Geraghty picks Simonsig for Tingle tilt
Barry Geraghty will maintain his association with old ally Simonsig at Sandown tomorrow after electing not to partner the JP McManus-owned Mr Mole in the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase.
While Geraghty is McManus's retained rider, the market deems the Nicky Henderson-trained Simonsig a much more likely winner of the two-mile Grade One than Mr Mole.
The keen-running grey is as low as 5/2 to land a third win at the highest level. Mr Mole, on which Geraghty's iconic predecessor AP McCoy announced his retirement plans after partnering him to his 200th win last season, is a 16/1 shot in a race that has attracted a final field of eight.
The seven-year-old has yet to score in elite company, but his trainer Paul Nicholls is the most successful trainer in the history of the race. He has won it nine times and has booked rising star Sean Bowen in Geraghty's absence. Although Geraghty's decision is slightly surprising, McManus has always adopted a fair-minded approach in similar circumstances.
Also confirmed among the final declarations is Nicholls' market leader Vibrato Valtat and Special Tiara, whose trainer Henry de Bromhead brought the lion's share of the £150,000 spoils this way when Sizing Europe triumphed in 2011.
Aidan Coleman's agent Sam Stronge had indicated on Twitter that his high-flying rider was in line for the spare ride aboard Special Tiara, but regular rider Noel Fehily's name is now alongside that of the Irish raider.
The 2013 victor Sire De Grugy will represent Gary and Jamie Moore, with Nina Carberry poised to vie for a first win for female riders in an open jumps Grade One when she takes the reins on two-time runner-up Somersby.
The going at Sandown is being given as good to soft, good in places, in stark contrast to the inclement conditions here that saw yesterday's Clonmel card postponed until December 16 due to waterlogging. The official going at Punchestown ahead of Sunday's John Durkan Chase card is soft, heavy in places, but track manager Richie Galway is cautiously optimistic that they will be okay to race.
"We had a dry day on Wednesday," he said yesterday, "and, although we have had 27mms of rain today, it is easing off and the forecast is good for Friday. It is wet again on Saturday, but Sunday looks like being dry. Given that we are able to use fresh ground on both tracks, we don't envisage any problems."
There is also a Graded card at Cork on Sunday, and the Mallow venue's manager Michael O'Neill was singing from a similar hymn sheet.
Meanwhile, bookmaker Coral has signed a three-year deal to sponsor next month's prestigious €100k handicap hurdle and chase at Leopardstown.
The backing of the showpiece hurdle, formerly the Sweeps, Ladbroke, Pierse and BoyleSports, constitutes a first foray into Irish racing sponsorship for a firm with no Irish betting shops.
The move will inevitably be viewed as a pointedly strategic one, given the ongoing feud between bookmakers and racing authorities in Britain.
"We will also be offering a new €100,000 bonus to any horse that can win the Coral.ie Hurdle and go on to land the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival, a big-race double famously achieved by Xenophon back in 2003," said Simon Clare, Coral PR director.
"This is Coral's first sponsorship venture in Irish horse racing and it gives us the perfect platform to promote the Coral name."