Racing: Punters stung by Star De Mohaison switch

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The Independent Online

It is not so much buses as Bentley Continentals, but the theory holds good. Kauto Star has purred past those waiting for a credible home contender for the Gold Cup; now his Paul Nicholls stablemate Star De Mohaison has hove in view round the corner. But unfortunately for ante-post punters, the official declaration of the five-year-old as a championship candidate has meant he was not among the 27 declared yesterday for Saturday's 50th Hennessy Gold Cup.

Star De Mohaison, who carries the colours of Sir Robert Ogden, had been 5-1 favourite for the £150,000 Newbury showpiece but his connections have now decided to adjust their aim. "The reason is," the owner's racing manager, Barry Simpson, said yesterday, "that we all agree that he is a very good horse and we want to give him time to develop into a possible Gold Cup horse. And we thought the Hennessy would be too tough an ask. It's a decision Sir Robert and Paul have taken together."

The French-bred gelding, last season's top staying novice, launched his first senior campaign with a consummately easy win over hurdles at Cheltenham 10 days ago. He will now take a route to the Festival that will avoid having to impose his class on a big field of handicappers. He will start with an intermediate chase at Sandown on Saturday week.

With Kauto Star hot favourite for the King George VI Chase, Star De Mohaison will have the festive week off. "It's most unlikely he'll go to Kempton," added Simpson. "The plan will be to run in one of the trials after Christmas, the Aon at Newbury or the Cotswold at Cheltenham."

Nicholls has such an embarrassment of chasing riches in his yard that he still has the two at the top of the Hennessy ratings, Cornish Rebel, set to carry 11st 12lb and placed third when favourite last year under 1lb less, and Neptune Collonges.

But schemes of racehorse trainers, however well laid, gang more aft a-gley than even those of mice, as Nicky Henderson knows full well, on several counts. His charge Trabolgan, who looked something special after taking last year's Hennessy Gold Cup under top-weight, was almost immediately sidelined by a tendon injury and will not even race this term.

And this year's candidate Juveigneur, likewise owned by Trevor Hemmings and to be ridden by Mick Fitz-gerald, has been re- invented after he made it very clear, by falling at the first fence in two of his three runs at Aintree, that he was not going fulfil the Grand National hopes held for him.

But valuable conventional-fence prizes are not a bad Plan B for the chestnut. "Last year I began to think he might be our Hennessy horse," said Henderson, "but in the build-up he was not really sparkling and Trabolgan was. This time, though, he's in great form."

Juveigneur warmed up nine days ago with a third place in a novice hurdle at Cheltenham and yesterday morning with a spring- heeled display over the practice fences below Sparsholt Down. "That run over hurdles did him the world of good," added Henderson. "He tanked round and absolutely loved it. And when he schooled over fences this morning he was fantastic. He was like a child with new toys."

Hemmings is likely to be two-handed in his bid for a second successive win; his Nicky Richards-trained Turpin Green is vying for favouritism with State Of Play from the Evan Williams yard. The likely soft ground at Newbury - rain is due tomorrow and Thursday - means that Henderson's other entry Copsale Lad is unlikely to run.

The best news to emerge from Seven Barrows yesterday, though, was that stable favourite Fondmort, seriously injured two weeks ago today as he was poised for his first run of the season, is continuing to progress in hospital. Almost too well, in fact; the vets looking after the 10-year-old must now introduce a little discomfort - nature's own regulator - into his life, for his own good. "He's so well he wants to move," said Henderson, "but he mustn't be allowed to, so his dose of painkillers has been dropped."

Fondmort, who fractured his pelvis, will not race again, and fingers in his yard are still tightly crossed for his recovery. "He still wants another week at least on 24-hour attention," said Henderson. "The vets don't want him left alone at night. The danger will be when he gets to that stage."

Chris McGrath

Nap: Bougoure (Sedgefield 12.40)

NB: Day Of Claies (Sedgefield 1.10)