Dunwoody will keep an appointment in Newmarket this morning to partner the Sheikh's Kribensis at exercise, but only to demonstrate his respect for the grey who carried him to success in the 1990 Champion Hurdle. In the Bula Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday, Dunwoody will stick with the horse who succeeded Kribensis at the Cheltenham Festival - the annoyingly cerebral Morley Street - calculating, no doubt, that this act of cold realism will not offend the Sheikh or Kribensis's trainer, Michael Stoute.
'There was never any question of him not riding Morley Street,' Dunwoody's agent, Robert Kington, said yesterday, though it is unlikely his client was so decisive when news of Kribesnis's re-emergence was relayed to him. Sheikh Mohammed may have only three hurdlers in training, but two of them have won Champion Hurdles (Royal Gait being the other) so not even Dunwoody can afford to sever connections like this without at least some hesitation.
If Royal Gait, Destriero and Mighty Mogul had been entered for Saturday's Bula Hurdle then the organisers of the Festival could have dispensed with this year's Champion Hurdle on the grounds that it had already been run, on 12 December. Against Morley Street and Kribensis are arrayed Granville Again, a faller last year and the current favourite, Oh So Risky, who was second to Royal Gait 12 months ago, Royal Derbi, the defending Bula Hurdle winner, and Mark Tompkins's formidable pair, Halkopous and Staunch Friend.
Meanwhile Royal Gait - who, like Kribensis, is perenially in the treatment rooms - is being prepared for the Bookmakers' Hurdle at Leopardstown on 28 December, while Mighty Mogul, yet another Dunwoody ally, is being honed for a more immediate target: the Waterloo Hurdle at Haydock tomorrow. At least there will be no unknown quantities at Cheltenham on 16 March.
The A F Budge Gold Cup, also on Saturday, shrinks in comparison, though the fact that the bookmakers have not been able to advertise any runner at less than 4-1 suggests there are better betting opportunities than in the embryonic Champion Hurdle half an hour earlier. Tipping Tim's chance of emulating Pegwell Bay and completing the Mackeson-A F Budge double is assessed at 5-1 by Ladbrokes, and above that there are numerous outlets for the (justifiable) timidity of each-way punting.
Two more highlights of Saturday's card: Dreamer's Delight versus Satin Lover in the A F Budge Novices Hurdle, and Barton Bank versus Forest Sun in the novices' chase which follows it. At humble Market Rasen this afternoon, observe the return of Celtic Chief, who was second in the 1989 Champion Hurdle but whose breakdown record would be a match for Northern Line trains.
Martin Pipe is the trainer wearing the boiler suit.
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