We take a look at some of the top racing stories of the day in our new feature and provide our experts’ racing selections on Thursday, March 2, 2017.
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has doubts that son Willy will be able to gain the required number of chase wins by April 6 to ride Blaklion (right) in the Grand National. Willy, who has spent the last five years concentrating on the Flat, has 12 career wins over jumps. His father said: “Willy still needs thee winners over fences. It might quite hard work. I have not got that many young chasers coming up and most of them have gone up the handicap. It is more difficult to find winners at this time of year.”
Michael O’Leary has removed Don Poli, Empire Of Dirt and Outlander from the Grand National, as he said he would, following his displeasure at the weights meted out by official BHA handicapper Phil Smith. Champagne West, Dromnea and Otago Trail have also been scratched, along with several other Gigginstown runners including Clarcam, Tiger Roll and A Toi Phil. A total of 95 entries remain with the weights now headed by Carlingford Lough.
BHA senior handicapper Phil Smith his back at critics after unveiling the weights for the 10 handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival, insisting “there is no semblance of any anti-Irish bias”. In statement he said the BHA’s handicapping approach with Irish horses has provided “greater equality and fairness” after years of what he felt was a “disproportionately high success rate of Irish runners in British handicaps” – most significantly at the Cheltenham Festival.
Alan King is in the dark over who will ride JP McManus-owned stable star Yanworth in the Champion Hurdle. The Kingwell Hurdle winner is as short as 10/3 for the 2m feature on March 14, but regular pilot Barry Geraghty is nursing six broken ribs and will miss the Cheltenham Festival. King said: “I don’t know who is going to ride him and we need to speak at the weekend, as we do need to find out. Obviously I would like them to come and have a sit on him. No one has ridden him over a hurdle bar Barry Geraghty, so whoever rides him we want to come and school him and possibly ride a bit of work.”
With Barry Geraghty ruled out through injury, Noel Fehily is likely to come in for the plum Champion Hurdle ride on the JP McManus-owned Buveur D’Air, who made a successful transition back to hurdles in a Listed event at Sandown. Trainer Nicky Henderson (right) said: “I suspect he will. I saw JP on Monday and I don’t think anybody has really discussed it as there are so many horses involved in the conundrum.”
Though unseating Mark Walsh at the last in the Irish Gold Cup, former Stayers’ Hurdle winner More Of That (right) has trainer Jonjo O’Neill growing in confidence ahead of his Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup run. “We never saw a spark this season until his last run in the Irish Gold Cup,” said O’Neill. “He’d have to be at his best, of course, but the race is open and he loves the track.” More Of That is currently 16/1 (from 20/1) with Bet4Causes.
A federal judge has rejected leading Irish horseracing owner JP McManus’s bid to recover the $5.22m he claimed the US government withheld as tax from a backgammon win. McManus claimed that paying a relatively small “domicile levy” in Ireland should leave him exempt from tax taken by authorities, but judge Nancy Firestone denied his request to order the IRS to hand over the money.
Despite falling at Kempton on Saturday, Nicky Henderson says he intends to run Charli Parcs in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, rather than the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. “I think we were always leaning towards the Triumph and that’s still the case. If he’s in good form, I think he will come here. Divin Bere could also end up going in the same race. We’ll have to see how the weights work out for the Fred Winter.”
Thistlecrack’s younger half-brother West Approach is likely to run in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle rather than taking on his elders in the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Trainer Colin Tizzard’s son and assistant Joe said: “We purposely protected his novice status last year and however brave John and Heather Snook (owners) are, throwing a novice in the deep end is tough. I think with this one he has one chance as a novice and he has got a great chance in the Albert Bartlett.”
Willie Mullins (right) has won the Cheltenham Champion Bumper nine times and feels Carter McKay could be his brightest chance of landing the March 15 finale again. His is one of five Mullins entries of the 36 remaining and the trainer said: “Carter McKay could look the one on his form of the last day. He’d been doing nice work at home before Naas and his performance was better than I hoped, but you don’t go expecting performances like that. That performance would compare to anything. A horse that can win around Naas doing that is a fair machine.”
An experiment to monitor the heart rates of some leading figures at the Cheltenham Festival has been organised. Commentator Richard Hoiles, ITV colleague Ed Chamberlin, trainer Ben Pauling and broadcaster Rupert Bell will be tested. Hoiles said: “I would be interested in the results as I did think I was relatively laid-back, but then someone posted a video of me commentating next to John Hunt during the Champion Stakes – I was shocked by just how animated I was getting!”
Brian Proctor, former jockey and work-rider for trainer Dick Hern, has died at the age of 75. Legendary jockey Willie Carson said: “He was Dick Hern’s right-hand man and I had some good times with him. He was involved with everything that happened at West Ilsley. If there was a problem Dick and Brian sorted it out. Nothing fazed him, he knew what to do with horses. He was a great man to have in the yard and a great man to deal with a difficult horse.”
Today’s MCB British Racing selections – Thursday, March 2, 2017
TAUNTON: 2.00 Ice Konig, 2.30 Saint Breiz, 3.00 Spiritofthegames, 3.35 Sir Ivan, 4.10 The Unit, 4.45 Jonagold, 5.15 Lost In Lecce
NEWCASTLE: 2.10 Free Code, 2.40 Stoneham, 3.10 Be Perfect, 3.45 Magistral, 4.20 Ms Gillard, 4.55 Bargain Buy, 5.25 Aprovado
LUDLOW: 2.20 MANSION (NAP), 2.50 Some Are Lucky, 3.25 Mixchivous (nb), 4.00 Dusky Lark, 4.35 Miss Spent, 5.05 Invisible Man, 5.35 Centurious
CHELMSFORD CITY: 5.20 Justice Rock, 5.55 National Service, 6.25 Atalante, 6.55 Clement, 7.25 Winning Story, 7.55 Kenstone, 8.25 No Not Again, 8.55 Par Three
Wednesday’s NAP was a winner!
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