Moore insists 'Sire' still on track for Cheltenham
WHILE Tony McCoy's unexpected announcement dominated Saturday's headlines at Newbury, trainer Gary Moore had one of those up-and-down days that encapsulate the vagaries of the jumping game.
Moore experienced the down side when Sire De Grugy unseated his son Jamie at the third-last fence in the Game Spirit Chase which was won emphatically by McCoy's mount Mr Mole.
The reigning Champion Chase winner had made a couple of mistakes ahead of his exit, at which point the 10/11 favourite was already struggling to peg back the slowly-away Mr Mole.
Winning trainer Paul Nicholls felt Sire De Grugy would have struggled to pick up the much-improved Mr Mole, which he compared to Master Minded, a winner of this race on his way to landing the Queen Mother.
Frank Berry, racing manager to winning owner JP McManus, said: "He looks a very happy horse. Paul has done a great job with him. You'd have to be nearly thinking that way (Champion Chase) now."
As for Sire De Grugy, Moore said: "He's fine and he trotted up for the vet, he was happy with him. We live to fight another day and hopefully we will get him back right for Cheltenham."
Moore's day got much better in the featured Betfred Handicap Hurdle as Violet Dancer produced a bold display from the front to land the spoils
Sent to the head of affairs by Josh Moore, the 20/1 chance had managed to build up a big lead at the third-last flight and kept up the gallop to come home by three lengths, giving Moore Snr his third win in the race.
The trainer said: "It's the craziest day I've ever come across today. Three runners in the first and none ran very well - one bust his pelvis - and then Sire De Grugy and Jamie, then this horse goes and wins."
Leading RSA Chase hopeful Kings Palace made it three out of three over fences in the two-runner novices' chase but it was far from plain sailing for David Pipe's charge.
The 2/13 favourite had already made mistakes at both open ditches when a serious error at the last ditch brought him to a standstill, but he still had more than enough in the tank to repel his sole rival Vivaldi Collonges.
At Warwick, Nicholls' Vibrato Valtat showed that at least Un De Sceaux will have one viable challenger in the Arkle with a very impressive display in the Kingmaker Novices' Chase.
Paul Townend made another profitable cross-channel trip as the Cork jockey completed a treble on his first visit to the track on Arbre De Vie and Glens Melody, both trained by his boss Willie Mullins, and on Robert Walford's Camping Ground.
Glens Melody (8/13 favourite) is bound for Cheltenham after winning the olbg.com Mares' Hurdle for the second year running, beating the consistent Emily Gray by seven lengths.
Arbre De Vie (11/10 favourite) easily took the novices' hurdle by 11 lengths. "He jumped well and galloped on well. I'm sure he can build on that," said Townend.