If it had not been for the popular vote on May Day you could have been excused for believing this was a grey year. The hue has certainly been hugely advantageous this National Hunt season.
Suny Bay has won a Hennessy, Relkeel a Bula Hurdle on his stomp up the ante-post betting for the Champion Hurdle, and Senor El Betrutti has completed an auspicious double in the Murphy's and Tripleprint Gold Cups. Gordon Richards is fairly grey too, and he has provided two like-matted winners in the shape of One Man and The Grey Monk.
The Grey Monk, Saturday's Tommy Whittle Chase winner at Haydock, has several options for his next encounter. He could run either back at Newton- le-Willows, Cheltenham or in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown, where he chewed the surface last season. The options, however, are limited for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. If he cannot get his teeth into the surface there next March it will be no-go.
The nine-year-old still has a greater chance of appearing at Prestbury Park than the trainer's name horse, One Man. Festival spectators will be lucky to see him at all. "The grey horse certainly won't be in the Gold Cup and whether he'll go to Cheltenham at all I don't know," Richards said yesterday. "It's only 50-50 that we'll run him in the Queen Mother [Champion Chase] as there are plenty of other good races for him."
It is Richards's opinion and that of John Hales, the gelding's owner, that One Man does not last the Gold Cup journey. The messages that Richard Dunwoody, his rider, receives are somewhat different. The jockey suggests the horse stops himself in the closing stages as he anticipates grave physical discomfort should he carry on.
There may be sense in this as, no matter what the distance, One Man turns from armour-plated tank to dangling marionette in the closing stages. Dunwoody's opinion is that animals that collapse as drunkenly as One Man does are not guilty of failing to stay; but are victims of internal bleeding. "The barrier he hits could be in his mind," the jockey observed in a recent Christmas book collaboration with Marcus Armytage. "I always wonder if at Sandown back in January , when he won his first King George, he went to the extreme. I know he gave his all.
"He was very tired and blew hard. Maybe he went to the limits and just maybe he's not that keen to go there again. He's an intelligent enough horse to know where the limit is."
There is no limit for Gordon himself however, and even if he cannot swing through the trees at Greystoke any more he is still going strong at 67. "I still love the old horses you know, you never lose that," he said. "As long as my head keeps working I'll be all right. I hear some of these younger boys with their new ideas and I take some on board and I I ignore others.
"But I've still got a few ideas of my own and as long as I can find someone to do the brawn while I do the brains then we'll go on. You never know it all. You keep learning."
Gordon, it seems, will never be divorced from racing, and even when he goes he will probably ensure his final resting place lies where horses' hooves are resounding just above him. As it stands, his record does not contain a Gold Cup winner, but he believes that may be corrected in three months' time. The identity of the saviour may surpirse some.
Addington Boy was withdrawn on the eve of the Gold Cup last season, and has recovered from tendon trouble. He was as low as 8-1 last March when his sick note was accepted. He is a sound jumper, albeit with no bottom- pinching turn of pace, though his record is seven wins, two seconds and a third from 10 completed starts over fences. He has no enemies among his regular backers.
"Let's not forget about Addington," Richards said. "You only have to look at him to see he has improved since last year. I'm very, very pleased with him." In view of this assessment, 20-1 looks quite plump with William Hill and the advice is to invest some coppers. I have.Reuse content