Denman drifts after laboured debut
DENMAN will be freshened up and prepared to defend his totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup crown without another outing after suffering a rare reverse on his seasonal debut at Kempton.
His 23-length defeat by Madison Du Berlais on Saturday was the nine-year-old's first loss over fences in ten starts, and saw him deposed at the head of the betting for the blue riband.
His stablemate and 2007 winner Kauto Star replaced him as favourite in the ante-post markets, but Nicholls reports the 13-times winner to have emerged from his first outing in 11 months in good order.
Nicholls said: "He has come out of the race fine. His heart was checked after the race and that was normal and he ate up last night. I've of the same opinion as Saturday about his run in that it was a satisfactory comeback but he does need to improve.
"The plan is no different as if he had won and we will prepare him for Cheltenham now."
However, his defeat has not made a tilt at the John Smith's Grand National any more or less likely, with the weights for the world-famous handicap set to be unveiled in London tomorrow. "I am not going to rule the National in or out," Nicholls added. "He has an entry and I will discuss it with (owners] Paul Barber and Harry Findlay. We will have to see how he is this week and how things work out."
Joe Lively, meanwhile, is expected back at Colin Tizzard's Dorset stables in a few days after sustaining a season-ending injury in the same race at Kempton. The setback means the ten-year-old misses the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the John Smith's Grand National.
Plumpton sense they may be about to share in a slice of racing history today when Tony McCoy – yet again – takes centre stage in his bid to achieve 3,000 British and Irish National Hunt winners.
The 13-times champion jockey has been frustratingly placed on the 2,998 mark since partnering Stradbrook to victory at Wincanton on 29 January. But he has four booked rides at the Sussex venue – Excape (1.30), Miss Sarenne (3.45) and Restless D'Artaix (4.20) for leading trainer Nicky Henderson, while local handler Jim Best has snapped him up for Hello Moscow (3.10).
Extreme weather conditions have played a major part in halting McCoy's quest. But even when racing has gone ahead he has not had the right ammunition to carry him over the finishing line. Out of luck at Kempton on Saturday and with no jumps fixtures beating the bleak winter yesterday, McCoy trusts his luck to Plumpton – where officials are understandably excited at the prospect.
"It should be great," said clerk of the course Mark Cornford. "There's been a lot of interest in this from the press and there should be a lot of people picking up the phone to book tickets and turning up at the gates to pay at the turnstiles. He's got four reasonable rides. It looks good. For a little old track like us, this could be marvellous."
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