The end of the Flat season last Saturday allowed the jumpers to move centre stage. Unfortunately, few of them have taken up the call and after Newbury's card yesterday featured only 31 runners the track has managed to go one worse today.
To compound matters, Christy Roche has decided that Grimes, who comfortably defeated the Triumph Hurdle winner Commanche Court at Leopardstown last month, is not yet ready to make his first trip to Britain for Sunday's Murphy's Draughtflow Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The four-year-old, who was the best backed horse this week for the Champion Hurdle, is now down to as low as 14-1 (with Ladbrokes, 20-1 with Coral) for Cheltenham in March.
"Grimes is not running now because the top weight has come out," Roche said yesterday, "and I believe it would be asking too much of a four-year- old to carry top-weight of 11st 10lb. It is early in the season and early in his career, so I am going to mind him for the time-being. I will speak to the owner [J P McManus] who is in America, and I am sure he has other races in mind for him."
Liam Cashman, the Irish bookmaker, had already opened betting on Sunday's race and, in this case, those punters quickest off the mark have come a cropper. Cashman's odds of 11-2 against Grimes were soon gobbled up and by the time of Roche's decision his gelding had been backed to 4-1.
Two stars who should make it to the track are Richard Dunwoody and Mr Mulligan, who will combine for the first time in the Sean Graham Chase at Ayr on Saturday. "It's not often that a Gold Cup winner comes up as a spare ride," Dunwoody's agent, Robert Parsons, said.
Mr Mulligan, not always the most brilliant of workhorses, pleased his trainer, Noel Chance, yesterday. "Mr Mulligan is good," the Lambourn trainer said. "He worked nicely with a couple of horses this morning. Richard definitely rides, so we've got a good track, good ground and a good jockey so hopefully all will go well with him."
l Jim Old expects his Champion Hurdle hopes, Collier Bay and Juyush, to reappear within the next three weeks.
NAP: Party Animal
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