LAST YEAR’S Grand National hero Auroras Encore, the first Yorkshire winner of the famous race since 1960, has been retired after fracturing a leg in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster on Saturday.

The 12-year-old was a shock 66/1 winner of the Aintree feature for trainer Sue Smith last April but had failed to hit the mark in three subsequent starts.

The problem required surgery and after undergoing an operation on Tuesday, Auroras Encore will not race again.

“These things happen. I just want him home to have a happy retirement,” said Smith, this week.

“He has had an operation to a repair a fracture. They got him up successfully after the surgery and he was staying overnight in the operating box.

Fingers crossed – it’s still early days.

“He won a National for us. It doesn’t get bigger than that.

He doesn’t owe us anything.

This is a racing injury and I’m afraid that it is what you have to expect from the job on occasion.

“We have to expect these things and that’s all there is to it. I just want him back to his retirement.”

In the end the Sky Bet Chase was won by The Rainbow Hunter, trained by Kim Bailey.

The ten-year-old only made it as far as the eighth fence in last year’s Grand National, but another tilt at Aintree is very much on his agenda.

Bailey said: “He has come out of the race very well and we’re very pleased with him, obviously.

“I was not surprised to see him win, as I thought he would run very well, but we were worried about the ground beforehand.

“I think the rain that fell during racing probably helped us as it just made the ground that bit looser and he was able to get through it. He has never been able to handle really holding ground.

“He had a wind operation after his last run at Haydock and I think that has made a big difference as well.

“Aintree is the plan. He’ll most probably have a run somewhere beforehand, but I’m not sure where that will be.

We’ll see what the handicapper does.”

Staying at Doncaster, Urban Hymn fought hard to edge victory in a thrilling finish to the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

Formerly known as The River Don, the Grade Two contest was run in desperate conditions and turned into an almighty slog as the Malcolm Jefferson-trained Urban Hymn set out to make all the running.

The 9/4 favourite looked to have most of his rivals in trouble coming to three out but Blakemount steadily closed down the lead and came alongside at the last.

The outsider looked to have edged ahead on the run-in but Urban Hymn battled back close home under Brian Hughes and held a short-head advantage at the line.

Jefferson said: “He won’t run again before Cheltenham if he runs there. We’ll enter him in the two-mile-five (Neptune) and the three-mile (Albert Bartlett) novices. I’ll wait until Oscar Rock runs at Haydock.

He might be more of the threemiler.

“Cheltenham is not the be all and end all. He’s a chaser in the making and he could be very good. We’ve been running him over hurdles just to give him experience. They are really too small for him.”

Ayr had to pass an inspection on Monday but Philip Kirby will have been all smiles when it did as he travelled north with one runner and left with a winner.

The well backed Ancient Times was the horse in question, making all the running in the concluding handicap hurdle under Kyle James.

Although the jumps season is in full flow it is worth nothing just how Mark Johnston’s horses are performing on the all-weather circuit.

Of his last 11 runners, nine have come home in front all under the ever reliable Joe Fanning.

All the jumps racing was called of on Wednesday due to water-logging, and once again we were glad all the all-weather action at Kempton.

Middleham trainer James Bethell sent two runners down and was rewarded with a winner and second.

The winner was Starbotton in the seven-furlong handicap, making all under Jamie Spencer she is at the right end of the handicap to win again.

Today’s forecast rain is a potential stumbling block for Wetherby ahead of tomorrow’s cracking card.

The West Yorkshire track has been raceable all week so far and while clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson believes it could take ten millimetres, any more than that, or if it came down heavily on Friday, might pose a problem.

“Generally we are still soft, heavy in places. Friday, like everywhere, is due to be a horrible, wet day where we might get half an inch of rain, maybe more, maybe less,” he said.

“I think the ground would take 10mm. If we get any more than that it would depend how quick it comes.”