The big fences at Aintree on Saturday will renew focus on the hazards of jumping, but the fact remains that even the most innocuous enterprise can imperil horse and rider alike. Yesterday one of the world's most accomplished Flat performers, Snow Fairy, suffered an injury during a routine canter in Hong Kong and will now be flown home to Newmarket with a question mark over her future. But even anxiety over the flagship of his stable will not deceive Ed Dunlop that his was the worst lot of the day.
For while he rode only 14 winners, the death of a 21-year-old apprentice jockey in France had tragic resonance in the Turf's international community. Benjamin Boutin sustained head injuries in a pile-up during a Flat race in Normandy on Saturday, and never regained consciousness.
His employer, Cedric Boutin, described his young namesake as well brought-up, well liked and eager to please. With so many youths around the world bringing the same assets to so dangerous a calling, disasters like these will always place in sobering perspective an injury to a horse.
Dunlop will be unable to shed light on Snow Fairy's prospects until her return. It is only 16 days since she won a huge prize in Japan for the second year running, and she was just ticking over at Sha Tin in preparation for the big international meeting on Sunday week. "Of course it's a bitter pill," he said. "I don't really know the extent of the injury yet. We'll make any further decisions when she's home."
Given the more obvious dangers he embraces every day, Tony McCoy's record-breaking career is necessarily as much a matter of sheer resilience as talent. A double at Folkestone yesterday took him to 150 for the season, though he disparaged the achievement in characteristic fashion. Measuring his progress against the 289 winners he rode in 2001-02, he said: "It's not a quick one, that's for sure. I'll keep going, as you've always got to dream, and see where I get to. But the more important thing is to find some better horses. I might get there if I keep riding at the third meeting on a Saturday, but we need some more good ones."
He is especially anxious to find a star for JP McManus. Too often, his employer has been indebted to the sort of ride McCoy produced to bring up yesterday's landmark – and land a gamble – at the most pedestrian level. Storm Survivor had looked a lost cause at halfway, but the champion kept pouring it on, finally leading at the last before driving out his mount by a couple of lengths.
Chris McGrath's Nap Gleann Na Ndochais (2.40 Ayr)
Has shaped nicely while learning the ropes in novice hurdles and, entitled to improve for his return, looks fairly treated for this first handicap.
Next best Cochbamba (2.50 Lingfield)
Won her maiden round here before going on to be Group-placed at two, and shaped well on her recent return to this surface in stiffer grade.
One to watch Born Again (Jonjo O'Neill) travelled well for a long way before fading at Newbury last Thursday, suggesting he will some day repay patience.
Where the money's going Another Palm, Master Overseer, Meanus Dandy and Niche Market share 10-1 favouritism with the sponsors for the Betfred Becher Chase at Aintree on Saturday.