RICHARD Johnson has been ruled out of the William Hill King George meeting after taking the wrong course on Benbane Head in the Devon Marathon at Exeter.
In-form Johnson was at the head of affairs on Martin Keighley’s veteran when he went the wrong side of a rail on the far side of the course.
The confusion seemed to happen as the water jump was omitted on the first circuit as it is not permitted for that obstacle to be the first fence in a four-mile race.
However, it was to be jumped next time around and Johnson went on its inside, nearly carrying Aidan Coleman and Gorgehous Lliege with him.
Johnson will be banned from December 19 to January 2 on days when there is racing. He would have ridden Charlie Hall hero Menorah in the Kempton highlight.
The Challow Hurdle at Newbury is the likely next port of call for Simon West’s exciting youngster Maximiser.
Eighth in a Punchestown bumper last spring behind the brilliant Faugheen, Maximiser went on to win an Irish point-to-point before returning from almost a year off with a runaway victory on his British debut at Carlisle in October.
He proved that success was no fluke with a similarly emphatic display at Haydock last month and Middleham-based West feels his charge deserves to test the water at Grade One level on December 29.
West said: “He’s a very straightforward horse to train. Jumping seems to be his forte. Touching wood, he seems to meet every hurdle on the right stride and he obviously handles soft ground well.”
Gordon Elliott is in confident mood as the talented Don Cossack attempts to strike at the highest level for a second time in tomorrow’s John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase.
“I’d be very hopeful that he’ll go very close,” said Elliott, who trained Silver Birch to Grand National glory in 2007.