Maringo to make trip worthwhile for Fehily
Noel Fehily reminded everyone of his prowess on novice chasers with a storming ride to win the Grade One on For Non Stop at Newbury yesterday.
The Castletownkenna native travels to Market Rasen tomorrow for just one ride for his boss Charlie Mann on Maringo Bay in a less prestigious equivalent and might return to Lambourn with another winner.
Victor Dartnall's Mic's Delight, partnered by Fehily's fellow Cork native Denis O'Regan, comes here on the back of a course and distance result last month, but that was a weak race that doesn't read well now.
Nicky Henderson's State Benefit may be a more serious threat. An easy winner at Exeter in January, that son of Beneficial took second at Haydock subsequently.
State Benefit is a useful prospect, but his fencing let him down when he came under pressure last time. He also fell three-out on his chasing debut at Fontwell, so a trappy venue like Market Rasen will ask questions in that department late on tomorrow.
Maringo Bay should have no such problems, despite not having won over fences yet. Third behind the smart Invictus and Tony Martin's Gift Of Dgab at Plumpton, he fenced brilliantly on stepping up to three miles at Chepstow last time.
Having looked the winner most of the way up the straight that day, he eventually got run out of it on the heavy going by the useful Alfie Spinner. While Maringo Bay was beaten, it was a smashing effort, and the slight drop in trip on better ground tomorrow should bring out the very best in him under Fehily.
In the bumper, New Year's Eve is fancied to follow up his impressive Ludlow debut for John Ferguson and Jack Quinlan. A Motivator half-brother to Midnight Game and West With The Wind, the four-year-old might just have too much for Hi George, which just scraped home from Shotavodka at Doncaster a month ago.
Outsider to note
Lucky Landing should run well at a decent price in the two-and-a-quarter-mile handicap chase at Market Rasen tomorrow.
Formerly in the care of Don McCain, the six-year-old had been running poorly before switching to Tony Coyle recently. On his first start for the up-and-coming Coyle, he showed a glimpse of a return to form when second in a jumpers' bumper at Southwell.
That might have been a world away from a handicap chase, but tomorrow's 10-runner heat is not the most competitive, and Lucky Landing has dropped 8lb in just over two months. He might not be badly handicapped.
Market Rasen 3.15 -- Maringo Bay
Market Rasen 3.50 -- Lucky Landing
Market Rasen 4.50 -- New Year's Eve
Navan 5.00 -- Sizing Gold
40 Years since any horse won the Betfair Hurdle first time out prior to Zarkandar doing so yesterday.
4 The number of times we got to see Last Instalment run over fences. Philip Fenton's gorgeous chaser was ruled out for the rest of the campaign on Wednesday after jarring his tendons in his Dr PJ Moriarty triumph at Leopardstown on Sunday.
0 What Phil Smith, the English handicapper, dropped Black Apalachi in the weights for the Grand National. Dessie Hughes' 13-year-old hasn't run since finishing second in the race two years ago, yet the 12-year-old State Of Play, placed in the race for a third time when fourth last year, got dropped 2lb. Explain that.
Quote of the week
"I'm not sure I've ever ridden anything like that -- he's electric. He jumped so well -- he's an unbelievable horse. You can never take anything for granted and Cheltenham is a different place. He'd want to switch off as well" -- Barry Geraghty does his best not to get carried away after Sprinter Sacre's Game Spirit rout at Newbury yesterday.
Three things we
learned this week
1 Yesterday's Newbury card was a pre-weekend treat. It was also informative. Long Run's effort is covered elsewhere in these pages, but Zarkandar and Sprinter Sacre turned in performances of real note. Regardless of the bare form, to win a handicap as competitive as the Betfair on a seasonal bow is a significant feat, so Zarkandar's triumph is not to be sniffed at. Moreover, Paul Nicholls is adamant that he will come on a heap. He will have to if he is to compete with Hurricane Fly, but you couldn't underestimate Nicholls' determination to finally win a Champion Hurdle. As for Sprinter Sacre, he is a frightening prospect. They won't see him for dust in the Arkle.
2 It could be a long 10 weeks for Davy Russell. Five times a runner-up in the jockeys' championship, the Youghal native held a lead of 23 over Ruby Walsh at the end of November, but the eight-time holder won't go away. Although Russell has also benefitted from Willie Mullins' excellent run, Walsh has outscored him 33-25 since December, so the gap now stands at just 15. Russell's January haul of eight was his smallest return since September, yet Walsh's 14 was his best all season, and he has been slashed from 3/1 to 6/4 for the title. They are six apiece so far this month, with Russell now just 10 shy of his second century. Squeaky bum time all round.
3 AP McCoy, soon to turn 38, continues to amaze. The perennial champion jockey, not long back after breaking ribs and puncturing a lung, took an X-rated fall from Darlan in yesterday's big hurdle race. Few were surprised to see the dreaded green screens go up around him after the kicking he got, fewer still that he picked himself up off the canvas to lift Shutthefrontdoor over the line by a whisker in the bumper. What does that tell you about what we have come to expect from the man?
Monday: Carlisle, Wolverhampton (AW)
Tuesday: Southwell (AW), Taunton, Wetherby
Wednesday: Punchestown, Doncaster, Kempton* (AW), Lingfield (AW), Ludlow
Thursday: Thurles, Huntingdon, Kempton* (AW), Lingfield, Southwell (AW)
Friday: Dundalk* (AW), Lingfield (AW), Sandown, Warwick, Wolverhampton* (AW)
Saturday: Fairyhouse, Chepstow, Kempton, Lingfield (AW), Newcastle
Sunday: Naas, Fontwell, Towcester