When it comes to short careers, National Hunt jockey is right up there with kamikaze pilot and Oilver Reed's drinking companion. Graham Bradley is the exception to the rule.
At the age of 37, the Yorkshireman ought really to be running a tipping service, guesting on the proliferation of racing programmes that have risen like weeds, or just plain eating. However, the old bones are still groaning on and they are operating pretty much in unison if the jockey's continued support from the nation's trainers is a barometer.
Bradley has had a choice for this afternoon's Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury. He could have ridden either last year's winner, Coome Hill, or Suny Bay, whom many, the bookmakers included, expect to be accepting the trophy- polishing duties after today's 41st running of the race.
Bradley has plumped for the latter and there is historical perspective at play here as some judges anticipate Suny Bay may progress from this contest to win the Gold Cup. The last beast to manage this double was Michael Dickinson's Bregawn, who, back in 1982, was entrusted to a young rider at Harewood who did not spend a fortune on razors, one G Bradley.
Bradley could have ridden a Hennessy victor for Suny Bay's trainer, Charlie Brooks, two years ago, but was aboard Black Humour as the stablemate Couldnt Be Better strode home. Brooks was close to being a forlorn figure that day as he felt he owed Bradley one. Today is payback time. The jockey appreciates it.
"Suny Bay was so impressive at Haydock [in the Edward Hanmer Handicap Chase earlier this month] that I had to stay with him," he said yesterday. "I was amazed at how easily he won and it was a performance that had Gold Cup, never mind Hennessy, written all over it.
"He rides, and feels, like a much improved horse this season and although we know he goes well on the soft or heavy I wouldn't mind if there was no more rain as the ground at Haydock was beautiful and he absolutely pinged off it.
``I said afterwards that he was up there with Bregawn and Wayward Lad as the best I've ever ridden and, while he's got to give quite a lot of weight away to one or two useful horses, I do think he's got a great chance. He jumps and stays and he's getting better all the time.''
There is a caveat in the fact that Burrough Hill Lad in 1984 was the last favourite to win a Hennessy. There are others with pedigree in the race (not least the Voice who today completes his 40th and last commentary of the great race). Martin Pipe is after his third Hennessy with Eudipe, following the exploits of Strands Of Gold (1988) and Chatam (1991).
The five-year-old has the blinkers removed for this afternoon's assignment, but would certainly have more chance if all his rivals were fitted with pillowcases.
The one that everyone seems to fear is Ireland's Time For A Run, who significantly sneaks into the race on 10st. His foxy connections are owner JP McManus and trainer Edward O'Grady (the artist formerly known as Eddie). Their vehicle has hardly branded reliability as his most potent weapon though, and his threat may have been overrated. Trying Again too is fancied, but this seems hardly the occasion to examine if he gets a trip of this nature.
An each-way consideration is Belmont King, whose stable is going well and is not adverse to the odd yomp, as he showed when winning the Scottish National.
In addition, Francois Doumen does not come over here just to enjoy our fine cuisine and sartorial elegance, and one of his entry should reach the frame. The general belief is that the Frenchman to figure will be Djeddah, but he is unlikely to appreciate the ground. Ciel De Brion, who is owned by a member of the Hennessy family, Henri de Pracomtal, therefore looks the one for hopeful speculators. For those with harder heads and strong constitutions, however, the only win bet appears to be on the short- priced SUNY BAY (nap 2.25).
Earlier on the card, Mistinguett will be a popular choice, but in a protracted contest in this ground only for the brave Spring Marathon (1.50) may be more than a coincidence selection. I'm Supposin (next best 1.15) is well fancied by his team for the Gerry Feilden Hurdle. They are not frightened of the likely favourite, Sanmartino, especially in receipt of 6lb.Reuse content