Injury and insults were respectively consigned to history at Plumpton yesterday when Robert Thornton and Medermit each made a significant return to the fold. For Thornton, success in the novice hurdle on Jetnova was his first since he confounded science by halving an anticipated year's absence with a serious knee injury. He then proceeded to complete a double on Medermit, who had disgraced himself by refusing a fence at Huntingdon on his previous start.
Whether the horse did enough to renew hope in anyone who had prematurely backed him for the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy is another matter. Held up, he did jump tidily for the most part, but hit the fourth last before regrouping to lead two out and see off Tullamore Dew by just over three lengths.
In fairness, this was probably a pretty decent race for the track and Alan King was simply relieved to see Medermit put his Huntingdon debacle behind him. "Bar the fourth last, I thought he jumped great," the trainer said. "And 'Choc' blames himself for that. I haven't got quite as much schooling into him as I would have liked, as the schooling ground has been frozen for the last fortnight. He should improve for that, and could easily step up in trip as well. So while I suppose the Arkle is likely, I wouldn't say it's set in stone."
With a new novice chase to tempt him at the Festival, over two and a half miles, he would certainly discourage anyone getting involved at 10-1 with Totesport for the Arkle.
Thornton himself could certainly testify that planning ahead is always pretty imprudent in jump racing. Back in July he ruptured three out of four knee ligaments in a fall, and was told that recuperation was likely to take 12 months. Ten days ago, however, he completed an astonishing comeback, and on Jetnova he demonstrated fitness and stamina to wear down two previously unbeaten rivals.
The return of arctic weather threatens to disrupt the calendar once again, later in the week, but the clerk of the course at Kempton yesterday professed himself "confident" the William Hill King George VI Chase would survive on Boxing Day. Frost blankets are being laid over the track today and tomorrow, and Brian Clifford has been advised by the Met Office that severe frosts are unlikely over Christmas. He reports the present going as good, if somewhat on the fast side in places.
Ed Dunlop, trainer of Snow Fairy, said yesterday that his filly may resume her travels in the new year, with the Dubai World Cup high on the agenda, after reaching a breathtaking new peak in the Hong Kong Cup on Sunday.
Chris McGrath's nap
Island Jim (3.05 Folkestone) An experiment with chasing backfired last time, but he had previously shown glimpses of ability in qualifying for a fairly modest rating in this, his first handicap. Stable is in better form now, too.
American Ladie (12.35 Folkestone) French import was weak in the betting for her Lingfield debut, but travelled well for a long way behind a mare who has since followed up in stronger company.
One to watch
Presenting Forever (J Howard Johnson) could not stem the rally of Midnight Chase at Cheltenham on Friday, but the way he had challenged confirmed him an extremely progressive chaser.
Where the money's going
Support for Woolcombe Folly in the Queen Mother Champion Chase prompted William Hill to go 10-1 from 12-1.
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