Jockeys must ride as if over eggshells now, with the Cheltenham Festival starting a fortnight on Tuesday, but Jason Maguire managed to trample over his own dreams at Doncaster yesterday. He will miss the ride on Peddlers Cross in the Stan James Champion Hurdle, after earning a seven-day suspension for his use of the whip on Cool Mission in the novice chase. The final day of his ban is the first of the Festival – Champion Hurdle day.
It is a shattering reverse in this rider's superb season. Maguire's only hope is to have the ban cut on appeal, but the veterinary officer discovered "minor weals" on Cool Mission and the stewards gave him five days on that account, with another two for using his whip with excessive frequency.
Maguire and his boss, Donald McCain, could still combine to win the John Smith's Grand National, having one of the favourites in Ballabriggs, but he was overtaken in the betting yesterday by The Midnight Club, who beat several other Aintree fancies in the ATR Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse.
The way The Midnight Club regrouped to see off the late challenge of his stablemate, Arbor Supreme, suggested he will relish the Aintree test of stamina, and he had the class to finish a close third to Weapon's Amnesty and Pride Of Dulcote at the Cheltenham Festival in their first season over hurdles. He is 10-1 from 12-1 with Coral, who also halved the odds against Arbor Supreme to 20-1 but left Oscar Time at 16-1 after being last off the bridle in third.
Willie Mullins saddles a smart novice hurdler at Thurles today, in Bishopsfurze, but he faces a formidable prospect in Hidden Cyclone and must jump better than he did at Clonmel last time. In terms of physique, never mind ability, these are two of Ireland's more striking young horses.
Minella Class, who has impressed in both starts for Nicky Henderson since his arrival from Ireland, tests his Festival credentials at Huntingdon today. On the same card that smart hurdler, Starluck, makes his chasing debut, with a fairly outrageous tilt at the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy at stake.
Sundown Trail (2.20 Ayr) Went sweetly before fading last time; back in trip here.
Thunderstorm (2.30 Huntingdon) Useful in bumpers, and McCoy takes over after three quick spins for a hurdles rating.
One to watch
Mister Matt (Bob Buckler) Promised better going for third at Huntingdon last week.
Where the money's going
Moose Moran is 16-1 from 33-1 with Totesport for the JCB Triumph Hurdle after scoring at Doncaster yesterday.