Cheltenham Diary: Jason Maguire surgery offers strong hope


The news that the Grand National-winning jockey Jason Maguire was fighting for his life after suffering serious internal injuries in a fall at Stratford on Monday cast gloom over the Festival.

Yet the news filtering through to the course was extremely positive. Maguire, who had to have part of his liver removed, was still in an induced coma but he is expected to make a full recovery.

Former jockey Niall Hannity was with his good friend throughout the night. He said: "It was very, very serious. Jason lost an awful lot of blood. But the surgeons said the operation went 50 times better than they hoped and they don't expect to be doing any more. They just said, let him sleep."

Waterworks on cards for course

Simon Claisse has once again stressed that the track may still be watered later in the week if the ground is in danger of becoming faster than good.

Cheltenham's clerk of the course has been urged by several trainers to let nature take its course and so allow horses unsuited to soft ground to be given a chance.

But Claisse, though not at the moment anticipating turning on the taps despite the sunshine and fast race-times, will not, he insisted, allow the going to change from good to firm – "safety is our first priority," he said.

Supreme sacrifice for the bookies

Paddy Power, forced by the advertising watchdog to pull an ad offering money back on bets if Oscar Pistorius is found not guilty after several thousand complaints, were in less controversial territory here, but were clobbered in the pocket.

Their money-back offer on backers of the second, third and fourth if the favourite, Vautour, won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle cost them a not-so-cool £4.5m.

The Irish bookies first caused a stir at the Festival when paying a farmer overlooking Cleeve Hill to erect a giant Hollywood-style sign, a stunt they were advised not to repeat.

Pipe surprised by The Package

David Pipe was, it is fair to say, quite gobsmacked when Western Warhorse won the Arkle Chase at 33-1 after trying to talk the owners out of running him.

He had more reason to be thrilled in the next race as The Package, returning from a full year's absence, finished an encouraging third to earn a 33-1 quote for next month's Grand National.

Leg injury puts paid to Le Rocher

Ante-post punters took a kick in the teeth when it was announced that Le Rocher, long-time favourite for the Triumph Hurdle on Friday, is ruled out for the rest of the season with a leg injury.

C4's 'psychic pig' hogs the limelight

If ever you were wondering what a face like thunder really looked like, you should have seen Ted Walsh after The Morning Line included a feature on a "psychic pig".

Channel 4 has been urged to lighten up its racing coverage, but the venture into CBeebies territory didn't go down a bundle with Walsh, better known to serious racegoers as a trainer of high repute and, of course, the father of Ruby.

"Is this what The Morning Line has come to?" Ted asked. He could not have looked more disgusted if the pig had been sitting next to him on the studio couch.