Fehily's return delayed as jumps get back in business

Daily familiarity with hazard and frustration nurtures the stoic in every jumps professional, but this early intrusion of winter has tested the patience of many. There will be relief and gratitude, then, when the frost blankets are dragged off Cheltenham this morning.

A timely thaw has complemented the endeavours of the ground staff there to guarantee interesting sport this afternoon – albeit that the cross-country race still depends on an inspection at 10.30am – and some genuinely top-class stuff tomorrow.

For one man, however, the recent sense of impotence has been unexpectedly prolonged. In fairness, Noel Fehily has been immune to the freeze, grateful as he was to be nursing an injury that had proved much less grave than initially feared. It was only a fortnight ago today that Fehily was thought to have broken a wrist in a fall at Newbury, days after being booked to ride Kauto Star at Kempton on Boxing Day. The Irishman was reprieved, however, when X-rays revealed no fracture, and he had secured several exciting mounts for his comeback at this meeting, notably Master Minded in tomorrow's Keith Prowse Tingle Creek Chase.

He was dismayed, then, when the British Horseracing Authority's medical adviser, Dr Michael Turner, blocked his return yesterday morning. Fehily, who had just been schooling Kauto Star himself, said: "The doctor has stood me down, but I can't understand why because he hasn't even seen me yet this morning."

A lower-key return next week would obviously remain contingent on a continued thaw, as only prestige venues can afford frost blankets, but should in principle still leave Fehily ample time to retrieve peak condition for Kauto Star – an opportunity he owes, in turn, to Ruby Walsh's broken leg.

In the absence of both, Paul Nicholls has booked Tony McCoy for Master Minded and Daryl Jacob for his most exciting young hurdler, Silviniaco Conti, in a gripping showdown with Cue Card and Menorah, also tomorrow. That is a significant endorsement for Jacob, who impressed with his confident handling of Diamond Harry in the Hennessy Gold Cup.

Fehily's key mount on today's card was Al Ferof, rated just about the best bumper horse Nicholls has trained and now poised for his hurdling debut. Though ultimately swamped by the freakish Cue Card at the Festival here in March, the Irish import saw off the rest by eight lengths and more and had really impressed with his gusto in the lead. Another powerful stable fields a promising bumper graduate in Prince Of Pirates, but Al Ferof (3.35) has apparently schooled well and it would be disappointing if he failed to volunteer himself as one of the season's emerging stars.

Nicholls and Nicky Henderson also take each other on with top novice prospects in another discipline when Rebel Du Maquis meets Spirit River (12.10) in the opener. The former has won both his steeplechases to date, whereas Spirit River failed to get round when sent off favourite for his debut over fences at Newbury. Even so, the latter had jumped the first 10 like a natural and, returning to the scene of his success over hurdles at the Festival, warrants perseverance as one built to excel at this game.

In between there is a series of handicaps so competitive that some punters will be asking themselves quite what they think they have been missing. At least the Glenfarclas Chase has an obvious starting point in the cross-country specialist, Garde Champetre (3.0). He looked as good as ever on his return here last month, despite failing by a neck to reel in one who had enjoyed a head start.

Nicholls runs a Grade One winner, Neptune Collonges, under top weight in the day's most valuable race. Fourth and third in the last two Gold Cups, the grey was brought down early in the Hennessy and may still need the run today. He faces a couple of interesting rivals in Presenting Forever, sadly 8lb out of the handicap, and especially Horner Woods (2.25).

Don't Push It, meanwhile, makes his first appearance since winning the John Smith's Grand National in April – yes, Tony McCoy did actually have a horse to help him – in a hurdle race. Jonjo O'Neill will obviously be working backwards from Aintree and limited expectations for today are measured by McCoy's preference for Synchronised. Total Submission (1.50) remains unexposed, not least given the sort of test he must relish on pedigree, and should be a fair price each-way.

While the home fires can at last be stoked again, an important card at Fairyhouse has been postponed yet again, this time to Wednesday – and it will now be intolerably close, for some trainers, to the Leopardstown Christmas meeting.

Turf Account

Nap

Horner Woods (2.25 Cheltenham) Became disappointing for Jessica Harrington but returns to the scene of his stand-out performance when chasing home Cooldine at 66-1 in last year's RSA Chase.



Next Best

Ubenkor (12.50 Southwell) No chance against a subsequent winner over course and distance last time, but confirmed his enthusiasm for this surface by going 10 lengths clear of the rest.



One to watch

Our Kes (P Howling) is not easy to win with but the handicapper has given her every encouragement.



Where the money's going

Cue Card is 8-1 from 9-1 with Ladbrokes for the Champion Hurdle on the eve of his big test at Cheltenham tomorrow.

Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there