Dunwoody's first major success as stable jockey to Martin Pipe lacked the drama of Kempton, but none of the satisfaction. 'It's very nice,' the jockey said. 'I've not had that bad a season but if you compare it to Adrian's it looks desperate. I'm just trying to get the show back on the road at Nicholashayne, and as for the championship, if it comes it comes, but if it doesn't there's always next year.' Where winning is involved, Dunwoody will always do what it takes. 'I spent two hours in the sauna on Christmas Day to do the weight today. It has been quite a lean Christmas.'
Quite a lean year, in fact, for Pipe and Dunwoody, but the champion trainer is now confident that his problems are receding. 'The horses have been suffering with coughs and viruses,' he said. 'It will take another six weeks to get things absolutely right, but they are certainly improving.'
Riverside Boy's victory was a hint of what is to come, the epitome of a Pipe-trained winner. Ahead from the first stride, he helped to set a pace more suited to a sprint handicap on the run to the first turn, where Indian Tonic slipped up and unseated Chris Maude before they had jumped a single fence.
Passing the same spot a circuit later, with another to run, Riverside Boy was still leading, but all bar Cool Ground and Fiddlers Pike were dropping away quickly. Turning into the straight for the last time, Cool Ground briefly appeared capable of mounting a challenge, but a shake of the reins by Dunwoody coaxed a renewed effort from Riverside Boy which quickly took him clear. Pipe's fifth Welsh National in six years was won by 20 lengths from Fiddlers Pike, with Cool Ground third.
'He will be aimed at all the long- distance chases, including the Grand National,' the trainer said. 'He is a lot stronger this year, and more mature and sensible. Before he always wanted to mess about, now he concentrates on his racing.'
Maguire had a big-race success of his own, on Mysilv in the Finale Junior Hurdle. The filly's trainer, David Nicholson, predicted earlier in the year that Mysilv would run up a sequence and, although she was moving up in class, her third win in three races was as easy as the previous two. She is now 10-1 favourite (from 16-1) with Coral for the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival.
Maguire was riding at Chepstow only because the Castleford Chase meeting at Wetherby was abandoned after overnight snow. Several other jockeys made last-minute changes to their schedule, most notably Peter Niven, who diverted to Leopardstown and rode Deep Bramble to victory in the feature race, the Ericsson Chase. Declan Murphy also found an unexpected winner, replacing his brother Eamon on Fighting Words at Kempton.
The feature race at the Sunbury track, the Christmas Hurdle, was another to fall to a deputy jockey. With Muse's regular rider, Paul Holley, on board Cool Ground at Chepstow, Mark Richards took over, and won the Grade One event with some ease. The ability to hold on tight is the key to riding Muse, a tearaway front runner whose impeccable hurdling allows him to take the obstacles at disconcerting speed. Richards gripped hard and found an extra gear from the home turn to go clear of High Baron, the outsider, and better-known names such as Halkopous and King Credo.
Muse is best suited by two and a half miles, but the two-mile Champion Hurdle is his likely Festival target. Success there would see almost as many people inside the winners' enclosure as outside - the gelding is owned by several hundred syndicate members paying pounds 200 a year.
Muse is now 16-1 from 25-1 for the Champion Hurdle with Ladbrokes, who offer 10-1 the field. Carobee, Granville Again and Staunch Friend are joint-favourites, followed by Fortune And Fame, Oh So Risky, Shawiya and Tiananmen Square (an easy odds-on winner at Leopardstown yesterday) on 12-1.
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