The fragile physique of Fortune And Fame will decide the destination of the best spare ride of the season, on Alderbrook in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on Tuesday week.
Richard Dunwoody, who partnered the reigning champion at Kempton seven days ago, has been offered the booking following yesterday's injury to the luckless Norman Williamson, but is already committed to Fortune And Fame - if Dermot Weld's hurdler makes it to the Festival.
It is one of the many imponderables surrounding this year's showpiece meeting and several more were added yesterday afternoon when Adrian Maguire's broken collar-bone forced him too on to the sidelines. Fortune And Fame's participation will be determined after he has galloped on Sunday, and if he goes to Cheltenham, Dunwoody's decision will be made for him.
"I have offered Richard the ride on Alderbrook, and I hope that Jamie Osborne can ride Master Oats in the Gold Cup," Kim Bailey, the pair's trainer, said yesterday, "but I won't know anything for certain until next week." One jockey who will not be sitting by the phone, though, is Graham Bradley, who lost the ride on Alderbrook at Kempton when he overslept and failed to turn up for a schooling session on the horse.
In Maguire's absence, Charlie Swan is expected to ride Viking Flagship as the horse seeks a third successive victory in the Champion Chase. "I feel very sorry for Adrian, I hope it's not as bad as they think," David Nicholson, Viking Flagship's trainer, said. "My assistant has already been on the phone to Charlie Swan. We will have around 25 runners at the Festival and will use the best jockeys available. Richard Johnson [Nicholson's conditional jockey] has a great chance to make a name for himself." Tony McCoy, the season's leading rider, is another who could benefit.
The bookings on Alderbrook and Master Oats became available when Williamson dislocated his right shoulder for the second time in three weeks on the gallops yesterday morning. "I went to give a horse a slap behind the saddle and it went," Williamson said. "I put it back in myself, I felt like Mel Gibson. I could have kept my mouth shut and carried on, but it would have been a waste of time and if it had come out in a race it would have been a danger to others."
Williamson will now need an operation to correct the problem. "It will probably be three months before I can ride again, but it can take longer," he said. "I will probably do some press and television work at Cheltenham, and I would rather be there than lying on a beach somewhere wondering what had won."
With the Festival now imminent, this afternoon's racing is predictably uninspiring, although the Great Yorkshire Chase at Doncaster, rescheduled after its original date fell victim to the weather, is a notable exception. The move to the spring may well become permanent, something which punters would surely welcome.
Dextra Dove, whose long winning streak was very narrowly ended by Sunley Bay at Newbury last month, is the favourite, but at around 11-4 there are good reasons to oppose him. His last race was a hard one, he is possibly better with more cut in the ground and the handicapper may now have his measure. Take a chance instead with SIR PETER LELY (nap 4.05), who thrives on fast ground and comes from a yard that is running into form.Reuse content