Racing: Frost can come in from cold: Richard Edmondson on the turn in events that could see Morley Street reunited with his former regular rider

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The Independent Online
JIMMY FROST, the jockey discarded after Morley Street's disappointing effort when favourite in last season's Champion Hurdle, may return to partner the horse in this year's running.

Frost is among a handful of jockeys being considered by Toby Balding and Michael Jackson, Morley Street's trainer and owner, following the removal of Richard Dunwoody, the nine-year-old's recent rider, from calculations.

Dunwoody rides Champion Hurdle favourite Mighty Mogul in the Wyko Power Transmission Hurdle at Cheltenham tomorrow and is likely to keep the partnership intact for the Festival. He may get an immediate chance to reassess his selection at the weekend as Morley Street is among his possible opponents.

Ground considerations will determine whether the 1991 Champion Hurdler participates (Balding's wife Caro will walk the course today), but connections have already taken contingency steps regarding his rider, with Frost emerging as a surprise contender.

'Toby and I have talked about a variety of jockeys, in view of Richard being engaged on Might Mogul, and they include Jimmy Frost, Graham Bradley, Declan Murphy and Graham McCourt,' Jackson said yesterday. 'Morley's not an easy ride and, on the basis that Jimmy knows him, he has to come into the reckoning. He's extremely familiar with the horse and so he's got a head start on the others in knowing how to hold the horse up for his late run.'

Philip Arkwright, clerk of the course at Cheltenham, said yesterday the going remains soft with heavy patches. 'It is not raining, but it is damp and miserable. I'm hoping Morley Street will run. Toby Balding seems to be making the right noises,' he said.

If Morley Street runs, he will add to a particularly informative weekend for the Champion Hurdle as, apart from his Prestbury Park rivals, there are two further aspirants to hurdling's crown, Halkopous and Vintage Crop, on show in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday.

This, though, depends entirely on the texture of the ground at Cheltenham. 'We'd love to run him as the horse is extremely well, jumping out of his skin,' Jackson said. 'But if we get holding, sticky ground he won't be running.

'If it's ground like when we finished behind Halkopous and Granville Again (at Cheltenham in December), we're just not going to do it. Richard Dunwoody said he wasn't even jumping well that day, and that tells you how much he was hating it as he's the most fluent horse around.'

The alternative races for Morley Street are the Agfa Hurdle, at Sandown tomorrow week, and Wincanton's Kingwell Hurdle on 25 February.

More long-term plans include a possible reversion to fences next season, but before then the gelding may be campaigned on the Flat, hitherto an arena for sharpening him up for a jumps campaign.

'We're considering staying races on the Flat, including the Ascot Gold Cup,' Jackson said. 'He's taken Group horses on in four Flat races, won two, at Goodwood and Doncaster, and finished second, beaten a short- head, to Great Marquess in the Doncaster Cup.'

Whatever the code, Morley Street's connections remain convinced the horse has yet to fall from the peak of his powers and, given appropriate conditions underfoot, he will again prove his prowess.

'This horse has not deteriorated you know,' Jackson said. 'Whatever you like to call him, quirky or whatever, he's still perfectly genuine. He just wants to have something to beat, and he's not the first horse that has had to come with a late run. When we get quick ground he'll prove he's a machine.'

(Photograph omitted)