NEWBURY'S abandonment yesterday may have forced Barry Geraghty to return to Ireland within hours of landing at Gatwick, but the jockey is plainly savouring his next assignment in Britain on Saturday.
In addition to resuming aboard Punjabi at Haydock Park, Geraghty has secured a plum spare aboard Diamond Harry, which makes his chasing debut at the Lancashire track. "It is definitely a nice ride to pick up," he said, "and I've also got others to look forward to."
Nicky Henderson, who trains Punjabi, has any number of promising horses entered at Haydock but Geraghty's place aboard Diamond Harry, which is trained by Nick Williams, effectively means that Punchestowns will not be among his opponents.
"I didn't get the chance to speak to Nicky," Geraghty said, "but I take it Punchestowns must not be running." Nor, if the betting jungle is to be believed, will the Henderson-trained Petit Robin take his chance in the Victor Chandler Chase on the same day at Ascot.
Paul Duffy, part-owner of Diamond Harry, said that Daryl Jacob, stable jockey to Williams, would have ridden the horse had he not been required to ride Cornas in the aforementioned Victor Chandler. "Because of that," Duffy said, "we were in the market for a jockey and Barry is one of the best."
Timmy Murphy has ridden Diamond Harry, which is prominent in betting on the RSA Chase despite never having jumped a fence in public, on each of his nine starts. However, like Jacob, Murphy is also Ascot-bound, where he himself has collected an attractive spare in Whiteoak for the yard of Donald McCain.
Whiteoak will contest the valuable mares' hurdle as a prelude to the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham. "After long discussions we have decided to go for that race at Cheltenham rather than the World Hurdle," McCain said yesterday.
"I am delighted with that because there are few better mares than her."
McCain also suggested that two of his fine long-term prospects, Will Be Done and Ernst Blofeld, could sit out a weekend when the stable plans to loose another of its best young horses at Haydock. Peddlers Cross takes aim at the Grade Two novices' hurdle, for which the Henderson-trained General Miller is out of the mix.
The apple of McCain's eye, Peddlers Cross again impressed when winning on his hurdling bow at Bangor last month. The Haydock test represents a rise in class but McCain said: "He has done everything we've asked him to do. He is very exciting."
Also in action at Haydock on Saturday will be Cloudy Lane, which bids to follow up last season's victory in the Peter Marsh Chase after an encouraging reappearance last month. "He ran a nice race that day and is in good form," McCain said. "He probably likes better ground than he's going to get, but he has handled heavy round Haydock before." (© The Times, London)