Champion jockey Richard Johnson broke his arm when unseating from Westend Story at Exeter on Tuesday and it looks as if the four-time champion jockey will lose his crown to Brian Hughes. Johnson is likely to be out of action for up to two months although he remains optimistic of being back in “time” to ride Thyme Hill at the Cheltenham Festival.
BetVictor have suspended betting on the jump jockey’s crown with, at the time of writing, Johnson trailing Hughes by three – 114-11 – with Sam Twiston-Davies third in the lists back on 86.
Only one place to start today’s preview and that is at Gowran Park where the Galmoy Hurdle is an absolute cracker – despite the defection of former winner Presenting Percy – with Apple’s Jade, Penhill and Benie Des Dieux (1.50) in opposition with marginal preference is for the Willie Mullins’ trained nine-year-old.
Apples Jade bounced back to her best when making all to win a Grade 1 at Leopardstown over Christmas and this right-handed track will suit her more as she tends to jump out to her right. She is 6/4 at BetVictor but marginal preference, despite making her seasonal reappearance, is for another top-class mare in the field Benie Des Dieux (1.50) who has been well supported into 11/10.
The selection fell at the last with the race in safe-keeping in the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham back in March, but made amends when subsequently winning at Punchestown and Auteuil with her latest win coming over today’s 3m trip. The selection is currently 10/1 for the Stayers’ Hurdle and 6/4 for the Mares’ Hurdle at BetVictor and today’s race will tell us if either of these superstar mares will be a threat to Paisley Park in March.
Twelve of the 18 runners in the Thyestes Chase are trained by either Willie Mullins or Gordon Elliot and the former has saddled the winner of this corresponding race three times in the last six years. Acapella Bourgeois (3.00) was no match for the Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo at Tramore on New Year’s Day and did just lug out to the left on occasions, but he gets the each way vote with Paul Townend – who would have had the choice of the Mullins team – taking over in the saddle. The selection is 5/1 at BetVictor who are betting each way five places on the race.
At Wetherby Starplex (1.35) just missed out in his hat-trick bid at Kelso last week and he has been raised 4lbs for that effort. He can run off the same mark this afternoon, however, and the return to this 2m 4f trip will suit Keith Dalgleish’s 10-y-old who is, arguably, in the form of his life.
Addici did us a favour at Plumpton last time but I will be surprised if he were able to give weight to Chance A Tune and Eden Du Houx (3.55) with marginal preference for the latter who has had has wind operated on since disappointing in a better race than this at Cheltenham when last seen back in November. One note of caution the David Pipe yard did have a winner on the level last week but a few have disappointed in recent days over jumps.
At Newcastle this evening trainer Tracey Waggot saddled the first three home in a mile handicap here with Proceeding (5.00) just going down by a nose to a stablemate from a 1lb higher mark. The selection is 2lbs “well-in” this evening and Joe Fanning keeps the ride on the five-year-old who is a dual C&D winner.
This stiff mile should suit St Just (6.30) who was well on top in the end when scoring over a mile on polytrack at Lingfield last time when he looked as if he would appreciate a stiffer test. The William Haggas three-year-old will get further in time but a 6lbs rise for his Lingfield success is fair and Ben Curtis take the ride.