Racing: Jodami talking a good fight

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The Independent Online
Reliability has not been exactly flowing over the top of the gutters at Upper Lambourn's Old Manor Stables these past few months, so there was a welcome change of news for Kim Bailey yesterday. The man who lost his stable jockey, Norman Williamson, and his head lad, Eddie Hales, announced that his most celebrated four-legged friend would not be letting him down. Master Oats, the 1995 Gold Cup winner, is roadworthy again after almost a year off and may yet try to regain his crown.

The gelding's premier target is the Grand National, but if a monsoon arrives he may yet turn up for duty in the Blue Riband. "His main aim has always been the National," Bailey said yesterday. "He was only put in the Gold Cup in case of bottomless ground, in which case he wouldn't go to Liverpool."

Bailey has already lost a headline horse in Alderbrook this season and has had to do without Master Oats ever since the 12-year-old damaged a leg behind Imperial Call in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown 12 months ago.

The same event this Sunday promises to be one of the most compelling of the calendar as it has attracted Imperial Call, The Grey Monk, Danoli, Belmont King and the horse that has won the race three times previously, Jodami.

Peter Beaumont's gelding looked to be pottering towards an allotment until he threw away his walking stick in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock 11 days ago.

He had previously been beaten five lengths at Ayr by The Grey Monk, who was receiving 21lb. As Gordon Richards's chaser is quoted as low as 10- 1 for the Gold Cup, there are some who are rather perplexed that Jodami should be as long as 20-1. This state of befuddlement has worked its way up to Foulrice Farm at Brandsby, near York.

Like Master Oats, Jodami's principal moment this season was meant to come at Aintree, but connections are beginning to hear the siren call of Prestbury Park.

"The Grand National has always been his target but he has been put in the Gold Cup and there is always a possibility that he might run," Sam Morshead, son-in-law of Jodami's trainer, Peter Beaumont, said yesterday. "If the horse's wellbeing and form makes the Gold Cup look an attractive proposition, the race will be taken seriously into consideration.

"We haven't backed him, but he's a ridiculous price for the Gold Cup at the moment. He should be 8-1 at the biggest."

Jodami's career is testament to Beaumont's techniques. The beastly gelding has been collecting prizes since winning a National Hunt Flat race at Kelso in March, 1990, and has now earned over pounds 450,000 in winning 18 of his 38 starts and being placed in a further 14.

Morshead, the former professional jockey, is a relative newcomer to the camp, but Sam and Jodami have quickly developed a rapport on the gallops and it appears they swap confidences when they manage to escape from the rest of the string. "The horse is very happy with himself and looking forward to going across to Ireland again," Morshead said yesterday.

"He looks around at everything and almost talks to you as you tack him up. You don't feel as though you've got a frail old veteran underneath you when you ride him, he feels more like a five-year-old. He's very strong and a wonderful ride, and when you're on him you know you're riding a real king."

Taproom debate continues on whether One Man is the real deal following Saturday's Pillar Chase at Cheltenham, but the initially reticent Richard Dunwoody came out banging the drum yesterday. The jockey pointed out that the grey had already won a Hennessy Gold Cup over 3m 2f and a King George VI Chase over Sandown's demanding contours, so talk of One Man being flawed on stamina was a tad premature.

"It seems he can stay one day and not the next, according to some people," Dunwoody said. "He had no problems staying in the Hennessy and he was running on strongly when he won the King George at Sandown. You can't put his failure in last year's Gold Cup down to lack of stamina, I'm convinced there was something wrong."

Before Cheltenham, Dunwoody's allegiance will be tested when Gordon Richards's runner goes for Ascot's Comet Chase, a contest that has also attracted another of the jockey's regular mounts, Sound Man. The former champion must soon tell us which Man he is going to stand by.