Henderson seeks new jockey for Bobs Worth's Newbury mission
Bobs Worth looks certain to have a new rider for what trainer Nicky Henderson envisages will be a bold attempt to regain the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday.
One Cheltenham Gold Cup hero will hog the limelight at the Berkshire track where Coneygree shoulders 11st 12lb against a maximum of 20 rivals. His Festival victory came three years after that of Bobs Worth, whose star has faded to the extent he has a weight of just 10st 7lb.
Coneygree is Nico de Boinville's mount and Barry Geraghty is set to be required to travel to Newcastle to ride Henderson's Hargam in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle due to his 'retainer' agreement with JP McManus.
So unless the trainer can persuade Richie Killoran - who landed a bumper on Bobs Worth more than five years ago - back to the saddle from his comfortable second career in London's world of high finance, he will need to find the horse a new partner.
"I'd have liked to have sorted it out on Sunday but it's complicated - there are a lot of pieces in the jigsaw - so I just don't know at the moment," Henderson explained.
Just three legitimate jumping greats - Mandarin, Arkle and Denman - have won the Hennessy twice, so Bobs Worth, which was successful in 2012, would be in select company.
"He's in really good form," Henderson said. "We schooled him the other day and he absolutely loved it. We've schooled him over this, that and the other, he's just enjoying himself."
Mouse Morris, meanwhile, has indicated that he will be sending over First Lieutenant which has not graced the winner's enclosure since he won the Grade One Betfred Bowl Chase at Aintree in 2013.
The Michael O'Leary-owned 10-year-old has been unlucky in defeat on more than one occasion since and jumped impeccably when last sighted at the venue in this race three years ago. Morris said: "First Lieutenant will hopefully come over for the Hennessy."
Monday afternoons at Kempton Park are invariably profitable for Henderson, whose yard seems to be hitting form at its traditional time ahead of the Hennessy meeting.
Brain Power made a bright start for him in the novice hurdle but there were additional reasons for delight in winning the Starlight Novices' Chase, as the trainer organises the race day for the Starlight Children's Charity.
In the following race, Vaniteux, a smart hurdler, did not put a foot wrong on his first try over fences and must be a player in the Arkle next March if continuing in the same vein. Stephanie Frances appeared held when coming down three out and Vaniteux pulled clear to win by 19 lengths.
"I could tell you I taught him all that, but he is as natural as you'll get," Henderson said.
"He's got an awful lot of gears and scope. He was third in the Supreme (Hurdle) and we could have done this last year, but he ended up having a very productive second season over hurdles without actually winning."
Elsewhere, Vroum Vroum Mag could bid to take the next step of her burgeoning career in the Apollobet Mares' Chase at Carlisle on Sunday.
Willie Mullins' exciting French import heads a 14-strong entry for the inaugural running of the Listed event over two and a half miles after being taken out of the Hennessy Gold Cup.
After winning her first five starts over fences last term, the Rich Ricci-owned six-year-old carried on the good work with a Grade Three success at Clonmel on her seasonal debut at earlier this month, with Mullins flagging up the Carlisle race afterwards.
"It would be fantastic if Willie Mullins brought her over," said clerk of the course Kirkland Tellwright. "It's the first running of that race and he was quoted as saying after she won in Ireland that Carlisle was the next stop and it would be a tremendous start for that race."
Mullins has also given an entry to Gitane Du Berlais, winner of the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown in January and third over hurdles on her recent return at Punchestown.
County Tyrone trainer James Lambe has put in Classic Place, while there is a decent home-based entry that includes Ma Filleule from Henderson's stable and the Venetia Williams-trained Pepite Rose, a good winner at Aintree last month.