on at Southwell and take it from there.

“Emmaslegend is coming back into the yard next week but that’s not where it ends for the family.

“Their three-year-old sister is coming into training with us and looks a fine type.

“With the success we’ve had with her sisters’ you can imagine that we’re quite excited about having her with us.”

When you consider Aimigayle has accumulated over £115,000 in prize money, finished second at the Cheltenham Festival and notably won the final of the mares only novice chase series that culminates at Newbury, whilst Emmaslegend impressively won last year’s Uttoxeter Summer Cup – and both the mares have black type to their name – it is easy to see why the Smith team are excited about welcoming another member of the family into their care.

I really do expect the half share that is currently available in the new recruit to be snapped up quickly.

Suzy does seem to have a great knack for placing her horses well and finding their grade.

And whilst it is a watching brief for now with Aimigayle, I would not be surprised if the Lewes handler already has a couple of options in mind for the mare in the autumn by when she will hopefully be back in tip top condition.

The Group 2 Hungerford Stakes at Newbury today is shaping up into a potentially nice race.

The unbeaten Soft Falling Rain will have an army of admirers as he bids to make his mark in Europe.

He and Darwin are probably the most interesting horses in the race as the potential for them to develop into Group One class individuals remains.

Purchased by Ballydoyle from the US, Darwin exudes quality and gets the nod.