The pastoral setting and the fidelity of the patrons mean that the loss of five consecutive meetings here this winter must be counted a particular deprivation. It was with due gratitude, then, that Ludlow yesterday managed to stage a card for the first time since November. For Nicky Henderson and Tony McCoy, however, it was very much business as usual.
The success of Kells Belle in the opener was reckoned the 1,998th of Henderson's career. And her starting price of 6-5 was the longest about any of the last nine winners ridden for the Seven Barrows trainer by the champion jockey. Such are the opportunities they are sharing just now.
Things will be rather more competitive at Newbury on Saturday, when McCoy wears the J P McManus silks on Get Me Out Of Here in the Totesport Trophy, a race he won last year before being narrowly foiled by Menorah in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. But while Menorah and the fourth, Oscar Whisky, have continued to flourish, Get Me Out Of Here has not been seen since twice disappointing in the autumn. His trainer, Jonjo O'Neill, reports him in good form again, after treatment for a back problem, but McCoy did not know quite what to expect.
"I hope he'll run all right," he said. "He has had problems all winter, and I'm kind of wondering if maybe the flat track will suit him. He did run very well at Cheltenham and I had been hoping that he would go on from there the way Menorah and Oscar Whisky have. You would certainly fancy either of them in this race, off 150, on what they have done since. But perhaps the other horses have just made a lot of improvement. They can do, sometimes. Just look at Grands Crus, he started off rated 126 and is now up to 169."
Having ridden Big Buck's to his two latest wins, McCoy offered a significant insight into his showdown with that horse in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham next month. "To me, if you look at the best stayers, they always race behind the bridle," he said. "Horses like Baracouda and Inglis Drever never travelled through their races the way Grands Crus did in the Cleeve Hurdle. I could be wrong, but he'd have to be some horse to have enough in reserve to beat Big Buck's."
Henderson was at pains to play down expectations for the three he saddles against Get Me Out Of Here – above all the heavily backed French import, Solix. "He's a lovely horse," he said, "but to win a race like that under top weight on his first run here would seem pretty unlikely. If it were just between Solix, Soldatino and Eradicate, I'm not sure I'd want to throw my hat at any of them. And that's without the other 21 to worry about."
Intyre Trail (4.20 Southwell) Turned over a flourishing rival on his debut on this surface last time. The drop in trip should be no issue.
Just The Job (4.30 Huntingdon) Made hay with three wins in four starts over 11 days and now slipping back down the weights after respectable efforts from off pace on his last two starts.
One to watch
Viva Colonia (David O'Meara) Has not finished her improvement for her new stable, judged on the way she travelled until the tank ran dry at Musselburgh on Sunday.
Where the money's going
Rebel Dance is 16-1 from 25-1 with the sponsors for the Totesport Trophy at Newbury on Saturday.
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