Tony McCoy proved his fitness ahead of some high-profile rides at the weekend when making a winning return to action on Ursis at Wetherby this afternoon, just nine days after dislocating his thumb.
The champion jockey, who is due to ride First Gold in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup and Baracouda in the Ballymore Properties Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday, got his thumb stuck in the reins when he was thrown from Flying Patriarch before the Daily Mail Juvenile Hurdle at Folkestone.
Initial fears that he had suffered a fracture proved unfounded but X-rays revealed that he had dislocated his thumb at the tip.
But he bounced back when giving Ursis (4-1) a supremely confident ride in the Countryside Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle.
Jonjo O’Neill’s ex-French colt was always going well on his jumps debut and cruised into the lead at the final flight before drawing five lengths clear of Dhehdaah at the line.
McCoy, who had to pass the racecourse doctor before being given the go ahead to ride, said: “The hand is all right but it didn’t have to be when you’re riding a horse like that.
“He’s a nice little horse who jumps very well.”
Tribal Venture (5-2) defied an absence of 587 days to make a winning debut over fences in the Harry Atkinson Memorial Beginners’ Chase, a victory which left his connections dreaming of Cheltenham Festival glory.
Brian Harding was always going comfortably on Ferdy Murphy’s charge and sent him past long-time leader Flight Command at the last fence to win in good style by five lengths.
Tribal Venture had been jarred up after racing on fast ground and his trainer decided to give him plenty of time to recover.
“He was third at the Festival and he was so well that we decided to give him a run at the April meeting back at Cheltenham and he won easy. But when he came back in after being out to grass and we started cantering him there was a little bit of a lump (on a tendon) so we had to stop with him,” explained Murphy.
“He’s always schooled well and we’ll find another race for him on soft ground and the lads (owners) want a Festival runner so we’ll go for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase.
“If it ever came up soft for the SunAlliance he would have a chance.”
Strong Resolve put up a fine display of jumping in the hands of Peter Buchanan to take the “Fly Fishing” Handicap Chase for Kinross trainer Lucinda Russell.
The four-length winner, who defied an 8lb rise in the weights for an Ayr success, now has a crack at the Coral Welsh National at Chepstow on December 28 on his agenda.
“His jumping is amazing. He’s stopped being extravagant at his fences and he’s so quick now,” Miss Russell said.
“He’ll go to Kelso (on December 5) and then for the Welsh National.
“He’s rated 123 and I asked the handicapper what he needed to be rated to get 10st in the Welsh National and he said ’higher than 123’ so hopefully he’ll go up again for this.”
Aleron had luck on his side in the “Grouse Moor” Novices’ Hurdle.
John Quinn’s six-year-old looked booked for second place until the front-running Beamish Prince crashed out at the penultimate flight when holding a clear advantage.
Aleron (3-1) has not always found much off the bridle on the Flat but kept going strongly under Russ Garritty on this occasion to win unchallenged by 10 lengths from Beaugency.
“The other horse appeared to be going the better but the winning post isn’t at the second last,” Quinn commented.
“He enjoys jumping, which helps, and he did nothing wrong when he was left in front.
“We’ll look for something around Christmas for him now.”
Nicky Richards continued his fine recent run with a 99-1 double courtesy of Letitia’s Loss and Sweet Ard.
The former was a convincing winner of the “Fox And Hounds” Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle under a good ride from claimer Scott Marshall.
Letitia’s Loss was always going well towards the outside of the field before taking a definite advantage approaching the third last flight.
The 9-1 chance found plenty when pressed by Premier Drive as the runners bypassed the final hurdle and she ran on to score by four lengths.
“That’s Scott’s third winner this time and fourth in total. He rides well - he rides a good race,” said Richards.
Letitia’s Loss had fallen on her chasing debut at Kelso last month which prompted the switch back to hurdles.
“The plan was to go novice chasing but she slithered and just came down on her debut so we thought we’d give her a spin over hurdles,” the Greystoke-based trainer explained.
“She doesn’t really make a good shape over fences so we might have another go over hurdles before we go back chasing.”
Richards moved on to the 24-winner mark with Sweet Ard’s victory in the closing Doncaster Bloodstock Sales/EBF Mares’ Only Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.
After greeting the Tony Dobbin ridden 9-1 shot, Richards said: “I always thought she was all right but she’s just been slow to come to hand and I would think she would go hurdling next time.”
Wetherby is rapidly becoming a lucky track for Oxfordshire trainer Mark Rimell after his Oneway had taken the Rocom BT Network Handicap Chase under a patient ride from Graham Lee.
Rimell said: “I had my first winner here as a jockey and my first winner here as a permit holder so I quite like coming here.”