It has long been a part of the fabric on the Flat, but jockey power arrived in earnest for the boys of the muddy season this week. Long-term injuries to Norman Williamson and Adrian Maguire have not only gnawed away at the number of top-shelf riders, they have also freed battalions of runners from leading trainers Kim Bailey and David Nicholson.
This has meant good news for the jockeys' room and, not least of all, Richard Dunwoody, Jamie Osborne and Graham Bradley, the leading men at the reins who have been mopping up the reservoir of spare rides.
All three have risen above the station of forelock-tugging this week as gangs of trainers approached them for their services. The single figure who has thumbed his nose most blatantly has been Osborne, who had tea and trials on Viking Flagship with David Nicholson on Monday, but later the same day told the trainer he would not need the trainer's hand to lever his boot into the saddle at the weekend. (It is not reported where Nicholson wanted to put his own boot after this event).
It takes a brave man to cross the champion trainer, and Osborne clearly sees a long-term association with the animal he does ride this afternoon, Master Oats. The Gold Cup winner's regular jockey, Williamson, is out after a fall at Sedgefield which was accompanied by the sort of obvious pain normally noted in the graphics of a Batman fight sequence.
While the Irishman waits for a mangled right leg to heal, Osborne will ride up to, and possibly including, next year's Festival. His first appointment with the nine-year-old looks a tricky one. In Chepstow's Rehearsal Chase, Master Oats has to give 12lb to Bradbury Star and two stones to Katabatic, and there are not many motor cars who can do that.
Nevertheless, Master Oats (2.05) may be up to it. According to Kim Bailey, the chestnut's best run last year, considering weights and ground conditions, was the only one he did not win, his final effort in the Grand National. The exciting deduction he has drawn is that the Gold Cup winner may still be improving.
At Sandown, Osborne's reject, Viking Flagship, will not have to have improved to win the Tingle Creek Chase. But whether the two-mile fencing champion is race fit enough for the job is a different matter. If he falls any way short of peak condition, there will be an opening for the impressive Ascot winner Sound Man (2.00), the Irish-trained mount of Dunwoody.
What should have been another informative race, the Hattons Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse tomorrow, has been neutered by the withdrawal of Montelado. The only horse to have won consecutive races at the Festival (he captured the fina event, the bumper, in 1992 and the Supreme Novice Hurdle, which opened the following year's meeting), Pat Flynn's gelding has spent much of the last three seasons in the doctor's waiting room. He has brought with him just about every problem bar having a saucepan jammed over his head and now misses a bill-stickered encounter with Michael Hourigan's Dorans Pride.
"Montelado had a slightly runny nose and I had him scoped before declaration time and they found a little mucus in his lungs," Flynn reported. "I'm disappointed as he was in superb shape, but if he ran it may have put him back a month or six weeks. The only races that matter are the Irish and English Champion Hurdles and if he had to go for them without a run it wouldn't bother me."
While Montelado may be used sparingly the same has not been true of Lanfranco Dettori, who clocks up his 1,000th ride of the year at Wolverhampton this afternoon.
The Italian reaches the landmark on Capias (3.25 nap) in a mould-breaking event for Britain. The Wulfrun Stakes at Dunstall Park is the first Listed race to be run on the all-weather in this country and has attracted an uncommonly useful field to the man-made surface. Perhaps they are getting in practice for the 1996 Breeders' Cup.Reuse content