Trainglot's return ticket for Fitzgerald

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Jodami is becoming like the bad lad on the street. Trouble seems to be following him around. The 11-year-old misses yet another engagement tomorrow, the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Leopardstown - which he has dominated for the last three years - as he is coughing.

The arrival of the microbes seemed to upset Peter Beaumont, who trained Jodami to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup three years ago. "I am about to go away and cut my throat," he said. "It's simply rotten luck as the ground was drying out and coming right in his favour and he is so well in himself.

"I'm still hopeful of getting him to Cheltenham for the Gold Cup and would need to try to get a race into him beforehand. He is entered in the Racing Post Chase at Kempton and at Haydock."

Jodami's absence leaves Master Oats, his fellow Gold Cup winner, in addition to Monsieur Le Cure, as the British standard bearers in Ireland. Consistency is not the latter's middle name, however, (it's Le) and there may be a rare home success in the race from either Imperial Call or Flashing Steel.

In poor old Blighty the prospects of Sandown's feature card going ahead will be determined by a morning inspection. The big-money race here, which inevitably means it is the most difficult to decipher, is the Tote Bookmakers Handicap Hurdle. The ante-post favourite this week has been David Nicholson's Pharanear, who is one of a book of mounts for the swiftly resurrected Adrian Maguire. The Irishman took a horrible fall at Leicester last week but is back with a speed which suggests ET must be his doctor.

The danger here is Trainglot, the 1990 Cesarewitch victor, who was backed from 10-1 to 4-1 on Tuesday. As is regularly the case with his stable, Jimmy Fitzgerald's Norton Grange establishment, it was difficult to find an employee willing to admit contributing towards this stampede. "Not me, sir," was the echo this week. Fitzgerald seems to have been as quiet as Trainglot himself recently, and it would be pleasant to see him back in the winners' enclosure.

The Agfa Hurdle witnesses the reappearance of Land Afar, who has thrown himself to the floor when in contention for the last two Champion Hurdles. The gelding is prepared for the first time now by Paul Webber, following the death last May of his father, John. "Land Afar is in very good form and we hope he'll run very well," Webber said yesterday. (This is probably the first phrase young men pick up at trainers' school.) "He tweaked a suspensory between Cheltenham and Liverpool last year, [it sounds like quite a long ligament] so he'll probably need it having not run for such a long time.

"We've schooled him over fences, we've schooled him over hurdles and we've loose schooled him to get him to keep his concentration."

In general, this event is contested by animals who have yet to climb beyond getting their fingertips on to the top podium. Atours, with Richard Dunwoody on board for the first time, is likely to be favourite to get the better of a field which also includes the George Burns of hurdling, Mole Board, and Germany's Telasco.

Much of the attention, though, will be directed towards Right Win. A Group One winner on the Flat in Italy, Richard Hannon's representative proved he can cope with goosepimples as well as heat rash when scoring on his National Hunt debut at Sandown last month.

Right Win has made Napoleon-type advances in the Champion Hurdle market since, as will Dato Star if he can succeed on his hurdling debut at Wetherby. The gelding won three bumpers last season, culminating in the big one at the Festival, and has been backed for Cheltenham despite the fact his size reminds of the statuette some racing folk like to glue on to their Merc bonnet.

n Today's meeting at Chepstow and yesterday's card at Folkestone were abandoned yesterday because of frost. Monday's card at Fontwell is subject to a 9am inspection tomorrow.