Fortunes change rapidly in racing but class is permanent. And the past few weeks have seen a remarkable return to form of leading northern jumps trainer Sue Smith, aided as always by husband and assistant Harvey, and ignited by the outstanding drive of top stable jockey Danny Cook.

Back in November, when their Scottish champion hurdle winner Midnight Shadow came down with a narrow lead at the final fence, Sue and Harvey left Carlise still searching for the win that had eluded them since the previous April.

The eight-month famine finally ended at Uttoxeter in December where Danny Cook guided Informateur and Silver Eclipse to a welcome winning double.

Since that much-needed breakthrough hardly a Northern meeting has gone by without the popular Bingley duo gracing the winner’s circle. And the statistics revealed earlier this week that five of their last 15 runners had been successful.

That strike-rate was shared by Danny Cook, the highlight of which has been his brilliant handling of Midnight Shadow at Cheltenham’s New Year fixture and the wide-margin triumph of Vintage Clouds at Haydock last Saturday.

Ironically, there was a sizeable touch of luck about Midnight Shadow’s valuable victory in Cheltenham’s Dipper Chase, as the hot favourite Champ fell two out when holding what appeared at the time a decisive advantage.

Few could deny Danny Cook’s mount his dramatic change of fortune though. He had been robbed of a deserved win at Carlisle and subsequently been headed in the closing strides at Haydock when looking sure to score over the last.

In the Dipper Chase, Danny Cook had him ready to pick up the pieces at the penultimate obstacle and once the chance arrived he made the best of it.

Luck played no part in the Peter Marsh 7/1 victory of Vintage Clouds. One of Trevor Hemmings’ favourite chasers, he has been placed at the Cheltenham Festival and gone close in both the Welsh and Scottish Nationals as well as featuring prominently in previous runnings of the Peter Marsh.

Vintage Clouds had hinted that his winning time was near on his recent run in Haydock’s Tommy Whittle Chase, in which he had stayed on strongly to finish a closing third.

According to Danny Cook, Vintage Clouds had also schooled with real enthusiasm in midweek and Danny had no qualms about taking up a close up position from the start.

He settled his mount into the ideal rhythm and with a series of bold leaps was always in the first two.

So well was vintage Clouds travelling down the back straight for the final time, that Danny had the courage to kick for home rounding the home turn and quickly stretch into a clear lead. It proved a match-winning decision as none of his rivals could muster the pace to counter the move and Vintage Clouds went clear to score head in chest.

In the long term, the Scottish National will be his target. More immediately he could return to Haydock for a tilt at the Grand National Trial followed by a shot at one of the long distance handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival.

Not content with the one Saturday success, the Smiths went on to saddle Silver Eclipse to land the final race at Haydock and were back in the winning enclosure on Monday with Kauto d’Amour at Newcastle.

An eye-catching third in that same Newcastle heat was the lightly-raced Ballydonagh Boy, trained by Pauline Robson for the It’s A Bargain Syndicate organised by Liz Fairbairn.

The syndicate numbers several Cumbrian-based members including Vicky Royds from Armathwaite. Vicky has been involved with It’s A Bargain for a long while and is optimistic about the future of Ballydonagh Boy who would surely have gone significantly closer at Newcastle had he not made a crucial error four out. He might also benefit from a step up in trip.

Nicky Richards completed a 30/1 double on testing ground at Ayr last Sunday. Brian Hughes rode both the Greystoke winners and drew level with Richard Johnson in their duel for title honours. His first win came on Mayo Star in the maiden hurdle. The ex-Ruth Jefferson trained gelding was making his debut for the Richards team after 833 days on the sidelines but looked fit in the paddock and his display was a credit to all concerned with his rehabilitation.

Given a patient ride wide of his rivals, Mayo Star was less than fluent at several of his hurdles but closed on the leaders approaching two out, put in a sound jump at the final flight and forged ahead on the run in. He had won a bumper for the Jeffersons as well as twice being placed over hurdles. There should be more to come assuming that he suffers no ill effects from his return to action.

Glinger Flame opened his account over fences without giving the impression that he is a natural over the bigger obstacles. His jumping improved as the race progressed and his task was made significantly easier when his market rival came down four out. It would have been interesting had the favourite stayed on his feet.

With hindsight Teddy Tee faced an uphill task under his big weight in the handicap chase. He was not helped by the front-running style of Donna’s Delight. The pair took each other on from an early stage and Teddy Tee’s jumping did not stand up to the test. He made too many errors and a major blunder five out finally put paid to his chances.

Casual Cavalier gave Harry Reed a fine ride in the other handicap chase, finishing a most creditable third. The Tristan Davidson trained 12 year old took the inside route throughout and racing on the deepest ground did really well to finish so close.

The ITV cameras take in some fascinating action tomorrow from Cheltenham and Doncaster where the highlight will be the Skybet Chase, formerly known as the Great Yorkshire Chase.

Bookmakers have the Nicky Henderson-trained L’Serge vying for favouritism with Dingo Dollar but preference here will be for Mister Whitaker and My Old Gold. The Mick Channon-trained Mister Whitaker won the Colin Parker Memorial in 2018 since when he has been lightly raced. He was a fair fifth at Cheltenham last time out but stamina could prove a problem and the sporting choice has to be Nicky Richards’s My Old Gold. The mare is something of a

Doncaster specialist. She acts well on the soft and her stamina is her strongest suit. Phil Kirby is bidding for a major North-South double. His Lady Buttons has to hold a leading chance in the featured mares hurdle at Doncaster while stablemate Top Ville Ben puts his Gold Cup chances to the test in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham.

The Rowland Meyrick winner takes on the likes of Santini, Bristol De Mai and Delta Work but his late burst of speed can surprise his more fashionable rivals.