TRAINER Harry Fry’s bid to get Rock On Ruby’s campaign back on track ahead of a tilt at the Racing Post Arkle Trophy remains in the lap of the weather gods ahead of today’s meeting at Doncaster.
The 2012 Champion Hurdle winner is one of just two entries for the Eventmasters Corporate Hospitality Novices’ Chase, but Fry’s stable star will only run if Town Moor received less rain than forecast last night.
Rock On Ruby, who has had issues with his breathing in the past, has already missed two intended engagements at Doncaster this year because of the testing conditions and will only run if the description ‘good’ features in the official going. Conditions were ‘good to soft’ last night.
If Rock On Ruby misses the race, the JP McManus-owned Mr Mole will only have to turn up to provide the 18-times champion jockey AP McCoy with one of the easiest wins in his record-breaking career.
Even though Rock On Ruby did win his chasing debut at Plumpton in December after switching to the larger obstacles, the relentlessly wet weather has frustrated Fry’s attempts to find suitable races for the nine-year-old to gain more experience before his tilt at the Arkle – the Cheltenham Festival’s two-mile championship race for novice chasers.
In hindsight, Fry probably regrets not sending his horse to Musselburgh last Sunday where conditions were quick for the Scottish track’s Festival Trials Day.
“I’m just praying they don’t get too much rain overnight,” said an anxious Fry yesterday. “They’ve had four dry days up there, unbelievably, and only had two millimetres of rain overnight, which is nothing.
“It’s only a match but the horse comes first. The fact he only has one rival wouldn’t affect our decision.
“I’ve been in regular contact with the clerk of the course Roderick Duncan and I will be overnight, I suspect. I hope it’s third-time lucky that we get to run him at Doncaster having missed the first two.
“It’s the best ground anywhere in the county but they’ve got gusting winds and that might help keep some of the rain off.
“Noel (Fehily) schooled him on Tuesday over some fences in case he does run and he jumped well, Noel was delighted with him. He’s a popular horse so we want to do what is right by him.”
Even if Rock On Ruby does not show up on Town Moor, there should still be another very interesting runner later on the card in the shape of First Mohican.
Now in the care of Alan King having been a Group-class performer on the level for Sir Henry Cecil and his widow Lady Jane, he makes his hurdling debut in the eventmasters.co.uk Novices’ Hurdle over an extended two miles.
He faces a decent field including another former smart Flat performer in Nicky Henderson’s Electrolyser, the John Ferguson-trained Retrieve and Donald McCain’s Lyric Street.
An intriguing renewal of the Larkshill Engineering Handicap Chase sees the reappearance of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Harry The Viking, a course specialist.
His opponents include Fill The Power from Sue and Harvey Smith’s High Eldwick yard as their stayer continues his build-up to more loftier targets that are likely to revolve around Uttoxeter’s Midlands National and the Scottish National at Ayr.
The horse, one of the syndicates set up by Leeds-based Richard Longley to celebrate the career of his Cheltenham Festival-winning chaser Mister McGoldrick, will be ridden by Grand National-winning jockey Ryan Mania.
The 24-year-old was in the saddle at Musselburgh on Sunday when Scottish trainer Sandy Thomson’s 22-1 outsider Seeyouatmidnight set a new course record when running away with the Albert Bartlett Scottish Trial.
The horse will almost certainly miss the Cheltenham Festival, but his potential earned this rave review yesterday from top tipster Tom Segal – ‘Pricewise’ of the Racing Post.
Writing in his Racing Post Weekender column, he observed: “Every now and again a horse comes along who catches my imagination and Seeyouatmidnight for Sandy Thomson is just such a horse.
“Twice he’s run over hurdles this season and twice he’s won at massive prices, beating long odds-on shots easily.
“He’s really athletic and, barring accidents, is going to make up into a top-class horse sooner rather than later.”
The last four winners of the £100,000 William Hill Lincoln, the first major race of the Flat turf season, all feature in the initial 121 entries for this year’s renewal on March 29.
John Quinn’s current title holder Levitate – plus Brae Hill, Sweet Lightning and Penintent – are all trained in North Yorkshire and represent the largest number of contenders for the prestigious heritage handicap since the redevelopment of Doncaster in 2007.
Multiple Group One winner Midday, winner of York’s Middleton Stakes in 2011, has given birth to a foal by former superstar stablemate Frankel.
The high-profile mating produced its first offspring at Juddmonte Farm’s Banstead Manor Stud in Newmarket. Midday and Frankel were both trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil.
There will be plenty of Cheltenham tips when the Beverley Arms Hotel hosts a festival preview night on March 5 in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund and Jack Berry House now being built in Malton.
As well as Berry, the guests will include trainer Brian Ellison, John Quinn’s son and assistant Sean as well as commentators Malcolm Tomlinson, Gareth Topham and Darren Owen.
Tickets cost £10 and can be obtained from the hotel or via Ken Brooke on 01964 551335.