Racing: A Suny forecast cheers Bradley

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The Independent Online
THE SECRETARY at Simon Sherwood's Uplands stable deserves an award, because she answered the phone yesterday afternoon without the slightest trace of weariness in her voice. It had, after all, probably been ringing off its hook all day, as jump jockeys and agents opened their newspapers, read the headline "Bradley ruled out by injury", and immediately reached for their telephone book. "Terrible shame about Brad," they will have been planning to tell Sherwood. "Awful thing to happen, so close to the big one. Still, you'll be looking for someone else for Suny Bay, and as luck would have it, I might be able to help . . ."

But it may be that British Telecom was the only beneficiary of all the fuss. As Bradley left Dublin yesterday, he was talking as if he might still be on Suny Bay in the Grand National on Saturday, when the grey will attempt to improve on the second place he has filled in each of the last two years.

"I feel a lot more comfortable," Bradley said, less than 24 hours after his thumping fall from Rightsaidfred at the third last in the Irish Grand National. "It seems I've pulled the AC joint which joins the collarbone to the shoulder and although I was in agony yesterday, I feel a lot better today. I hope to ride one on Friday and then Suny Bay in the big one."

Sherwood, a former rider himself, knows how difficult this injury can be. "Basically I'm hoping that Brad will be all right, but he's only going to ride if he's 100 per cent," the trainer said yesterday.

"A dislocated shoulder is tricky, especially around Liverpool. If your horse lands a bit awkwardly you can jiggle it, and then you're out of the ball game, which isn't fair on anyone."

Another jockey who had a painful end to the Bank Holiday weekend was Andrew Thornton, who is due to partner Nahthen Lad for Jenny Pitman in the National, but his wounds from a fall at Wetherby yesterday were relatively superficial.

"The horse stepped on my bicep and I've had to have a couple of stitches in it but I hope to be back tomorrow," he said later. "I'm due to ride out in the morning and provided that goes well I will be on Super Tactics at Ascot in the afternoon."

Similarly battered is Tony Dobbin who missed his three rides at Uttoxeter yesterday after being badly bruised in a fall at Carlisle on Easter Monday. The jockey's agent, Richard Hales, explained: "Tony came to grief on his rides in the first two races at Carlisle. He has bruising around and below his ribs and is feeling a bit battered but he'll be back at Aintree on Thursday."

Dobbin's rides on the opening day of the Grand National meeting include Martell Cup contender Go Ballistic on whom he finished runner-up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

With just three days left before the big race, the going at Liverpool is soft on the hurdles and Mildmay courses, but only good to soft on the National course itself. Punters now seem confident that this is what will prevail on Saturday, and the one they wanted to back yesterday was Call It A Day.

David Nicholson's runner, who attempts to give the trainer his first National success, was backed from 8-1 to 13-2 with Coral, and to 6-1 with Ladbrokes. He will be ridden by Richard Dunwoody, who has just overtaken Peter Scudamore as the most successful jockey in jump racing history.

Since both Dunwoody and Nicholson are now approaching the end of their respective careers, Call It A Day may also appeal to superstitious backers.

"Major market moves just days before the big race are rare, and we suspect that this gamble has been triggered by one of the country's most influential tipping services," Simon Clare of Coral said, while a spokesman for Ladbrokes pointed out that only 11 favourites have won the National this century. Double Thriller, a 4-1 chance, hardly seems worth the effort of a trip to the bookies as far as once-a-year backers are concerned, and punters are now taking what little value remains about the other main contenders.