Jefferson weighs up Cape call
Malcolm Jefferson will keep trainers guessing over whether he decides to let Cape Tribulation carry top-weight in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
The nine-year-old now heads a 23-strong field for Saturday's hugely prestigious staying handicap following the anticipated defection of Tidal Bay, which finished fifth in the Betfair Chase at Haydock at the weekend.
Jefferson had considered entering Cape Tribulation, pulled up on his seasonal debut in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, in the Long Distance Hurdle on the same card, but that idea has been scrapped.
"The horse is in good form, but we haven't decided what we're doing yet. We'll see what the weather does and everything else," said the trainer.
"If he runs he'll have top-weight, but he carried top-weight over hurdles at Aintree last year -- we'll just have to see what happens."
Trainer Jim Culloty will be watching what Jefferson does as he has high hopes for Lord Windermere. Winner of last season's RSA Chase, Lord Windermere is yet to run this season and would carry 11-8 if Cape Tribulation were to stand his ground.
"I think he's got a great chance, I really fancy him," said the Kerry native. "I always hoped he would turn into a RSA horse and he did us proud at Cheltenham. Robbie McNamara (who rides on Saturday) rode him once last season and when he schooled him (yesterday morning), he said he is twice the horse he was last year."
Willie Mullins has left in Prince De Beauchene, Terminal, On His Own and Vesper Bell, while Oliver McKiernan's Whodoyouthink is at the foot of the weights with just 10 stone.
Harry Fry is hoping that first-time cheekpieces will spark a resurgence in form for his Opening Batsman. Last season's Racing Plus Chase winner was pulled up on his seasonal return in Ascot's United House Gold Cup, but Fry remains upbeat.
"Noel Fehily will ride in the Hennessy. It was maybe one race too many at Aintree (in April) but we had been really pleased with him going into Ascot," said the trainer. "Noel said he was pulling his arms out going to the start but he never went a yard. He has schooled in cheekpieces at home, and we'll put them on at the weekend."
Ante-post favourite Invictus has been all the rage for the coveted prize following his three-length defeat of Bobs Worth at Ascot in February 2012, although he has not run since then.
Other leading fancies to have stood their ground include the Paul Nicholls-trained Rocky Creek, Venetia Williams' Katenko, Martin Pipe's Our Father and the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Imperial Commander. Twiston-Davies could also be represented by Same Difference, while Williams may also saddle Houblon Des Obeaux.
Meanwhile, Barry Geraghty will partner At Fishers Cross when he makes his seasonal reappearance in the Long Distance Hurdle on the same afternoon.
The Rebecca Curtis-trained six-year-old's comeback was delayed after he missed an intended run at Wetherby at the start of the month with a cut leg.
At Fishers Cross is now ready for his return but regular partner Tony McCoy heads to Newcastle to ride My Tent Or Yours in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle.