Few trainers have found this winter quite as vexing as Venetia Williams. The freeze set in just as her stable seemed to be achieving a better rhythm, and Walk Tall's success at Taunton last Thursday was its first in over a month. Yesterday, however, she won the bumper at her local track, Hereford, and today she hopes Credit Swap, last seen winning the Cambridgeshire, can keep up her renewed momentum when making his hurdling debut in the opener at Leicester.
"Usually the end of November and beginning of December is just when we're beginning to click into gear," Williams said yesterday. "I do hate summer jumping – it's playing Russian roulette with their legs – so I don't tend to get mine ready until you would expect decent jumping ground. You tend to find some yards already have plenty of winners on the board by then, but a lot of the better novices are already out, and winners are going up the weights. In past years, that's been the time for us to step in. It's not worked out this time."
Credit Swap certainly has the requisite toughness for his new vocation, having won the Cambridgeshire for Michael Wigham on his third start inside a week. But he was mysteriously spurned at the Horses-in-Training Sale, and bought in for 28,000 guineas. Williams could not believe her eyes. "After he was led out, I went to see him again and bought him within half an hour," she said. "He's not very big, but I've been delighted with everything he has done. He has schooled well and while there's obviously a bit of a question mark over the trip, especially in the conditions, he has been ready to run for a couple of weeks now."
Two veterans showed that their story is not quite over at Cork yesterday. Sublimity, the 2007 Champion Hurdle winner, wore down Newmill, the 2006 Queen Mother Champion Chase winner, in a conditions race over hurdles. At 11 and 13 respectively, their best days are behind them but each showed pleasing appetite. Robbie Hennessy was thrilled to see Sublimity win for only the second time since his finest hour. "It's nearly as good as winning at Cheltenham," the trainer said. "He had a bad suspensory injury last year, and we weren't sure he would run again."
Chris Mcgrath's Nap
McConnell (2.10 Southwell)
Returned to form on his last visit here, back with his previous trainer after slipping down the weights for another yard.
Fredo (2.50 Leicester)
Useful hurdler who has taken fluently to fences, jumping well at Ascot last time.
One to watch
Bally Legend (C Keevil) made encouraging handicap debut at Taunton last week.
Where the money's going
Finian's Rainbow is 6-1 from 8-1 with William Hill for the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham in March.