What a difference two days makes. On Saturday at Wetherby, Barry Geraghty plummeted to the lowest point of the roller coaster that is the sportsman's life when he took the wrong course when leading on the well-fancied My Petra, and had to pull up. Yesterday at Kempton, he swept back up into the spotlight for the right reasons, riding the 1,000th winner of his career on another inmate of the Nicky Henderson stable, Duc De Regniere.
He had to wait for the landmark – Duc De Regniere was his 22nd mount since he notched 999 on Monet's Garden nine days before – but when it came, he had time to enjoy the moment, bringing the even-money favourite for the two-and-a-half mile chase home by a wide margin from the only other finisher Battlecry. "I never set many goals when I was younger," he said, "but 1,000 winners was one of them. You couldn't fault the horse today, he jumped round brilliant the whole way."
The 30-year-old Irishman's first success came on Stagalier at Down Royal 12 years ago and his major successes include a Gold Cup on Kicking King, a Grand National on Monty's Pass, two Champion Chases on Moscow Flyer and the latest Champion Hurdle on the Duc's stablemate Punjabi. Geraghty joins Tony McCoy, Ruby Walsh and Richard Johnson as jockeys currently riding with 1,000 winners on their CVs.
One feature race that Geraghty, who last year joined the Henderson team on the retirement of Mick Fitzgerald, will not be involved in this time, though, is the Paddy Power Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday week; the 12-day ban he incurred for his Wetherby brainstorm starts then. Henderson's best staying chaser, Barbers Shop, first advertised his progressive talent with second place in the Grade Three contest last year and may well line up again. But the master of Seven Barrows is also likely to send My Petra to the fray. "After all," he said drily yesterday, "she warmed up with a nice schooling gallop on Saturday, didn't she?"
At the same Cheltenham meeting, one of last season's stars, the two-mile champion Master Minded, is due to return to action in the newly instigated Connaught Chase, a stepping stone to the first top-level prize in the division, the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in early December.
Or return to public action, that should be; unlike most racehorses, Master Minded does not get much time off. The imposing six-year-old has a physiological imbalance that needs skilled monitoring and daily exercise, otherwise he can seize up. "His muscle enzyme levels are always high," said trainer Paul Nicholls, "and we have to be careful and keep him ticking over all the time. But that means he's one who can come out regularly and the Cheltenham race looks an ideal prep to put him spot on for the Tingle Creek." Master Minded won at Sandown on his seasonal debut last year and has remained unbeaten since, including his second Champion Chase. "He's done well physically since last term, got even bigger and stronger," Nicholls added.
Like Master Minded, Kauto Star also carries the colours of Clive Smith, whose youth team comprises Free World – who has had surgery to correct a minor breathing problem – and a recent recruit from France, River D'Or, but not, despite his best efforts, the dual Gold Cup hero's young brother Kauto Stone. The three-year-old is a smaller model than his celebrated sibling but clearly owns some of the family talent; he recently won a Grade Two hurdle at Auteuil and is due to contest a Grade One at the Paris track on Sunday.
Today at Exeter, one of those who might be good enough to thwart Kauto Star's attempt at an unprecedented fourth King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day has the wraps taken off for the first time this season. When the flying grey Nacarat won the Racing Post Trophy at the Sunbury track in February, there were shades of Desert Orchid in the way he dealt with the flat, flying three-mile circuit.
Today's test in the Haldon Gold Cup, over less than two and a quarter miles and an undulating course, is very different, but the exciting eight-year-old has to start somewhere.
Turf account: Sue Montgomery
Sunnyhill Boy (3.30 Exeter)
Talented and progressive over hurdles last season and, given that anything achieved in that sphere could be regarded as a bonus, should be a smart recruit to chasing.
Cono Zur (2.10 Catterick)
Showed a good attitude and a deal of ability to win from the front on his debut. Did not look fully wound up that day and, as a son of Anabaa, should cope with easing ground.
One to watch
The white-legged, white-faced Lidar (A King) was in all ways an eyecatcher among bumper horses last year and may take high rank among two-mile novice hurdlers.
Where the money's going
Rip Van Winkle continues to shorten as favourite for the Breeders' Cup Classic, now 6-4 from 7-4 with Paddy Power after support yesterday.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Red Wine (4.10 Catterick)