Over the years Tidal Bay has drawn many less than complimentary opinions concerning his level of commitment to his vocation, but in the autumn of his career, revitalised since joining Paul Nicholls, he can now demand comparison with some of the stable's best.
Win a bottle of wine
With jump racing's richest week looming and the most powerful stables in Britain and Ireland poised to do battle for more than £6 million in purses, there was a timely reminder yesterday that success is relative.
Amid the odds and wagers sit other numbers: 43 horses have died there in the past six years
Almost time, then, to pull up the drawbridge and count the ammunition. The Cheltenham Festival is now only three weeks away on Tuesday, and few trainers will want to leave the candidature of horses contingent on a hard race in the meantime. So while a handful will still be seeking late admission, some of the final trials of strength are staged on Saturday.
However conscientiously they strive to improve the odds in terms of safety at Aintree – a greater imperative than ever, after trauma and tragedy in each of the past two years – the one thing they will never provide is a level playing field. Even so, some felt that the dice had been unfairly loaded in favour of one horse in particular when the weights for the John Smith's Grand National were published.
Racehorses will never give you an answer when they can come up with a new question instead.
Leading duo shine in testing conditions while Commander returns near his imperious best
Though some European raiders will show the beginnings of a winter coat, the return of the Breeders' Cup to Santa Anita this time entails a still more abrupt change of climate for those arriving from the East Coast of the United States. For while one planeload of New York horses did manage to hasten west today, even as Hurricane Sandy closed in, another seems likely to be grounded today. With bridges in their home city likely to be closed by the Port Authority, several leading fancies in the care of the record-breaking trainer Todd Pletcher are unlikely to make their scheduled departure.
The first Classics of the Flat season are imminent, but it is not just the jump racing weather that is proving hard to shake off. A sport still smarting from its ghastly experience at Aintree last month must defer judgement on alterations that might yet be made, but for now the British Horseracing Authority has decided that neither of the fatalities that tarnished the John Smith's Grand National could have been anticipated. A review of veterinary and television evidence yesterday concluded that the loss of both Synchronised and According To Pete was attributable to "factors one could neither have foreseen nor prevented".
Though serving its traditional role as both the final fling of the jumps season and a test of the new order established at Cheltenham last month, the Punchestown Festival must this week absorb one or two challenging incongruities.
As settles the emotional dust raised by Saturday's dramatic and traumatic Grand National, and begins a reasoned debate over the direction the historic sporting contest must take – starting with a meeting next week between the British Horseracing Authority's chief executive, Paul Bittar, and animal welfare groups – two men intimately involved with one of the fatalities have spoken in the defence of both the race and the broader concept of man's use of animals.
This year's meeting is dominated by short-priced established stars and precocious talent, writes our award-winning tipster Chris McGrath
Kauto Star will bid for a third Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup victory after delighting connections in an “awesome” schooling session at his Ditcheat base.
If it was uncharacteristic of Paul Nicholls not to disclose Kauto Star's schooling fall until six days later, he has certainly been living up to his reputation since. The champion trainer has been releasing scrupulously detailed daily bulletins on the horse's recuperation, and yesterday went one step further by announcing his intention to gallop the horse in public on Friday.
Not for the first time, new guidelines governing use of the whip were rushed through yesterday with one of British racing's showcase occasions specifically in mind. It would be disappointing, however, if regulating in haste on this occasion caused quite so much repenting at leisure.