We could call this horse and jockey Team Scalpel. Between them they have seen a lot of surgeon's steel.
Simply Dashing used to do a fair impression of a hurricane after his races until a series of soft-palate operations corrected breathing problems. Lorcan Wyer may consider himself lucky to be able to see a racecourse at all after an accident at Aintree just over two years ago which came close to mashing his face. Those who saw it found it difficult to refer to racing as "a game" in the aftermath.
Wyer's accomplice, Thornton Gate, fell that day, and the prone jockey had little time to consider his bruises before another runner came slicing by with his hooves. "My face was in the wrong place at the wrong time," he says. "A horse behind stood on my face and moved it around a little bit." Almost 10 hours of surgery followed.
"After about three days in hospital I asked my wife what I was like as there weren't any mirrors left lying around," Wyer adds. "She said I looked absolutely wonderful, which means she either loves me very much or is a tremendous liar because it looked a bit of a mess when I eventually saw it.
"Two minutes can be a long time in jumps racing, but I don't dwell on Aintree much because I felt then and still feel now that I've got a good few seasons in me. It's certainly not a job you can do half-heartedly. I'm pretty fatalistic and I think if things are meant to happen they happen. That's why I won't be getting too worried this week thinking about the race." At 34, Wyer marches on.
Simply Dashing himself has been a taxing horse to follow. Just over 12 months ago he won the First National Bank Chase with Richard Dunwoody on board at his barnacle-like best after the gelding had smashed into Ascot's ninth fence. Such was his rate of progression at that stage (his record read 13 wins from 20 races) that some judges expected the horse to appear from his box with wings protruding from his belly one morning.
However, the seven-year-old has not won since, largely because of his respiratory problems. Simply Dashing has finished runner-up on his last two high-profile starts though to good horses from Martin Pipe's stable.
"We don't get carried away with hype up at our place, but we have always thought Simply Dashing was a Saturday horse, a big-race horse," Wyer says. "We've already hit the crossbar twice this season and if there is any justice it might be our turn on Saturday.
"John Francome has promised to send me a frontal photograph of A P McCoy so that I can see what he looks like. It's not a bit of him I've seen for a while."
At Kempton on Boxing Day, Team Scalpel will be representing Team Easterby, the father and son training partnership of Peter and Tim. The name on the licence behind the mantlepiece clock at Great Habton might be different but otherwise it is business as usual. And Peter would not mind a King George, as the Christmas bauble is one of the few prizes to elude him in his sparkling career.
"It's been a very natural transition," Wyer says. "The guv'nor, or the old guv'nor should I say, still does as much as he ever did and there would have to be something disastrously wrong if he wasn't there working in the yard when you arrived in the morning. And Tim has always played a big part anyway so things haven't changed that much."
And so now connections who never blow their own trumpet are represented by a horse who could formerly have belched out enough air for an entire brass section. "We're not people to go over the top but we go there with a fighting chance," Wyer says. "Paul Carberry [Wyer's fellow Irish jockey] has a saying at the moment after he's come in off a winner. `I had the right stuff there', he says. I think I've got the right stuff for Saturday."Reuse content