Racing: Justified steers back on the Cheltenham road

For a horse, the ability to travel well is a distinct asset. And while Justified, one of the best novice two-mile chasers in Ireland, can indubitably do so once the tapes go up, Phineas Fogg he ain't, which makes his impressive winning performance at Newbury yesterday all the more meritorious.

The seven-year-old's only other visit to Britain, when he was the leading Irish hope for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at last year's Cheltenham Festival, ended with a dismal eighth place and his trainer, Dusty Sheehy, is of the opinion that the journey from Co Kilkenny was responsible for the defeat.

And when the latest travel arrangements went belly-up on Monday, with no Passepartout to gallop to the rescue, he feared the worst.

"This is very much a horse of habit," Sheehy said. "Take him out of his routine and he gets hot and bothered. He had a terrible trip this time, we were on the road for 17 hours. But it took so long that I think in the end he just had no option but to go to sleep. And when he got to the racecourse he ate and drank fine."

The expedition to run Justified, who had lost his unbeaten record over fences when unseating Shay Barry at the first obstacle in a Grade One contest at Leopardstown on Boxing Day, was a matter of expediency as the Irish programme book yielded nothing suitable, but proved serendipitous for Sheehy.

"It was always the plan to come to England before Cheltenham, for more travel experience," he said, "and to silence the critics a bit after Leopardstown, and to give him more experience of a left-handed track."

For a run-of-the-mill sort of midweek contest, yesterday's affair provided Justified with a decent test, for his six opponents included one above-average novice, Cornish Sett; one who had looked so when he won his first race over fences, Celtic Son; and the 2002 hurdles champion, Hors La Loi III, who made a successful chasing debut last month.

Justified, with Tony McCoy in the saddle, made short work of them all, winning as an 8-13 shot should. Sent to the front and allowed an uncontested lead, he jumped exuberantly and accurately, answering his rider's demands for bold, decisive leaps every time. And although Cornish Sett closed him down to within two and a half lengths at the line, the catch-up battle was always a losing one.

"Given the circumstances, I was well pleased," added Sheehy. "Tony said he was idling a bit on his own in front and ideally he would have liked something to tow him along. But he was pleased with the way the horse picked up again when challenged, and if he's happy then I'm happy."

Justified remains third favourite for the Arkle Trophy in March in most lists, behind his compatriot Accordion Etoile and Britain's best, Racing Demon, who is scheduled to continue his road to Cheltenham at Ludlow today but will take part only if regular rider Timmy Murphy, who suffered a heavy fall in the opener at Newbury yesterday, passes a medical this morning.

Racing Demon's trainer, Henrietta Knight, will not countenance anyone else but Murphy in the six-year-old's saddle. She bypassed taking on Justified yesterday in a more suitable contest than today's because Murphy was claimed for Celtic Son, whom he did partner before giving up his other mounts. "If Timmy cannot ride at Ludlow, then the horse will not run," she said yesterday.

Knight acknowledges both that the exciting and excitable Racing Demon needs an outing - his last was when winning at Sandown early last month - but that today's opportunity has ticks in few boxes.

"Going up in trip is not ideal at this stage," she said, "and I don't think Ludlow is going to be the ideal track for him. It is quite tight, and a bigger track and bigger fences would have been better, and I hope he doesn't take too many liberties."

There was positive news yesterday from Colm Murphy about the prospects of one of his two Champion Hurdle candidates, Feathard Lady, keeping her date at the Festival. The unbeaten six-year-old mare suffered a sprained ankle earlier this week and although she will definitely miss the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown later this month, x-rays have revealed no bone damage.

"It is quite tender and sore," he said, "but the x-rays are clear. The next couple of days will tell us more, but we are hopeful she won't be out for too long. And we are lucky in that she's a mare who doesn't take much work to get her fit."

Chris McGrath

Nap: Samuel Charles

(Southwell 3.10)

NB: Khanjar

(Southwell 1.40)

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices