Daily familiarity with hazard and frustration nurtures the stoic in every jumps professional, but the early intrusion of winter has tested the patience of many this time round.
There will be corresponding relief and gratitude, then, when the frost blankets are dragged off Cheltenham this morning.
A timely thaw has complemented the endeavours of the ground-staff there to guarantee interesting sport this afternoon — albeit the cross-country race still depends on an inspection at 10.30 am — and some genuinely top-class stuff tomorrow. For one man, however, the recent sense of impotence has been unexpectedly prolonged.
In fairness, Noel Fehily has been immune to the freeze, grateful as he was to be nursing an injury that had proved much less grave than initially feared. It was only a fortnight ago today that Fehily was thought to have broken a wrist in a fall at Newbury, days after being booked to ride Kauto Star at Kempton on Boxing Day.
The Irishman was reprieved, however, when X-rays revealed no fracture, and he had secured several exciting mounts for his comeback at this meeting — notably Master Minded, in the Keith Prowse Tingle Creek Chase tomorrow. He was dismayed, then, when the British Horseracing Authority's medical advisor, Dr Michael Turner, blocked his return yesterday morning.
Fehily had just been schooling Kauto Star himself, though presumably answered his own question when he said: “The doctor has stood me down, but I can't understand why because he hasn't even seen me yet this morning.”
A lower-key return next week would obviously remain contingent on a continued thaw, as only prestige venues can afford frost blankets, but should in principle still leave Fehily ample time to retrieve peak condition for Kauto Star — an opportunity he owes, in turn, to Ruby Walsh suffering a broken leg.
In the absence of both, Paul Nicholls has booked Tony McCoy for Master Minded and Daryl Jacob for his most exciting young hurdler, Silviniaco Conti, in a gripping showdown with Cue Card and Menorah, also tomorrow.
An important card at Fairyhouse has been postponed yet again, this time to Wednesday.