Dunwoody finds richer pickings

Chris Corrigan on how the champion is whetting his appetite for the fight; 'If there is even the merest hint that he can keep his title, he will not be relaxing'
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The Galway Festival this week, Saratoga's extravaganza next week. Richard Dunwoody, the champion jumps jockey, is carrying out his pledge at the end of last season to put quality ahead of quantity, even if it places his title at risk.

A more dogged type would perhaps be at Plumpton this Friday, or Southwell next Tuesday, stockpiling lowly but telling victories to fend off inevitable challenges from heel-snappers like Adrian Maguire this winter.

But confirmation yesterday that Dunwoody will spend at least 10 days in upstate New York, from next Tuesday, indicates his reluctance to renew the gruelling domestic schedule that has ensured champion status for three successive years.

Saratoga has a small but select programme of jumping with rewards far exceeding, for example, the pounds 1,989 first prize for the winner of yesterday's selling hurdle at Newton Abbot.

''Richard has decided to go to Saratoga,'' the jockey's agent, Robert Parsons, said yesterday. ''It'll be his first visit there and he'll be riding for Jonathan Sheppard, one of the leading trainers in America.''

Dunwoody, now 31, won last season's championship, which finished early in June, with a total of 160 winners from 745 mounts - 30 winners more than his nearest pursuers, Adrian Maguire and Norman Williamson, who shared second place.

Dunwoody said then that he would want to remain champion - but would not again be taking mounts at every opportunity. Afternoon and evening cards at far-flung venues were taking a big toll.

Parsons denies, however, that the American trip - following on closely from extended visits to Irish festivals at Galway and Killarney - proves the champion is ready to abdicate.

''Richard is going to have a minimum riding weight of around 10st 4lb or 10st 5lb this season,'' Parsons commented. ''That eliminates a lot of rides he used to get around the 10st mark. But I'm confident he will ride 100-plus winners again. And if there is even the merest hint that he can keep his title, he will not be relaxing. He's very, very enthusiastic, I can assure you.''

The other dimension, of course, is that Dunwoody has split from Martin Pipe after two seasons. Pipe was second in the trainers' championship last season, and many of Pipe's 137 wins were ridden by Dunwoody. Now he is riding as a freelance.

''Being attached to a big yard obviously produces a lot of winners for any rider,'' Parsons conceded. ''But nobody should doubt that now Richard is more available, there are a many trainers out there who want him on their horses. ''

Dunwoody had five victories in the new ''summer'' jumping programme that lasted from early June until the new ''winter'' season began last Friday. ''Summer'' victories will count, inexplicably, in the new ''winter'' season which officially began last Friday. This means Dunwoody already has five to his credit.

Williamson has four. He, though, is now sidelined, having dislocated his right shoulder and fractured his left wrist at Stratford last Wednesday. His mount, Linden's Lotto, hit a fence then somersaulted, landing on top of the grounded Irishman. It could be a month before 26-year-old Williamson is back in the saddle.

Maguire has no winners at all yet. He has been out of action for nearly four months since a fall at Hereford when he was neck and neck with Dunwoody in last season's title race.

The 24-year-old has a further appointment with a Nottingham Hospital bone-fracture specialist this Friday. No date has been set for a return to race-riding. After the Hereford fall, Maguire had two pins, plus a length of wire, inserted into his right arm. The wire had a figure-of- eight shape. One of the pins slipped early last week and the jockey returned to Nottingham to have a screw put in the arm.

Dave Roberts, Maguire's agent, said yesterday: ''No date has yet been fixed for Adrian to return to action.''

Roberts, who also books mounts for Williamson, added ominously: ''Both Adrian and Norman are very live contenders for the title. They're both very hungry.''