Fairyhouse move to beat frost
FAIRYHOUSE last night made an attempt to beat the weather for Sunday's big-race card by opting to postpone tomorrow's meeting.
With freezing conditions taking a grip here and and across the Irish Sea, the executive at the Meath track contacted Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) and it was decided to transfer its Saturday fixture to next Thursday.
Fairyhouse manager Peter Roe said: "With three top quality Grade One races on the premier day of NH racing in Ireland, we want to do everything possible to preserve Sunday's card.
"In light of the adverse weather forecast we feel the ground might be unable to take two days racing back-to- back. We'll be putting frost covers at the take-off and landings of all fences and hurdles to protect Sunday's ground."
Already, across the water, the meeting at Newcastle tomorrow was abandoned because of thick snow, and the featured Fighting Fifth Hurdle is likely to be rescheduled to Wetherby tomorrow week -- just as it was two years ago.
Newbury is expected to escape the worst of the weather, which means Denman will face 17 rivals tomorrow when he attempts to become the first chaser to win a third Hennessy Gold Cup, and his first without Harry Findlay as part-owner.
In a part-exchange during the summer, Findlay took over the Grand National hope Big Fella Thanks and Paul Barber took over Findlay's share in Denman and, in an interesting sub-plot to one of the great races of the season, the two horses meet.
"I was thinking how I'd feel about it lying in bed early last night," said Findlay. "But as a racing fan, I'll be cheering Denman on as much as I will Big Fella Thanks. I always considered Denman primarily Paul Barber's.
"I've never been a prizemoney man and never got the trophies, so it doesn't feel much different. I'll be cheering him on, though."
His main concern about Big Fella Thanks, and it's one shared by trainer Ferdy Murphy, is that he does not stay three and quarter miles. "I know that sounds strange for a horse that was fourth in the National, but he blatantly didn't stay. He'll come looming there at some stage, but whether he gets home is a different question."
Meanwhile, the jockeys' musical chairs over Nicky Henderson's keynote staying chasers tomorrow has finally ended. Barry Geraghty is wasting to his lowest weight in a decade to ride Burton Port in the Hennessy and the deposed Andrew Tinkler will now partner the Queen's Barbers Shop.
Geraghty had switched to China Rock after admitting he would struggle to ride at close to 10st, but the Mouse Morris inmate doesn't run. "I'm going to get down to 10st 1lb," he said. "I haven't done that light for 10 years, but it's worth it for this horse."
The Berkshire track hosts a novices chase this afternoon when Paul Nicholls will be hoping his Celestial Halo can set the record straight in his second attempt over the larger obstacles.
Last season's Champion Hurdle fourth made an inauspicious chasing debut at Exeter when falling four out.
The Andy Stewart-owned six-year-old has since impressed in his home-work, though, and is one of five contenders for the Grade Two Fuller's London Pride Novices' Chase.
Standing in Celestial Halo's way this time are On Borrowed Wings, Cois Farraig, Erzen and Spirit River.