LEADING John Smith’s Grand National contender Tidal Bay has suffered a “tiny stress fracture” and is out of the big race at Aintree on 6 April.
Allotted top weight of 11st 10lb for the Liverpool showpiece, the Paul Nicholls-trained 12-year-old has not run since winning the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. He was forced to miss the Argento Chase at Cheltenham last month when reported to be lame, and Nicholls said in his Betfair blog: “As previously mentioned, he was slightly lame before the Argento and we couldn’t get him ready in time for that race, or the Irish Hennessy. He was out cantering as usual on Monday and Tuesday, but, on Wednesday, we decided to step up his work. But his work rider came back up and said he didn’t feel right.
“So we immediately called in [vet] Buffy [Shirley-Beavan] and, after discussions, we got him down to Newmarket for an MRI scan. The news through from Buffy is that Tidal Bay has a tiny stress fracture of the lower cannon bone on his right hind leg. This is something that the X-rays we took before his problem in the Argento didn’t pick up, only the MRI did. He needs a month’s box rest, so that rules out the National. As soon as I got the news, I immediately rang Mr [Graham] Wylie and we agreed to release this statement as soon as possible.”
At Kelso yesterday, exciting novice Duke Of Navan overcame a final-flight blunder to run out a clear-cut winner of the BetVictor Morebattle Hurdle. The Nicky Richards-trained youngster lined up having won two of his three previous starts over obstacles and was far from disgraced on his other start behind leading novice Dodging Bullets at Cheltenham.
With plenty to find at the ratings with favourite Any Given Day, Duke Of Navan was allowed to go off at 5-2 for this two-and-a-quarter-mile test and was always travelling smoothly in the hands of Brian Harding.
The five-year-old cruised up behind Any Given Day and Morning Royalty before the home turn and, after the latter dropped out, it soon turned into a match. It was evident approaching the final flight Duke Of Navan was travelling much stronger than his rival but a peck on touching down gave Any Given Day a second chance. However, once Harding got to work on the run-in, his mount asserted to take the prize by two and a half lengths.
Richards told Racing UK: “We’ll just let the dust settle. He’s in at Cheltenham, but we might give that a miss. The two-mile novice [Supreme] looks very hot. He’ll probably go to Aintree I would imagine. I think mentally and physically he’s got a bit of developing still to do, so I don’t see any benefit of going down to Cheltenham at the moment.”
Jim Goldie’s Caledonia does look Cheltenham-bound, as the Scottish trainer confirmed yesterday that his charge is on course for next month’s Champion Bumper after his good run in defeat at Newbury on Saturday.
The six-year-old made an impressive racecourse debut at Kelso at the start of the season and was a creditable second on his next appearance at Ayr. With former National Hunt jockey and now leading Flat rider Graham Lee an interesting jockey booking, Caledonia stepped up to Listed company last Saturday and was far from disgraced in finishing third. Lee will keep the ride at the Cheltenham Festival and Goldie is confident his charge can make his presence felt. “He came out of the Newbury race fine and we’re looking forward to Cheltenham with him. I think he’ll be an interesting runner,” said the Uplawmoor trainer.