Racing: Maguire hits right target to join elite

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The Independent Online

It has been a long and crater-filled road and it looked for a while recently as if a glorious milestone might even be getting smaller in the eye of Adrian Maguire, but yesterday the Irish jockey eventually reached a riding Shangri-la.

A victory on Pat Haslam's Fiori in the Viacom Outdoor Handicap Hurdle at Carlisle would not normally be an occasion to store in the memory bank. But then this was no normal victory. It represented the 1,000th British success of Maguire's career and promotes him to a list which includes just Richard Dunwoody, Peter Scudamore, Tony McCoy, John Francome, Peter Niven and Stan Mellor.

"I rode a winner last Monday but it seems like an eternity since waiting to get the 1,000th," the jockey said. "Now we'll go after the second 1,000 and see how we get on."

Maguire's frustration over the tantalising landmark spilled over at Wetherby on Wednesday when he was banned for six days for striking his fellow weighing room inmate J P McNamara with his whip. It was a symbol for Maguire's career. Triumph and disappointment have never been far from each other.

The young man who was christened "the golden child" by his colleagues burst on to the National Hunt scene by winning on Omerta for Martin Pipe at the 1991 Cheltenham Festival. He also won the conditional jockeys' championship after joining Toby Balding the following season and has had numerous big-race winners, most notably landing the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Cool Ground in 1992.

Yet only Niven among the magnificent seven stands like Maguire as a rider who failed to win the jockeys' championship. Maguire's best and most disappointing campaign came in the 1993-94 season when his duel with Richard Dunwoody went down to the last day of the season. He was repelled by just three winners.

Soon after a spate of serious injuries arrived to knock him off course and then came an acrimonious divorce from the trainer David Nicholson in 1998. Maguire soon found another man to believe in him, however, and has linked convincingly with Ferdy Murphy in recent seasons.

The partnership is represented in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury tomorrow by Hindiana, who, on one strand of form looks a betting proposition. The best-handicapped horse though, by common consent, is Paul Nicholls's Montifault.

"Montifault is definitely the danger," Philip Hobbs, the trainer of the well-fancied What's Up Boys, said yesterday. "He only has a 4lb penalty for that Wincanton win [in the Badger Beer Chase] and is due to go up a further 11lb in the future. If we are to believe the handicapper, he should win."

Hobbs has a line to another fancied Nicholls runner in Ad Hoc. What's Up Boys was second to him in the Whitbread Gold Cup at Sandown last spring. "This is his [What's Up Boy's] second season as a chaser and hopefully he can progress," the trainer said. "We are 7lb better off on Saturday for that run so we'll see if we can run better than Ad Hoc this time."

The bulletin from Ditcheat yesterday was that both members of team Nicholls were in good order. "Montifault has come out of the [Wincanton] race well and is in good order," the trainer said.

Ad Hoc's vaulting problems evaporated in the Whitbread, which he won by 19 lengths. "The problems he had last year were due to his jumping," Nicholls said. "His confidence was affected by his falls but he has got his act together now and is jumping well at home. He has summered really well and is the best I think I have ever had him.

"He has gone up 15lb for his Whitbread win and although he could improve he will need to do so to win off his new mark. He was travelling well in the Hennessy last year before he fell, so the track will not pose any problems. And he seems to run well on most types of ground."

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