Bob Worth basks in glory of job well done at Cheltenham

Nicky Henderson's fine feat of delivering Gold Cup winner in perfect condition can bring first trainer's title

It was pretty much business as usual at Seven Barrows stables first thing yesterday under a lowering, persistently dripping sky. There were batches of horses to be worked, slick dark shapes on the skyline as they stretched limbs and lungs on the demanding inclines of the Lambourn Downs so obviously advertised recently as their perfect playground. There were boxes to be mucked out, mangers to be filled, and the limbs of equine athletes to be carefully and anxiously inspected for signs of wear and tear. The difference was that on this particular morning four of the latter now belong to a Cheltenham Gold Cup hero, Bobs Worth.

The little bay gelding stood patiently in the rain as Nicky Henderson ran his experienced hand down the precious foreleg tendons, then had his action inspected as he trotted on a concrete walkway. "All fine," pronounced the trainer, much relieved. Nonetheless, steeplechasing's newest star is unlikely to reappear again this season. "Looking at him today is not going to tell you anything except whether he's sound or not sound," Henderson said. "We'll wait a week and then see what he looks like and how he is.

"I wouldn't say he's not a robust horse, because he's as tough as boots out on the track. But he's not the biggest, and he's not really going to take hard, hard races in his stride the way a scopier individual would. And I should think it highly unlikely that he'll be going to the Aintree meeting in three weeks."

Bobs Worth is an example of how a good little 'un can have his day, which he did as he ground out victory in Friday's Gold Cup, the long-distance chasing crown, against the much bigger 'uns, Ireland's best Sir Des Champs and his own stablemate Long Run. And his modest size and unassuming demeanour were even more marked as he was paraded alongside the extra-large Sprinter Sacre, flamboyant winner of the two-mile crown, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, on Wednesday.

Henderson's skill in getting Bobs Worth primed for the Gold Cup after only one previous run this season cannot be understated. It is the rarest of feats, one not achieved since Jenny Pitman did it with Garrison Savannah 22 years ago. The seven-year-old's conditioning work, carried out on the timeless Berkshire downland, with the occasional mind-sharpening awayday to a racecourse, was a matter of almost military precision planning. "We had a wall chart," said Henderson, "with the schedule counting back from Friday. We knew exactly what we had to do each day and it all went without any hiccups."

Bobs Worth has won at three consecutive Cheltenham Festivals, stepping up from hurdles to novice chases to the sport's highest honour. His latest success gave Henderson his 50th Festival victory and may have secured him a first seasonal title for 26 years. The earnings last week of Bobs Worth, Sprinter Sacre and their stablemate Simonsig took him £400,000 ahead of Paul Nicholls, champion for the past seven years.

But with the valuable Grand National meeting looming — the big race alone is worth £550,000 to the winner — Henderson is taking nothing for granted yet. "There is still work to be done," he said

Bobs Worth's rider Barry Geraghty swopped the jam and cream of Cheltenham for the bread and butter of Kempton, where he rode two more winners, Open Hearted and West Wizard, for the Henderson stable. Business as usual indeed.

Jockey remains in induced coma

JT McNamara is reported to be in a "stable condition" following surgery on the serious neck injury he sustained at Cheltenham on Thursday. The 37-year-old, whose mount Galaxy Rock fell at the first in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup, underwent surgery on his fractured C3 and C4 vertebrae on Friday. After lengthy surgery on Friday, he was reported yesterday to be still in an induced coma at Frenchay Hospital, Bristol.

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