DONALD McCain says Yorkshire-owned Corrin Wood could be one of his best chances of Cheltenham Festival glory next month.
The trainer feels the lightly-raced seven-year-old, unbeaten in three starts over fences, will be “a serious challenger” for the RSA Chase – the National Hunt Festival’s three-mile championship race for novice chasers and won previously by Denman.
A winner at Market Rasen last November under Middleham rider Henry Brooke, he was then a 23-length winner at Catterick in December under McCain’s stable jockey Jason Maguire before winning again at Warwick last month.
He is owned by Dermot Hanafin, managing director of Guiseley-based Fitz Samuel Insurance Services, whose colours were carried to Cheltenham glory by Cinders And Ashes in the 2012 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
“His jumping is very slick and economical, but the handicapper has taken no chances in putting him on a mark of 156,” said McCain whose father, Ginger, trained the legendary triple Grand National winner Red Rum.
“That won’t matter much for his next run as that’ll be in the RSA Chase where he has to be a serious challenger. He always looked a decent prospect as a novice hurdler, but if you know the horse you’d realise he was always going to be a chaser.”
Sue Smith’s Fill The Power – named after the darts legend Phil Taylor – will look to return to winning ways at Wetherby today.
An admirably consistent horse, he has not won since May 2012 but could still come into contention for races like the Midlands National or the Scottish equivalent.
He is conceding eight pounds to the hat-trick seeking Wood Yer from the Nigel Twiston-Davies yard – the trainer’s son Sam is in the saddle – but Fill The Power’s connections are buoyant after Pinerolo’s win at Catterick last week.
The chaser runs in the colours of The McGoldrick Partnership set up by Leeds racing enthusiast Richard Longley to celebrate the achievements of his eight-time Wetherby winner Mister McGoldrick, and encourage more people to own horses through syndicates.
Pinerolo was the Partnership’s first win in nearly 650 days and Fill The Power’s most recent run at Doncaster – he finished fourth after appearing to hit a flat spot – gives some ground for optimism ahead of this four-runner race.
“In FTP, we have a horse with the ability to win big races over extreme distances,” said Longley on his blog.
“He’s only an eight-year-old, so still a young horse, and I know Ryan Mania believes he has the ability, so, frustrating as the situation is right now, all the lads in the FTP syndicate still believe Fill will have his day in the sun...soon we hope.”
York victor First Mohican – one of the last winners trained by Sir Henry Cecil before he succumbed to cancer – will put his Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle credentials on the line at Kempton on Saturday.
Now trained by Alan King, the horse won his hurdling debut at Doncaster and Yorkshireman Henry Ponsonby, the syndicate manager, is confident.
He said: “I thought he would win a bit more impressively than he did, but Alan tells me that he has come on a ton since then.
“He worked very well on Friday and you would not know he had a race. I think he’s stones better than the bare result at Doncaster, but don’t forget that Huff And Puff was a good horse on the Flat as well.”
Richard Fahey has led the tributes to former trainer David Barker, who died on Sunday.
Barker, 44, famed for his handling of sprinters such as Celtic Mill and Sierra Vista, was diagnosed with cancer in 2009.
Based at Scorton in North Yorkshire, and married to Sam, Barker gave up training to concentrate on fighting his illness, but still enjoyed success with runners as an owner. Celtic Mill and Sierra Vista won the Temple Stakes at Sandown in 2005 and 2007 respectively. Other well-known Barker-trained winners included Mecca’s Mate.
Close friend Fahey trained a number of Barker winners, including the smart Eastern Impact, who was third to Clive Brittain’s top-class Rizeena in last season’s National Stakes at Sandown.
Speaking from Dubai, Fahey hailed Barker as a “proper bloke”.
He said: “Even when he was training, himself, we used to get on great. He was very enthusiastic and a tough guy, he lasted a lot longer than they said he would.”