Vulcanite can shade Salden in Plumpton shootout
Tomorrow's novice chase at Plumpton looks set to be a straight clash between Vulcanite and Salden Licht once again.
In all, five have been declared for the two-mile heat, but the other three runners are far more modest sorts.
Gary Moore's Vino Griego would be the pick of that trio on figures, but 16 starts over fences without crossing the line first hardly recommends him.
Successful in a Fakenham handicap hurdle off 134 on its debut for JP McManus, the Charlie Longsdon-trained Vulcanite quickened impressively to snare Salden Licht on the run to the line when scoring on its fencing bow at Hereford last month.
Tomorrow, Salden Licht, which won off 142 at its peak over flights for Alan King two years ago, is 6lb better off with Vulcanite for a three-quarter-length deficit.
In theory, that gives him a chance of turning round the form, but it doesn't take into account just how superior Vulcanite appeared at Hereford.
Truth be told, AP McCoy could have probably won by as far as he liked on that occasion, and you would have to back his improving six-year-old mount to reaffirm his authority over the three-year-older runner-up now.
In the featured Sussex National, Longsdon's Reblis is fancied to make the most of a 2lb swing with the McCoy-ridden Mission Complete. When the pair clashed at Warwick last time, Mission Complete prevailed by a hard-earned neck.
However, that was Reblis' first run for nearly nine months and was also his first outing for his up-and-coming trainer, so he might just come on enough for the run to go one better under Noel Fehily this time.
Outsider to note
Whitcombe Spirit could outrun its forecast double-figure odds in the two-mile-five-furlong handicap hurdle at Plumpton tomorrow.
In four starts this term for his rookie trainer Daniel Steele, Whitcombe Spirit has yet to win, but his best effort came when second in deep ground over two and a half miles at Fontwell in December.
Stepped up to three at Taunton next time, he laboured quite badly, so this drop back to a more suitable trip should be to his advantage now.
A winner over fences at Plumpton last year off the same mark of 75 that he runs off tomorrow, Whitcombe Spirit gets in off just 9st 13lb when you factor in his rider James Cowley's claim.
That should give him a chance in what is a poor race.
Plumpton 1.25 – Vulcanite
Plumpton 2.25 – Whitcombe Spirit
Plumpton 2.55 – Reblis
Naas 2.35 – Our Girl Salley
3,568,847 Prize money in euro earned by Willie Mullins' horses in Ireland during 2012, an unlikely €8,977 more than Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle team topped in the same time.
190,000 The sterling figure that Kilworth handler Sean O'Brien turned down for his recent point-to-point winner Golantilla, which he bred and owns, at Brightwells Sales. A half-brother to the shrewd stable's recent Limerick victor Caoimhe's Delight, Golantilla is pencilled in for its track debut in the bumper at Cork today.
Quote of the week
"The main reason I'm still doing this is the passion is still there – I should say my passion has come back. I worked a couple of very good horses here at Santa Anita for some top trainers that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I missed that feeling. I'm going to be very selective in what I ride. If that means not riding at all or upsetting people, then so be it. I won't ride. I didn't come back to ride five days a week."
– Gary Stevens on his shock decision to come out of retirement tomorrow.
Three things we
learned this week
1 Johnny Murtagh, Frankie Dettori and Gary Stevens do not like being idle.
With a combined age of 133, you'd think that three of the most decorated Flat riders of recent times would know how to make the most of their downtime without drawing attention to themselves. But clearly not!
On New Year's Day, Murtagh posted a photo of himself on Twitter, having broken his collarbone (his first fracture) on day one of a skiing trip in Austria.
Two days later and two months shy of his 50th birthday, Stevens, the brilliant American Hall of Fame jockey, announced that he would resurrect his career at Santa Anita tomorrow, more than seven years after retiring.
And that night, Dettori – who is in the midst of a six-month ban for testing positive for a banned substance after the French authorities were reported to have been tipped off about his indiscretion – showed up in the 'Celebrity Big Brother' house.
Sure, what else would they be doing?
2 Patrick Mullins is on the verge of setting another benchmark.
The brilliant champion amateur's double at Leopardstown last Saturday saw him top Billy Parkinson's near 100-year-old calendar year tally of 72, and now he has his own record for a jumps season in sight.
Four years ago, a final haul of 50 saw Mullins conquer Ted Walsh's previous best post-War total of 47. Remarkably, with four months of the season still to run, the 23-year-old has already matched Walsh's long-standing figure once again.
3 The BHP Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on January 27 might turn out to be an unexpected treat.
With Hurricane Fly back on song, the two-mile Grade One has the potential to be a non-event, but three English-based entries among the 14 that were unveiled yesterday could make it that bit more interesting.
Binocular, Countrywide Flame and – maybe most intriguingly – Grandouet have all been given the option to run.
Monday: Kempton (AW), Taunton, Wolverhampton (AW)
Tuesday: Chepstow, Leicester, Wolverhampton (AW)
Wednesday: Fairyhouse, Doncaster, Kempton* (AW), Lingfield (AW), Ludlow
Thursday: Catterick, Kempton* (AW), Lingfield (AW), Wolverhampton (AW)
Friday: Dundalk* (AW), Huntingdon, Lingfield (AW), Sedgefield, Wolverhampton* (AW)
Saturday: Punchestown, Kempton, Lingfield (AW), Warwick, Wetherby
Sunday: Navan, Plumpton, Wolverhampton (AW)