Artic Jack will be on trial for next month's Gold Cup when he lines up at Haydock a week on Saturday. After the bold-jumping eight-year-old worked over seven furlongs at the Merseyside track yesterday, his trainer, Sue Smith, said that a prominent show next week would earn him a place in the Cheltenham showpiece on 18 March.
The Trevor Hemmings-owned gelding claimed the scalp of a leading Gold Cup hope, Kingscliff, when taking the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock last month and will return there to tackle the Red Square Vodka Gold Cup in 10 days' time.
"He's in very good form and is a big, strong horse who gallops relentlessly and is a super jumper," Smith said. "If he is lucky enough to win next week, or be in the first three running a very big race, then he deserves to take his chance in the Cheltenham Gold Cup."
Artic Jack also holds an entry for the Grand National, in which has been allotted 11st 4lb. "I think he's been given too much weight for the National," Smith commented. "They have been very harsh on him. The weights could go up a few pounds again, and these days it seems to be only the light-weighted horses that win the National or finish in the first few places."
In the Grand National, Artic Jack has been supported into 20-1, but is available at 50-1 for the Gold Cup.
Hemmings has received disappointing news about two other horses who carry his colours. The Nicky Henderson-trained Trabolgan, a promising novice hurdler, will miss the rest of season after suffering a knee injury. Chives, a leading staying chaser in Hemmings's 40-strong team, is unlikely to race again this season. The nine-year-old has had treatment for a lung infection at Henrietta Knight's stable.
Tony McCoy could be back in the saddle as soon as next week despite suffering a major injury scare at Plumpton on Monday. The champion jockey fractured his cheekbone in three places after the fall of his mount Polar Red.
McCoy saw a specialist yesterday and was told that he will not need surgery. His personal assistant, Gee Armytage, said later: "There are three fractures, but they are not displaced too badly and they have decided not to operate. AP hopes to be back on the track next week.
"He's been in contact with Dr Turner [the Jockey Club's chief medical adviser] today, and so have his specialists. They are all dealing with it together and Dr Turner is the man we will be guided by."
McCoy said: "I'll just have to wait until the swelling goes down so they can have a good look at it again. I may have fractured something in three places but I haven't had any pain-killers."
Mick Fitzgerald will know for certain in two weeks' time whether he will be back in the saddle for the Cheltenham Festival.
The rider, who suffered a broken arm in a fall at Sandown on 7 February, saw a surgeon yesterday and a repeat visit will confirm whether he will be ready for the three biggest days of the jumps season, which start on 16 March.
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