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Evergreen Paul Carberry stilldefying age and injury

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Jockey Paul Carberry

Jockey Paul Carberry

SPORTSFILE

Jockey Paul Carberry

The inimitable Paul Carberry hopes to be back in action this weekend after riding out yesterday morning for a first time since damaging his ribs in a fall from Waxies Dargle at Leopardstown last Sunday week.

Irish racing's very own Peter Pan, Carberry will turn 41 in 12 days' time, yet the unmistakably stylish rider is optimistic that his latest setback won't deny him the cut and thrust of competitive duty for long more.

"The ribs are coming good now," he said yesterday. "I rode out today and it was sore-ish, but it wasn't too bad. I didn't go for an X-ray because I know my body so well now that I'd know if there was a fracture or not.

"One of the ribs was popping in and out, but it seems to have settled down again now. There was a lot of bruising around another one and they were sore for a few days, but I'd be hopeful that I will be okay to ride by the weekend."

An exquisite practitioner who many rate as the most naturally talented rider in the business, Carberry spent two months on the sidelines trying to get a troublesome shoulder right before returning at Listowel in September.

He says that the shoulder is "great" now, and he had been in great form prior to Waxies Dargle's spill four-out in the Boylesports.com Hurdle.

A running domestic tally of 31 winners is four more than he rode all last term, with a Grade One already netted aboard Road To Riches in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal.

Influence

As a result of the increasing influence of JP McManus and Gigginstown Stud at Noel Meade's yard, Carberry can no longer be sure that he will share in all of his long-serving ally's big-race glory. However, as was the case at Down Royal and with Wounded Warrior at Naas recently, living off the odd scrap has its benefits.

Apache Stronghold and Texas Jack are among the pick of those that Carberry has first dibs on for Meade.

Both are smart operators, and they are likely to contest the Grade One novices' chase and the Hennessy Gold Cup respectively at Leopardstown on Sunday week.

"Things are going well," Carberry says. "I feel great, and, when you keep off the floor, everything's grand! Noel's horses have been in good form.

"Texas Jack will run in the Hennessy I'd say, and I think Apache Stronghold will run in the two-mile-five-furlong race (the Flogas-sponsored event formerly known as the Dr PJ Moriarty).

"We were half thinking about going for the Arkle with him over two miles, but we felt Un De Sceaux was going to be hard to beat, so the two-mile-five option might suit him better."

It is now 22 years since Carberry's distinctive hoisted posture first graced the Cheltenham Festival, his debut as a 19-year-old on Homer Scott's Rhythm Section resulting in a famous Champion Bumper victory over Meade's Charlie Swan-ridden Heist.

He deputised for the injured Bryan Cooper aboard Meade's Very Wood in last year's Albert Bartlett to bring his Festival haul to 14, two shy of his legendary father Tommy's final tally.

Carberry sits 11th on the list of the most successful Festival jockeys since World War II and is sixth of those still riding, though none of those surrounding him on that leaderboard can match him for longevity.

A return to business as usual at Fairyhouse on Saturday or Punchestown on Sunday would be welcome as Meade and Gordon Elliott begin finalising plans for the four-day March gala.

There are some excellent entries at both fixtures, with Robert Tyner's Carrigmoorna Rock and Willie Mullins' Morning Run and Lyrical Theatre the star names in a potentially enthralling mares' Grade Three novices' hurdle at Fairyhouse.

Intriguingly, engaged in maiden hurdles at Fairyhouse and Punchestown is Open Eagle, a runaway 12-length winner of Doncaster's November Handicap for Yorkshire-based David O'Meara when last seen.

Subsequently acquired by the Supreme Racing Club, Open Eagle is expected to make its debut for Mullins over the weekend, though the syndicate's spokesperson Steve Massey has said that the Montjeu six-year-old won't have enough experience to go to Cheltenham.

"We think a lot of him and there are plenty of other nice races he can go for later in the season," Massey said.

The champion trainer, who has been installed the 2/9 favourite by the Gold Cup sponsor Totesport to be crowned leading trainer at Cheltenham for a third time in four years, has put Twinlight, Turban and Ballycasey in Sunday's Punchestown feature, the Boylesports Tied Cottage Chase.

Elliott has given Sunday's Arkle Chase runner-up Clarcam the option of tackling the €42,500 two-miler, with Sandra Hughes' Bright New Dawn and John 'Shark' Hanlon's 2014 Ryanair Chase runner-up Hidden Cyclone other eye-catching contenders among the 11 entries.

Irish Independent