Mick Fitzgerald yesterday described himself satisfied that a period of inactivity would not count against Trabolgan, the ante-post favourite for Saturday's Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury. He was presumably talking about his own inertia as well as the horse's.
The Irish jockey has not ridden competitively since July, when he broke a bone in his neck in a fall at Market Rasen. Trabolgan himself has been off for much longer - since the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, though he left the racecourse rather more gloriously. In victory, in fact.
A total of 24 horses were left in the Berkshire spectacular yesterday, including the further principals of Cornish Rebel, Comply Or Die, Our Vic, Red Devil Robert and L'Ami. It is Trabolgan though who is as low as 7-2 for one of the most competitive handicaps of the season.
"I've ridden him in his last two bits of work and he's worked super," Fitzgerald, who is due to return to action at Warwick this afternoon, said. "He feels in great form and you would like to think he's getting stronger. He schooled very well last week and I'll give him a little pop later this week.
"He's ready to go. He's as fit as can be and he's not going to improve an awful lot from the Hennessy. He's ready to do his job. This is a huge race. It will be a big field again. It's a tough race to win - every horse in there is at it's peak. We go in there with a horse that hasn't had a run this season but I'm not in the slightest bit worried about that with this fellow.
"He came back several times last year and he was very unlucky in the Feltham when he'd had quite a long break in between but only just got pipped by Ollie Magern."
Martin Pipe has four entered, including Celestial Gold, while Our Vic could follow in the path of his stablemate by bidding for Hennessy glory after landing the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
Comply Or Die, who chased home Trabolgan in the SunAlliance, and Iris Bleu - winner of the Badger Ales Trophy three weeks ago - complete the champion trainer's quartet.
It appears Timmy Murphy will be part of the Pipe arrangements at the weekend despite his bone-jarring appointment with the Merseyside terrain on Sunday. Murphy fell at the final flight of a handicap hurdle, at the very point where Robert Thornton also took a thumping tumble from Halcon Genelardais.
"It was quite a nasty one, but that's part of the business I'm afraid," Murphy said yesterday. "I'm fine now though, and there's nothing broken thankfully. There should be no problems for the weekend." Thornton too anticipates he will be available for Newbury, even though he sustained considerable bruising to his rib cage. The 27-year-old visited a specialist yesterday where it was revealed he had not broken any bones as a consequence of the fall.
"I was badly winded and took a blow to the ribs but I'll be fine in a couple of days," Thornton said. "I've been to see the doctor this morning and he's sorted me out. I have to decide whether I come back on Wednesday or Thursday, but I will definitely be available for the Hennessy meeting."
Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup (Newbury, Saturday) betting: Coral: 4-1 Trabolgan, 7-1 Cornish Rebel, King Harald, Our Vic, 9-1 Comply Or Die, 10-1 L'Ami, Red Devil Robert, 11-1 Lord Of Illusion, 14-1 Celestial Gold, Iris Bleu, 16-1 Forget The Past, Joes Edge, 20-1 Distant Thunder, Jack High, Kandjar d'Allier, 25-1 Ballycassidy, Redemption, Ross Comm, Run For Paddy, 33-1 others. Hills: 4-1 Trabolgan, 6-1 Comply Or Die, 7-1 Our Vic, 8-1 Cornish Rebel, L'Ami, 9-1 Red Devil Robert, 10-1 King Harald, 14-1 Lord Of Illusion, 16-1 Celestial Gold, Distant Thunder, Iris Bleu, 20-1 Joes Edge, Kandjar D'Allier, 25-1 Forget The Past, Jack High, Redemption, Ross Comm, Royal Auclair, St Matthew, 33-1 others.
Nap: Siberian Highness (Warwick 2.50)