Racing: Baronet to take honours for Maguire

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The Independent Online
IT HAS been a difficult week for Adrian Maguire, who resigned from his job as David Nicholson's retained jockey when it became all too obvious that many of the trainer's owners wanted Richard Johnson to ride their horses instead.

There are still some old friends he can rely on, though, and Baronet, who carried him to victory in the Scottish National back in April, is a case in point.

The extended four-mile chase at Cheltenham today was once the feature event of the afternoon, but while it has now been relegated from the televised spotlight, it provides Maguire with an excellent chance to remind everyone that he is still in business.

Baronet (1.00) has inevitably risen in the weights since his win at Ayr, but there is nothing wrong with his appetite for a struggle, unlike both Seven Towers and Him Of Praise, two of his main rivals today. It will be a slog, but between them, Baronet and Maguire should muster the will to win.

Colin Smith, the owner of Nicholson's yard, was one of the owners who pledged to remain loyal to Maguire, and he has proved as good as his word with the Irishman taking the ride on Saddlers' Roe in the juvenile event. Dangerus Precedent (1.35) is the more likely winner, though, while Lady Rebecca (next best 2.10) is the one to be on in the handicap hurdle half an hour later, in which Richard Johnson gets his chance to impress on a Nicholson-trained horse when he wears Lord Vestey's colours on Castle Sweep.

The feature race is a handicap chase with all sorts of possibilities, and includes Mahler and Fine Thyne, who both ran well for a long way when attempting the impossible against Teeton Mill in the Hennessy Gold Cup.

Northern Starlight, a winner at the last meeting here for Tony McCoy, is another with every chance, while Senor El Betrutti, who has never looked to lack courage, is asked to race in blinkers for the first time. "He's usually exuberant but he hasn't been attacking his fences like he did last season," his trainer, Susan Nock, said yesterday. "Things haven't gone well with him and we thought we had to try one or two things. Blinkers may help focus him." At today's weights, though, Mr Strong Gale (2.45) has every chance of reversing his Tripleprint Gold Cup form with Northern Starlight.

Only six go to post for the Sporting Index Select Chase over the cross- country course, which will be a stern test for any jockey who woke up with a delicate head this morning.

Banjo, who is ridden by Johnson for Nicholson, would give lumps of weight to the field if the race were a handicap, and clearly stands every chance. His attitude is slightly questionable, though, and previous form around this course could count for more. LINDEN'S LOTTO (nap 3.20) won the last race around it back in November, and he should be backed to make the experience count. The fact that one Adrian Maguire is the man on his back will not do him any harm either.