Racing: Fitzgerald called up to partner Azertyuiop

The fun will soon be over for those who think of racing purely as a sport of the Flat and its fast horses. Memories of the Breeders' Cup may still glimmer brightly and there remains the punting bunfight of the November Handicap to come, but, in nine days' time, the turf season will be at an end.

National Hunt racing then becomes the staple, a quite dispiriting thought if the measure is the porridge which has been served up in the name of the jumps over the summer months.

The despair, however, will be fleeting. When the Open meeting is run at Cheltenham next month, Flat racing will immediately seem a distant and dilettante offshoot of the sport. The grand names of the winter realm will be back.

In addition, a glorious harbinger appears at Exeter next Tuesday, when the fleet-footed Azertyuiop sets out on a second season over fences. He was unbeaten throughout the first, culminating in the Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival. Such was the impression he created there, such is his palpable promise, that Azertyuiop is already quoted by Coral as 3-1 joint-favourite with the great champion Moscow Flyer to collect next spring's Queen Mother Champion Chase.

It should be that the West Country will witness another triumphant round, but it will do so with a different man at the controls of the tall horse. The six-year-old's regular jockey, Ruby Walsh, remains hors de combat with a leg injury and, while Joe Tizzard has capitalised on most of the opportunities at Paul Nicholls's yard recently, John Hales, Azertyuiop's owner, has specifically asked that Mick Fitzgerald be brought in for this assignment. Fitzgerald himself has only recently returned to the saddle after reconstructive surgery to an ankle.

"As long as he works well on Saturday and the ground is all right he will run at Exeter and Mick will ride him," Nicholls confirmed yesterday.

It could well be that the main rival to Azertyuiop hegemony in Britain this year is a Ditcheat stablemate in the shape of Le Roi Miguel. A year younger, though you could not tell because of his massive proportions, Le Roi Miguel is regarded as barely a pace behind Azertyuiop on the Somerset gallops, though the two have never actually worked together.

Their first collision could well be in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, for which Le Roi Miguel is likely to have an overseas preparation. Long distance options are also being considered for last year's Game Spirit Chase winner, Kadarann, for whom Walsh is already spotting openings in his native Ireland.

"If it rains, I am quite keen to take Le Roi Miguel to the James Nicholson Wine Merchants Champion Chase at Down Royal," Nicholls added. "Kadarann is pencilled in for a two-mile chase at the Open meeting at Cheltenham."

Festival aspirations were also entertained for Alan King's Flat winner Trouble At Bay, at least until he ran fourth in a maiden hurdle at Kempton on Saturday. The drawing board has been reapproached.

"I was very disappointed with him," King said yesterday. "I don't know why he ran so badly but he seems okay. I've no immediate plan. After his successful Flat campaign he was joint-favourite for the Triumph Hurdle but that looks a little bit ridiculous at the moment. He'd have to run an awful lot better than he did on Saturday."

* The Jockey Club appeared to make a partial retreat yesterday in its confrontation with jockeys over restrictions on mobile phones being used at race tracks. Riders, for a trial period, will now be allowed to make mobile phone calls from within the "phone zone" without having to log details. The move was welcomed by the Jockeys Association. The Jockey Club said it had "looked at various ways of making jockeys' lives easier while at the same time maintaining the integrity of racing".

Racing in brief: Keohane recovering

* Helen Keohane, an Irish apprentice rider, is on her way to recovery after being discharged from hospital in Dublin yesterday after a fall at Leopardstown on Monday in which she was knocked unconscious. Another apprentice, Sean Cleary, was still critically ill yesterday in intensive care at the Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, following a fall at Galway.

* Music To My Ears came under official scrutiny after drifting in the betting from 4-1 to 7-1 before running poorly at Cheltenham yesterday. The Jonjo O'Neill-trained five-year-old was found to be slightly lame on his off-fore after the race. The horse was pulled up after three fences in the novices' handicap. His performance was "noted" by the track's stewards.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas