King targets Aintree with Smad Place and Raya Star

Smad Place is likely to bid for a first victory at Grade One level in the £120,000 John Smith’s Liverpool Hurdle (2.50pm) over an extended three miles at Aintree on the final day of John Smith’s Grand National meeting, Grand National Day, Saturday, April 6.

Alan King’s charge returned from a break to finish a gallant third in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival for the second year in succession on March 14, after two placed efforts before Christmas at Ascot and Wetherby respectively.

The six-year-old was travelling powerfully when unseating his rider in last season’s renewal of the John Smith’s Liverpool Hurdle, won for a record-breaking fourth time by the Paul Nicholls-trained Big Buck’s.

King revealed today: “The plan at the moment is to go to Aintree with Smad Place for the John Smith’s Liverpool Hurdle on the Saturday.

“He was a bit disappointing at Wetherby but ran well to finish second in the Long Walk at Ascot when the ground wouldn’t have been ideal for him and I was very pleased with his performance in the World Hurdle.

“He seems to have come out of Cheltenham fine and will do a bit of work at the weekend, but we are happy enough with him.”

Aintree’s John Smith’s Grand National meeting gets underway on Grand Opening Day, Thursday, April 4, which features four Grade Ones on a fantastic seven-race card, headed by the £200,000 John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle (3.05pm).

King is likely to be represented in the two and a half mile contest by Raya Star, who will be stepping up in trip after finishing fifth in the Grade Two Kingwell Hurdle over two miles at Wincanton on February 16. The seven-year-old had previously been runner-up in the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at KemptonPark on Boxing Day.

King added: “Raya Star will run on Thursday in the John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle and I think the step up back up to two and a half miles will help him.

“I would put a line through his run at Wincanton in the Kingwell. He made a very bad mistake at the third last which put him on the back foot and the ground was very holding that day.

“The return to better ground will suit him.”

Raya Star’s potential opponents include dual John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle scorer Oscar Whisky, 2010 Stan James Champion Hurdle hero Binocular and Grade One winner Grandouet, who are all trained in Lambourn by Nicky Henderson.

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