Harding in line for One Man show

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The Independent Online


Richard Dunwoody will partner Merry Gale at Punchestown this weekend, ensuring there will be a merry jockey in Britain over the next few days.

The champion jockey's declaration yesterday that he is to maintain links with Jim Dreaper's gelding means the ride on One Man, the favourite for Saturday's Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury, remains at the top of the situations vacant.

Gordon Richards, One Man's trainer, yesterday peeled off a succession of riders he was considering for his grey following the injury to his stable jockey, Tony Dobbin. Graham McCourt, Lorcan Wyer, Peter Niven and Jamie Railton were on the list, but it appears that one of the weighing room's youngbloods may be favourite.

The Penrith trainer rather likes the idea of Brian Harding, his Cork- born conditional jockey, taking the mount. Harding has a chance to put neon around his chances this afternoon when he partners three horses for Richards at Carlisle.

The 23-year-old jockey, who has ridden 35 winners and who is just three months younger than Dobbin, popped One Man over three fences yesterday, a continuation of the impressive vaulting the seven-year-old has produced since returning to training. He has jumped 60 obstacles without blemish. "He's done everything right since we had him back and he's jumped three fences again this morning, so there is nothing wrong with him," Richards said.

One Man's fencing, however, is a subject for some discussion. For a horse who is 13-8 for one of the season's most competitive chases, he has an ugly record, having unseated at Wetherby last season before scrambling his senses with a crashing fall at Kempton. "He was unlucky with the first one, he just slipped on landing and nearly got away with it, and the second one we still can't understand it," Richards said. "It must have been a one-off. I don't think his jumping will let him down on Saturday."

The last time that Richards rode as a professional jockey may have been before Prince Andrew was added to the Royal Family but he is still an enthusiastic figure on the gallops, where he regularly partners One Man. As the 65-year-old bobbles around on the grey's back he must dream of success in just about the one big chase to elude him as a trainer, the Gold Cup. "It's early days and he's got to go well in the Hennessy if we're going to talk about that race," Richards said. "He's classy enough all right and hopefully he'll be the one for the Gold Cup. I'd like to knock that race off because it's every trainer's ambition."

The parchment of the history book will certainly elevate One Man to great company if he becomes only the second horse to win consecutive Hennessys. The other was a rather useful animal called Arkle.

Another tyro with a marvellous opportunity on Saturday is Jimmy McCarthy, the understudy to Jamie Osborne at Oliver Sherwood's yard. He is to partner the Charlie Egertontrained Mysilv in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle. If he performs impressively, McCarthy will come into consideration for the ride on the mare in the Champion Hurdle.