Late reprieve puts Fehily back in picture
Noel Fehily looks to have earned a late reprieve to ride at Cheltenham's big two-day meeting which gets under way today.
Fehily suffered a wrist injury when falling at last month's Hennessy Gold Cup meeting at Newbury, but had hoped to return to action at Prestbury Park.
The Irish jockey had been schooling at Paul Nicholls' yard yesterday morning and was shocked when initially told by British Horseracing Authority chief medical advisor Dr Michael Turner he would not be able to ride at the weekend.
That news meant he would miss tomorrow's mounts on Master Minded in the Keith Prowse Hospitality Tingle Creek Chase -- Tony McCoy was due to take over the ride -- as well as Silviniaco Conti in the StanJames.com International Hurdle, for which Paul Nicholls had booked Daryl Jacob in a potentially gripping face-off with Cue Card and Menorah.
However, BHA head of communications Paul Struthers said yesterday evening: "Dr Turner spoke to Noel Fehily's specialist this morning, who confirmed that Noel would be able to resume riding, but only while wearing a protective case.
"This is not compliant with our published Medical Standards for Fitness to Ride and Noel was therefore informed that, unfortunately, he could not be cleared to ride.
"Having discussed the matter further with the PJA and with Noel, Dr Turner arranged for him to see a second specialist this afternoon. That specialist's view was that if the wrist was properly strapped it would be fine and would not negatively impact on Noel's control of a horse.
"Following that news, Dr Turner spoke to Noel's original specialist, and they agreed this to be a suitable course of action which would ensure Noel was compliant with our Medical Standards.
"As Dr Turner has not examined Noel himself, Noel will still have to be cleared by the Racecourse Medical Officer in order to have his Red Entry removed and to satisfy the requirements of the Professional Riders' Insurance Scheme (PRIS). Assuming that's fine, he'll be clear to ride."
If he gets the all clear, Fehily's key mount on today's card is Al Ferof, rated just about the best bumper horse Nicholls has trained and now poised for his hurdling debut.
Though ultimately swamped by the freakish Cue Card at the festival here in March, the Irish import saw off the rest by eight lengths and more and had really impressed with his gusto in the lead. Another powerful stable fields a promising bumper graduate in Prince Of Pirates, but Al Ferof has apparently schooled well and it would be disappointing if he failed to volunteer himself as one of the season's emerging stars in the final contest of the day.
Messrs Nicholls and Henderson also take each other on with top novice prospects when Rebel Du Maquis meets Spirit River in the opener. The former has won both his chases to date, whereas Spirit River failed to get round when sent off favourite for his debut over fences at Newbury. Even so, the latter looks like one built to excel at this game.
In between there are a series of handicaps and the Glenfarclas Chase has an obvious starting point in, Garde Champetre, which looked as good as ever on his return here last month.
Nicholls runs a Grade One winner, Neptune Collonges, under top weight in the day's most valuable race. The grey was brought down early in the Hennessy and may need the run today. He faces a couple of interesting rivals in Presenting Forever, sadly 8lb out of the handicap, and especially Horner Woods.
Don't Push It, meanwhile, makes his first appearance since winning the John Smith's Grand National in April in the Citipost Handicap Hurdle.
Jonjo O'Neill will obviously be working backwards from Aintree and limited expectations for today are measured by McCoy's preference for Synchronised.
Total Submission remains unexposed, not least given the sort of test he must relish on pedigree, and should be a fair price each-way. (© Independent News Service)