The old theatrical adage about a bad dress rehearsal clearly holds good on muddier stages, too. The Triumph Hurdle contender Grumeti may have slipped and slithered to the ground at Newbury yesterday but bookmakers clearly believe it will be all right on the night as, collectively, they shortened his price for the Cheltenham four-year-old feature. Among the first half-dozen in the market after an impressive debut over obstacles last month, the gelding is now clear or joint-favourite in nearly every list.
To be fair, Grumeti had yesterday's contest at his mercy when he came down a stride after landing over the penultimate flight, seemingly losing his footing on sticky, rain-softened turf. The 8-15 favourite was eight lengths clear and cruising under Wayne Hutchinson at the time, conceding 7lb to all his rivals, and if any fall can be soft, this one was.
Provided all is well with Alan King's young charge, who seemed perfectly unscathed as a disconsolate Hutchinson led him away from the scene of their mishap, he is likely to get some extra match practice before his March date, for which he is generally an 8-1 chance.
"He was going to have just one more run before the Festival," said his owner, Max McNeill, "but I think he may need another. We're gutted today but I think we've got a good horse, because it's difficult to give weight away in soft ground."
Unlucky losers do not always get the recompense they perhaps should, but the King team can take some heart from the justice earned by Glens Boy in the three-mile handicap chase later in the afternoon.
On his previous run, the gelding had been victim of a bizarre ill-fortune, when hampered close to the line by a loose horse who had wandered the wrong way down the track. This time his run to the post was both conventional and successful, albeit narrowly.
Two former Festival heroes, reinvented as hunter chasers, dominated yesterday's Newbury finale. Chapoturgeon mocked his handicap mark to take the Jewson Novices' Chase three years ago and the eight-year-old proved a class apart again yesterday as he eased home 16 lengths clear of the 2007 Kim Muir winner Cloudy Lane to give rider Jack Barber his first success under Rules.
The field for the Champion Hurdle took its initial shape yesterday, with no surprise omissions among the 27 entries. The favourite and reigning champion, Hurricane Fly, is scheduled to make his seasonal reappearance at Leopardstown on Sunday week.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Dualla Lord (1.20 Taunton) Multiple point-to-point winner who reverts to hurdles after falling in hot company on his chasing debut.
Eldred (2.10 Ludlow) Yet to race this term but promising as a novice and can continue his progress upped to three miles.
One to watch
Hakuna Matata (Brian Ellison) Better than on hurdling debut, when he was affected by breathing problems, since addressed.
Where the money's going
Coral have trimmed Al Ferof from 7-2 into 3-1 for the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot on Saturday.
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