Geraghty: Tough decision in Betfair
Barry Geraghty feels he has a really difficult choice to make ahead of Saturday's Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, when boss JP McManus is set to be represented by four runners.
The Nicky Henderson-trained Hargam, a long shot, has been left in the race along with stable ally Consul De Thaix, De Name Escapes Me (Noel Meade), and Movewiththetimes. Sutton Place, which was antepost favourite, will not run.
It is expected that Geraghty will steer either Consul De Thaix or Movewiththetimes - both of which are available at 5/1 in the betting. However, he says he has yet to come to a decision.
"I guess with Sutton Place it came a bit soon after he won at Naas and you have to think of the future with him," the Co Meath rider said.
"I have not made my mind up yet. Movewiththetimes is a lovely horse, a nice big chasing type. Consul De Thaix is a bit different to him - a five-year-old with good handicap form.
"I will come to my decision after talking to JP about the race," he added.
Despite Geraghty's reticence, trainer Paul Nicholls expects to team up with the rider with the promising Movewiththetimes. "I suspect that Barry will ride Movewiththetimes, with Nick (Scholfield) on Zubayr and Sam Twiston Davies on his father's horse (Ballyandy). Nothing has been decided yet," he said at a launch at his yard.
"I know Sam would love to ride Movewiththetimes if he could. Sam will probably go to Warwick and fly on to Newbury.
"Zubayr surprised us last year by winning the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton. He dropped out last as they went quick and then he stayed on strongly. He did a nice bit of work with Movewiththetimes last week - you could hardly split them. The Betfair Hurdle might suit him on soft ground. I think the best of him is still to come, but he probably wants two and a half miles.
"Movewiththetimes is a really nice horse. He is a big strong horse by Presenting who will make a lovely chaser in a year's time.
"He is a novice on 136 and you would hope he'd progress from that. You could say he lacks experience after only three starts over hurdles and it is likely to be a fast-run race so he has to be at his best jumping-wise. But who knows where he may end up? We like him a lot.
"He and Zubayr had a little racecourse gallop at Wincanton last week and went nicely. I will be surprised if Barry does not ride him."
Geraghty also has yet to decide whether to partner Carlingford Lough or Minella Rocco in Sunday's Stan James Irish Gold Cup, for which ten remain in the picture, but there appears to be more clarity about Gigginstown's plans.
Michael O'Leary has a remarkably strong hand, despite the retirement of Don Cossack. Don Poli, Empire Of Dirt and Road To Riches are set to form a three-pronged attack.
Eddie O'Leary, Gigginstown's racing manager, said: "This hasn't been decided yet but I'd say David Mullins will stay with Don Poli, Jack Kennedy will ride Empire Of Dirt and Sean Flanagan will be on Road To Riches."
Giggginstown are also likely to run Gordon Elliott pair Dinaria Des Obeaux and Duca De Thaix in the Grade One Spring Juvenile Hurdle. Willie Mullins holds several strong chances, with Bapaume and Meri Devie prominent in the JCB Triumph Hurdle betting.
The going at Leopardstown remains soft. Officials at Newbury put the frost covers down yesterday. With temperatures set to dip below freezing later in the week, the Newbury team covered the entire course.
Henderson's Altior, raging hot favourite for the Racing Post Arkle, is to step out of novice company for the first time in the Grade Two Betfair Exchange Chase there on Saturday.
However, there was not good news for Ar Mad yesterday. The Gary Moore-trained chaser has been ruled out of the Cheltenham Festival and will instead head to either Aintree or Punchestown after being taken out of the Betfair Ascot Chase next weekend.
Elsewhere, owner Rich Ricci has described the loss of Faugheen and Min from his Cheltenham ticket "galling". "In any normal year, to lose either Faugheen or Min from your Cheltenham team would be hard to take.
"Right now we've got to figure out what to do with the rest of the season," he told his RTE blog.