Stars’ returns herald a new jumps season

Big Buck's - back, but only next year

Big Buck's - back, but only next year

You know the real jumping season can’t be far away when stories about the top horses returning to stables from their summer breaks start to appear in the papers. We’re just at that point now.

Last week Nicky Henderson welcomed Sprinter Sacre, and Bob’s Worth back to Lambourn, and this week, Paul Nicholls, his main rival for the trainers’ championship, is busily preparing for his owners’ day on 1 September. That will see Big Buck’s on parade, and the four-time winner of the Ladbrokes World Hurdle is also planned to pay a visit to Chepstow for the Racing Legends day in October. He won’t be racing though, and isn’t expected to do so until January next year.

That will mean he will have had over a year off the racecourse since he suffered a tendon injury last December. Owner Andy Stewart had hoped that his star would be back in action at Newbury’s Long Distance Hurdle in November, but he and Nicholls have dropped that target. Yesterday Stewart said, “Big Buck’s is very well, I think he’ll be fine. Our view is he will not be ready to go to Newbury for the Hennessey meeting and it’s unlikely he would make it to Ascot. He should go to the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham and then straight to the World Hurdle again.”

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Nicholls was not looking too far ahead in mapping out races for the other two horses, both of which are also on the way back from injuries. He said, “"Al Ferof also came back in and he's started trotting. Lisa Hales has done a good job with him over the last month.

Tidal Bay is back in and he's already started cantering after the little problem we had, which seems to have disappeared. It took me a while to work him out but to win a Lexus with him was fantastic and his run in the Hennessy against the Gold Cup winner, giving him weight, was also a good performance. We may start him off over hurdles at Wetherby again but with any of the horses who've had injuries, you don't want to make too many plans.”

Meanwhile, across the other side of Somerset, Phillip Hobbs revealed that one of his stable stars would be having a very early outing. Balthazar King id heading to France at the weekend to run in a cross-country race at Craon. Hobbs said at his owners’ day, “He enjoys these sorts of races, wants fast ground and his options are limited in Britain when the rain comes.”

He gave a bulletin on the health of Fingal Bay, whose nascent chasing career came to an abrupt halt after he ran out when a 1/12 shot in an Exeter novice chase last December. Hobbs said, “He ended up with a tendon problem after crashing out at Exeter, but I don’t think the two were connected. He’s due to be scanned in a couple of months and, as long as they show he’s fine, he might be running in the new year.” Even if he is, after the way he jumped violently left handed at Exeter, he’s a horse to be treated with caution until he shows that isn’t still a problem.

Whilst Fingal Bay recovers, another Hobbs star, Captain Chris, is about to undergo an operation before he returns to action. He has some breathing difficulties when racing, and Hobbs wants to try and correct that before Captain Chris has another shot at the King George VI Chase at Kempton over the Christmas holiday. The trainer said, “There’s every chance he’ll have his soft palate cauterised before he runs in the hope that it will help him through the season.” Hobbs expected his horse to bid for a repeat win in the Amlin Chase at Ascot before heading to Kempton.

It’s all go in the south west, as down in Dorset, jockey Joe Tizzard was speaking about the hopes he and his father, trainer Colin Tizzard, have for their top class chaser Cue Card. He is 4/1 favourite with Bet365 for a second Ryanair Chase at next year’s Cheltenham Festival, although where he’ll run before then is not clear yet.

Tizzard said, “He’s really enjoyed the summer and we’ve had him back cantering in recent weeks, so I’ve ridden him a few times. He’s such a special horse and is in cracking form, like the majority of the yard. We have a number of plans but he might go foe the Haldon Gold Cup again. We haven’t made a decision yet, but whatever it is I’m looking forward to it.”

As Tizzard went on to remind us, September is a quiet month, but in October, which in a couple of days’ time we’ll be saying is next month, everything starts to get moving. I can’t wait.

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