Walsh turns back on stalled Lexus

Jockey heads to Newbury to ride Big Buck's, giving understudy chance to cash in

You will find plenty of people in this part of the world prepared to attest that good things come to those who wait, but Ruby Walsh is unlikely to be among them. The Lexus Chase, postponed here yesterday after the abrupt descent of an impenetrable fog, will now be run this afternoon instead – with Walsh already committed to ride at Newbury. And not even Walsh can be in two places at once.

In riding for the champion trainers of both Britain and Ireland, Walsh must constantly juggle opportunity and obligation. So while he was prepared to reject What A Friend in the Lexus, for Paul Nicholls, in favour of Cooldine, for Willie Mullins, he can now ride neither. His mounts for Nicholls at Newbury include Big Buck's, the champion staying hurdler, and he has duly surrendered Cooldine to his young understudy at the Mullins yard, Paul Townend.

With Barry Geraghty also heading to Newbury, a new jockey was also being sought for What A Friend – whose co-owner, Sir Alex Ferguson, was among the 14,000 exasperated racegoers left peering into the fog for the best part of an hour, pending the decision to abandon. As it happens, it may well prove opportune for Townend to renew his partnership with Cooldine, with Walsh likely to end up riding Kauto Star for Nicholls come Cheltenham – Townend rode Cooldine in his first two chases last winter. While the gelding has apparently been slow to come to hand this time round, he proved significantly strong in the market before the weather intervened yesterday.

While the impressive RSA Chase winner's comeback was delayed, at least there was time for Pandorama to recommend himself as the next winner of that race. He improved his record under Rules to eight wins from nine starts in the Knight Frank Novices' Chase, though it was mighty close. Headed on the run-in by Weapons Amnesty, whose jumping through the race had been far less fluent, Pandorama rallied to retrieve the advantage on the line, so corroborating Noel Meade's suspicion that the step up to three miles would prompt further improvement.

It was the trainer's third Grade One prize in three days, following Go Native at Kempton and Hollo Ladies here on Sunday, all of them in close finishes that testified to the prowess of Davy Condon – making hay during the suspension of Paul Carberry.

Meade suggested that Pandorama might prove rather better than he looked this time, having failed to convince in a gallop at Dundalk the other day. The horse has apparently run up a little light and may well be brought back fresh for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham – for which he remains 12-1 with William Hill – albeit he would evidently require softer ground there.

"Out there he might look as though he is just a big, slow horse that just keeps galloping, but when he works on grass he doesn't look like that at all," Meade said. "He picks up well, but didn't do that in Dundalk. For that reason I just felt he wasn't in the same form as going to Fairyhouse last time, so I want to give him a little break."

At Chepstow the Coral Welsh National win of Dream Alliance prompted scenes of joy for his rider, Tom O'Brien, and a syndicate of local owners. O'Brien, riding for the in-form Philip Hobbs, had had only a dozen mounts since returning from a broken leg. "A horse reared over on top of me, and I was out for a couple of months but this makes it all worthwhile," he said. "I love this game. It's a short career and I just enjoy every day of it."

*Today's Musselburgh card has been called off because of frost. Officials at Haydock will hold an inspection this afternoon for their card tomorrow.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Doctor Pat (3.15 Newbury)

NB: Niche Market (1.0 Newbury

Comments