Peddlers' debut just too soon for Maguire


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One of the most eagerly-anticipated debuts over fences by a high-class hurdler takes place at Bangor today when Peddlers Cross faces three rivals in the beginners' chase. One of the keenest observers will be the man who would, but for injury, have been riding him. Jason Maguire is likely to hear today that he has been passed fit by doctors to return to the saddle, but just too late for the start of the next stage of his favourite horse's career.

No one but Maguire has ridden Peddlers Cross, who beat all bar Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle in March, since he joined trainer Donald McCain two years ago. The Irishman has partnered Tim Leslie's six-year-old over the larger obstacles at home but Timmy Murphy takes over the reins this afternoon.

"I've been cleared by my own specialist and have been riding out at home for 10 days or so now," said Maguire, who broke a bone in his neck in a fall in August, yesterday. "I schooled Peddlers Cross over fences last week and he jumped them beautifully. Fingers crossed that all goes as well at Bangor."

Maguire, 31, won the Grand National on the McCain stable's Ballabriggs in April and had made a bright start to the new campaign. His score of 49 still has him in third place in the jockeys' table and, once he has the green light from the British Horseracing Authority's chief medical adviser, Dr Michael Turner, he plans a return to raceriding next week.

The Irishman had to watch from the sidelines, too, as Murphy scored on another stable star, Weird Al, in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby 10 days ago but accepts what happened to him as an occupational hazard. "Injuries are frustrating, especially when you miss out on rides on these good ones," he said, "but they're part of the game. And if you're going to be out of action, this has been the time, as I've missed only three weeks of the proper season. And better to be watching Peddlers Cross from the ground at Bangor than up the hill at Cheltenham."

The gelding is early favourite for the two-mile Arkle Trophy in March. Another prominent in the betting, last season's Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Al Ferof, might have taken on Peddlers Cross this afternoon but has instead been diverted to Sunday's more competitive Independent Newspapers Novices Chase at Cheltenham, where his own stable jockey Ruby Walsh will be free to ride after a suspension.

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Distime (3.10 Bangor) Point-to-point and bumper winner who should step up on his highly promising first effort over hurdles.

Next best

Golden Chieftain (2.20 Exeter) Improved rapidly during his hurdling career, but has always looked a chaser in the making.

One to watch

Castletown Bridge (Charlie Longsdon) should make a mark once he starts over hurdles.

Where the money's going

Mon Parrain is now 4-1 from 5s for Saturday's Paddy Power Gold Cup.