Racing: Sky does his Brave father proud

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Lorcan Wyer escaped serious injuries after a fall four hurdles from home in the opening race at Doncaster yesterday. His horse Thornton Gate was killed, and the 32-year-old rider was stretchered from the course with his neck in a brace, a harsh blow for one who had returned to action, after three months off, only 11 days previously.

Ironically, the same horse was involved on both occasions. At Aintree in November he broke Wyer's jaw and pelvis, but yesterday's injuries were, for the jockey at least, less serious. Wyer, battered and bruised but otherwise unhurt, was released from hospital during the evening, but the mild concussion he suffered means a mandatory two day holiday.

He will recover in time for Cheltenham, but however many jockeys drop out in the nine nervous days remaining before the year's biggest jump meeting, others will bob up to replace them, as Gordon Richards, on the mark at Doncaster yesterday with Frickley, discovered. The trainer, who will be four-handed in the Gold Cup, needs a supersub for either Addington Boy or The Grey Monk as a result of the Jockey Club medics' decision to stand down Brian Harding until the end of the year. Richards said: "I've already had most of the weighing-room on the phone offering their services."

With Cheltenham so close, class was in short supply yesterday. The day's most valuable race, the Velka Pardubicka Grimthorpe Handicap Chase at Doncaster, provided the first leg of a treble for Jamie Osborne when he produced the blinkered Father Sky to tackle Change The Reign with a perfectly executed run approaching the last fence.

Father Sky put his best foot forward for a 15-length win, and has the Scottish National as a possible target, given fast ground. The six-year- old is a son of the brilliant Flat race champion Dancing Brave and his trainer, Oliver Sherwood, said: "I think his father would have had a fit if he knew he was running in a race like this."

At Newbury, Turning Trix and John Kavanagh earned their Grand National tickets after a head victory over Sister Stephanie in the Berkshire Handicap Chase. A run at Aintree would be the culmination of a long-term plan for the 10-year-old's owner Mel Davies, who said: "He was bought as a three- year-old with the National in mind."

Tony McCoy confirmed Mr Mulligan as his Gold Cup mount after partnering the Noel Chance-trained chestnut in a workout at the Berkshire course, and it was also announced yesterday that the controversial watering of the Cheltenham track - described as "good" after recent rain - is to start this morning. In recent weeks several trainers with soft-ground specialists in their care have been becoming increasingly agitated and vociferous about the prospect of fast going at the sport's showcase meeting and, faced with threats of the loss of key crowd-pleasers, the organisers have decided to take action.

The clerk of the course Philip Arkwright explained: "We have taken all the advice we can get from the Met Office and on the strength of that we've decided to start watering. At the moment the going is just about good, but the advice is that, apart from a quarter of an inch tomorrow, there is unlikely to be rain of any consequence until Friday. Our view is that, if that is the case, the ground will dry up and we want to nip that in the bud. But the programme of watering is variable and we will continue to review the situation daily."

Firm ground would rule out, for one, the reigning hurdles champion Collier Bay, favourite to retain his title on Tuesday week. But some horses - like another Champion Hurdle candidate, Space Trucker, who warms up for his task at Leopardstown today - are suited by fast conditions.

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