IT has already been a memorable week for Brian Harding – and it could get even better at Cheltenham this afternoon.
One of the north’s senior jumps riders, Harding chalked up the first treble of his 20-plus year career at Sedgefield on Tuesday and was promptly presented with a bottle of champagne by the course executive to mark his achievement.
Cumbrian-based Harding has had a long association with the Greystoke stable, originally with Gordon Richards and subsequently with his son, Nicky, who supplied two of the jockey’s three winners at Sedgefield.
Today, the pair team up at Cheltenham with Talkin Thomas, who has a fighting chance in the CF Roberts Electrical & Mechanical Services Handicap Hurdle.
A lightly-raced gelding, who has won one of his three races over hurdles. Talkin Thomas made an encouraging seasonal reappearance at Worcester, travelling smoothly until lack of race fitness seemed to take its toll in the closing stages.
There is every chance he can step up on that performance, especially with the Richards’ horses in such good heart, and particularly with the buoyant Harding in the saddle.
Richards has another good chance with easy Newcastle winner Eduard, who will have the assistance of Davy Russell in the British Stallion Studs Novices’ Hurdle.
Nicky Henderson can get punters off to a flying start by winning the opening Shloer Novices’ Chase with Broadbackbob, the mount of Barry Geraghty.
A high-class hurdler, the Lambourn gelding made an easy start to his fencing career at Plumpton last month, scarcely breaking sweat to justify cramped odds after a solid round of jumping.
He faces a much stiffer challenge this time, but Broadbackbob is a horse who could go right to the top over fences and he will be a tough nut to crack.
Willie Mullins is proving a hard man to beat in his native Ireland at present and the champion trainer looks to be well represented in the Citipost Handicap Hurdle with Inish Island.
Ruby Walsh’s mount broke his maiden in decisive style at Downpatrick last month and he looks to be on a fair mark of 128 in this three-mile handicap.
Mullins saddles two runners, Shakervilz and Uncle Junior in the Cross-Country Handicap Chase and both should go well, with recent course and distance winner Uncle Junior marginally preferred, provided this race goes ahead. The cross-country course has been affected by frost and will be inspected this morning.
Jonjo O’Neill has his horses in fine form and the Gloucestershire trainer has good prospects of winning the Caspian Caviar Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase with Valley View.
Tony McCoy travelled to Carlisle last month for only one ride, on this horse in a valuable handicap and Valley View, while unable to make his long journey worthwhile, ran a sound first race of the season to finish fourth, only weakening in the closing stages.
Tomorrow’s action at Wolverhampton features a double-header, an afternoon fixture followed by a one-hour break before an evening meeting takes place at the same venue.
In total, 14 races will be run between 2.05pm and 9.20pm.
Concentrating on the afternoon card, which has been transferred from the currently water-damaged Southwell, a note should be made of Idol Deputy (5.20).
The promising Sewn Up (2.40) and course winner Badea (4.50) are also worthy of consideration.
• Saturday’s Cheltenham card will be previewed in The Press tomorrow, together with a nap.
12.15 Broadbackbob, 12.45 Valley View, 1.20 Talkin Thomas, 1.55 Quartz De Thaix, 2.30 Uncle Junior, 3.05 Inish Island, 3.40 Eduard.
Today’s other meetings: Bangor, Lingfield and Wolverhampton.
Wolverhampton tomorrow (selected races)
2.05 Nant Saeson, 2.40 Sewn Up, 3.15 Bold Marc, 3.50 Liliana, 4.20 Stunning View, 4.50 Badea, 5.20 Idol Deputy.
Tomorrow’s other meetings: Cheltenham, Doncaster and Lingfield.