Grumeti can show mettle
The old theatrical adage about a bad dress rehearsal clearly holds good on muddier stages, too.
The Triumph Hurdle contender Grumeti may have slipped and slithered to the ground at Newbury yesterday but bookmakers clearly believe it will be all right on the night as, collectively, they shortened his price for the Cheltenham four-year-old feature.
Among the first half-dozen in the market after an impressive obstacles debut last month, the gelding is now clear or joint favourite in nearly every list.
To be fair, Grumeti had yesterday's contest at his mercy when he came down a stride after landing over the penultimate flight, seemingly losing his footing on sticky rain-softened turf.
The 8-15 favourite was eight lengths clear and cruising under Wayne Hutchinson at the time, conceding 7lb to all his rivals, and if any fall can be soft, this one was.
Providing all is well with Alan King's young charge — who seemed perfectly unscathed as a disconsolate Hutchinson led him away from the scene of their mishap — he is likely to get some extra match-practice before his March date, for which he is generally an 8-1 chance.
“He was going to have just one more run before the Festival,” said his owner, Max McNeill, “but I think he may need another. We're gutted today but I think we've got a good horse, because it's difficult to give weight away in soft ground.”
Unlucky losers do not always get the recompense they perhaps should, but the King team can take some heart from the justice earned by Glens Boy in the three-mile handicap chase later in the afternoon.
On his previous run, the gelding had been victim of a bizarre ill-fortune, when hampered close to the line by a loose horse. This time his run to the line was both conventional and successful, albeit narrowly.
Two former Festival heroes, reinvented as hunter chasers, dominated yesterday's Newbury finale. Chapoturgeon mocked his handicap mark to take the Jewson Novices' Chase three years ago and the eight year-old proved a class apart again yesterday as he eased home 16 lengths clear of the 2007 Kim Muir winner Cloudy Lane to give rider Jack Barber his first success under Rules.
The field for the Champion Hurdle took its initial shape yesterday, with no surprise omissions among the 27 entries.
The favourite and reigning champion, Hurricane Fly, is scheduled to make his seasonal reappearance at Leopardstown on Sunday week.
Meanwhile, Trainer Peter Moody has entered Black Caviar for two races at the Dubai World Cup meeting. The six-year-old mare has yet to race outside Australia but Moody has entered her in both the six-furlong Dubai Golden Shaheen and Al Quoz Sprint over five furlongs on grass.