NACARAT is not the first iconic grey to provide a distance dilemma for his trainer. It was the same 30 years ago with Desert Orchid – and the backdrop to One Man’s dramatic bet 365 Charlie Hall Chase triumph 15 years ago.
Now Tom George hopes a drop back in trip to two-and-a-half miles today for the Betfred Monet’s Garden Old Roan Chase at Aintree will prove ideal for the 11-year-old who won the three mile-plus Charlie Hall at Wetherby two years ago.
The veteran then claimed his one and only Grade One victory in the 2011 totesport Bowl at Aintree – this was the race in which the talismanic Denman was only fifth and then subsequently retired.
“Paddy (Brennan) has been riding him for the last couple of years and he has been saying for a while he’d like to see him back over two-and-a-half miles, so we’ll see what happens,” said George.
“We want to have another crack at the King George over three miles. We know he loves Kempton and I think he’d have been placed last year if we hadn’t run him three weeks before.
“We couldn’t go for the King George without having run for six months, so tomorrow’s race is a nice place to start him off.”
Heading the weights for the Grade Two limited handicap is the Philip Hobbs-trained Wishfull Thinking, the mount of Richard Johnson.
The nine-year-old enjoyed a fantastic novice campaign a couple of seasons ago, but his form was in-and-out last term.
He is a course-and-distance winner. Hobbs has an interesting second string to his bow in the shape of Gauvain, a 10-year-old who showed top-class form for Nick Williams last season before switching yards at the Doncaster Sales in late May.
n Malcolm Jefferson’s Cheltenham and Aintree hero Cape Tribulation will make his seasonal return in the John Smith’s Hurdle at Wetherby a week today.
Having mixed hurdling and chasing with varying success last winter, it all came together for him in the Spring when winning the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham and a Grade Three handicap at Aintree.
He had a run on the Flat at York earlier this month and was just touched off.
“He has come out of his race in smashing form and I couldn’t be happier with him,” said Malton-based Jefferson.
“He has always been quite consistent and he started off last season running over fences but things just didn’t work out for him. We are going to give him an entry in the Hennessy as he is very well-handicapped over fences. Unless something went wrong with Big Buck’s – we are not going to beat him – we will probably give him a try back over fences at some point.”
n Jamie Spencer has been confirmed as the retained jockey for Sheikh Fahad Al Thani’s Qatar Racing operation.
The former champion jockey has signed a two-year contract with Sheikh Fahad, whose horses run under the Qatar and Pearl Bloodstock banners.
Sheikh Fahad sponsors Champions Day at Ascot through his Qipco banner, and recently paid 2.5million guineas for a three-parts brother to Derby winner Authorized. Spencer, who was crowned joint-champion jockey with Seb Sanders in 2007, is excited about his new role.
“I’m delighted to become part of a team going forward that has invested so heavily in the sport,” he said.
n Outspoken betting pundit John McCririck has accused Channel Four Racing of “ageisim” after he was dropped from the new-look programme that will be anchored by Clare Balding and Nick Luck from January.
The 72-year-old – known for his bling, sideburns and deerstalker – appears not to be disappearing from the TV screens quietly. Speaking from the USA ahead of next weekend’s Breeders’ Cup meeting, he said: “Among the 13 slated to be on screen, only Jimbo McGrath is over 50.
“I trust those now in power, having shown their macho images as all new producers do by getting rid of their most well-known older performer, don’t forget that racing appeals to all generations.”