Racing: Obstruction to Route plan

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DIRECT ROUTE could be forced to miss a run in the Mitsubishi Shogun Ascot Chase on 20 February because of the lack of a suitable jockey. If the Cheltenham Gold Cup leading fancy Teeton Mill has his Festival warm- up in the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One race - as seems likely - he will be ridden by Norman Williamson. That would leaving Johnson with the task of replacing the Irishman on Direct Route, whom he partnered to success in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in December.

Johnson has Tony McCoy and Paul Carberry in mind for Direct Route, who is the market leader for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham. However, Tony Dobbin, fiercely criticised for his tactics on the eight-year-old when second in the Castleford Chase at Wetherby over Christmas, is out of the running.

McCoy could be claimed for one of Martin Pipe's entries in the race, leaving Johnson with a problem.

"Direct Route is a horse who has to have a pipe-opener, so I definitely want to get him down for the Mitsubishi race. But I wouldn't run him if I couldn't get Tony or Paul, it is as simple as that.

Johnson has gone 49 days without a win and said: "I can't seem to do anything right at the minute. I had a disastrous day at Musselburgh yesterday [Tuesday]. My horses are running well without winning. I have had about 20 seconds and thirds."

Another trainer who suffered a reversal yesterday was Venetia Williams, who sent out the hot favourites Jack Tanner and Silk Vestment to defeat at Newton Abbot.

Jack Tanner, a top-class novice hurdler two years ago but off the course since, was sent off 1-6 favourite for the novices' chase and had the assistance of McCoy. However, the 10-year-old was very weary up the home straight as Fighting Times and Vince Slattery went on to register a six-length win over Fleeting Mandate.

Silk Vestments started at 4-6 for the novices' hurdle but could only manage a one-paced third, 14 lengths behind Mr Perfecta.