The early indications are that Tony McCoy should be sidelined for around a fortnight after being sent to hospital yesterday with suspected rib fractures, sustained in a fall at Taunton.
On past form, of course, you could not rule out his surfacing at Cheltenham tomorrow – not least as the teetotaller was always going to be one of the few bringing a clear head to the popular New Year's Day meeting – but he can certainly afford a holiday. With 174 winners, McCoy already seems guaranteed his 17th consecutive championship.
Richard Johnson, as always his least distant pursuer, had earlier ridden his 99th winner of the campaign when Menorah outclassed two rivals in the novice chase. Having wisely side-stepped Sprinter Sacre at Kempton earlier in the week, the 1-4 shot betrayed his lingering inexperience by crashing through the last.
"I'd like to give him some more practice," Philip Hobbs admitted afterwards. "Richard thought he was going to stand off, and in fact he put down. But I thought he jumped everything else really well. There's room for two runs before Cheltenham, if we want."
Menorah remains 14-1 with Coral for the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy at the Festival. Grumeti was, meanwhile, cut to the same price for the Triumph Hurdle – a race in which his new trainer, Alan King, has a fine record – after opening his hurdling career with a fluent, 14-length defeat of the useful Flat performer Ted Spread.
Johnson will be optimistic of bringing up the ton at Newbury today on Fingal Bay, who makes his Grade One debut in the Bathwick Tyres Challow Hurdle. He is clearly one of the very best novices in the land.
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