Danny McMenamin is expected to be fit to ride Tommy’s Oscar in the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham despite suffering a heavy fall at Musselburgh on Wednesday.
Last year’s champion conditional jockey took a tumble at the second flight from the Nicky Richards-trained Home Fire in a two-mile handicap hurdle.
He went to hospital for X-rays on his neck which showed there was no serious damage.
“He got knocked out, so he’s had his X-rays. They were clean and he’s OK,” said his agent Richard Hale.
“He went to get X-rays on his neck and all was fine. It’s just a case of passing a concussion test now in a week’s time.
“He should be back for the Champion Hurdle anyway. He should be all right as long as he passes his concussion test.”
McMenamin has struck up a fine partnership with the Ann Hamilton-trained Tommy’s Oscar, winning six times aboard the seven-year-old – most recently in the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock. Only Epatante and Adagio are shorter in the betting for the Cheltenham showpiece among British-trained contenders.
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Tommy’s Oscar is being primed to take on Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle, thus swerving an engagement in the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso on Saturday week.
The seven-year-old has proven to be a real money-spinner for Northumberland-based Ian and Ann Hamilton, winning four consecutive races and rising 18lb to an official rating of 156 in the process.
The son of Oscar has been a revelation since being dropped to two miles and underlined his improvement when taking the Grade Two Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock last month, beating Global Citizen by five lengths.
Owner Ian Hamilton, whose trainer wife Ann needs just one more winner to match last season’s record total of 12, is in two minds about the Champion Hurdle, but is leaning towards a tilt at the extended two-mile championship race on March 15.
“We don’t know what to do. Brian Hughes rode a winner for us the other day (Bavington Bob) and I was asking him, as he is experienced and knows what it takes,” said Hamilton.
“He said that if you have a chance to go, then go.
“But while Tommy’s Oscar has won four races very easily, he has never beaten a Champion Hurdle horse. That is not to say he cannot, because he travels well and he is an improver.
“It is a long way for us to go – it is like a three-day job – and we are farmers and we will have to find someone to look after the job here.
“So, we were thinking the Morebattle, with top weight, would be easier.”
However, the recent storms have hit Kelso hard and the ground is likely to be testing.
“The only trouble is, Kelso is a swamp at the moment. We were up there on Friday and it was almost unraceable,” said Hamilton.
“He handles any ground, but we won’t do both – he will either go to the Morebattle or the Champion Hurdle and at the minute, we are going to the Champion Hurdle.”
Tommy’s Oscar has won eight of his 13 races over hurdles, having taken eight attempts to get off the mark in point-to-points.
Hamilton said: “We have found out that two miles is his trip. That is why he had seven runs in point-to-points before he won – he didn’t stay.
Danny McMenamin is pinching himself ahead of riding Tommy’s Oscar in the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Last season’s champion conditional jockey cannot wait to take on Henry de Bromhead’s brilliant mare Honeysuckle with Ann and Ian Hamilton’s progressive gelding in the Grade One showpiece on March 15.
The seven-year-old has steadily climbed the ranks to establish himself as one of Britain’s leading contenders. After rattling up a hat-trick of victories in handicap company, Tommy’s Oscar showed his Champion Hurdle credentials with a five-length success in Haydock’s Champion Hurdle Trial last month.
Another step forward will be required again if he is to trouble the big guns that are also set to include 2020 heroine Epatante, but McMenamin believes Tommy’s Oscar may still have more to come.
McMenamin, 21, said: “Tommy’s Oscar has not put a foot wrong to be fair. First time out at Wetherby he was probably a little bit too keen and he didn’t really settle, but he has not taken a wrong step since.
“I missed two wins on him due to injury, but it was still nice to see him progress and then take that next step forward again at Haydock. We were hoping going there that we would come away with the win, but he completely surprised us with the way he did it.
“He did need to put in a performance like that to show his Champion Hurdle credentials, but to be fair we were probably going to have a crack anyway as how many times are you going to have a horse with a chance of running in the Champion Hurdle?”
He went on: “I’m not saying it is going to happen, but to ride my first winner at the Festival in the Champion Hurdle really would be the icing on the cake. It would be unreal and as a kid it is the stuff you dream of. If he finishes in the top six, you’d be over the moon.”
Tommy’s Oscar has largely been kept to flat tracks, but the Penrith-based rider is optimistic he will be able to cope with both the occasion at Cheltenham and with the undulations on the course.
“Early doors he should be grand at Cheltenham, but it will be when the taps get turned on coming down the hill that we will know if he handles the track or not,” McMenamin added.
“He is up against the big boys and girls now like Honeysuckle and Epatante. They deserve respect and we will give them that, but at the same time I’ve got to give my lad a chance and hopefully he can reward us.”
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/2.59371574-scaled.jpg12802560Geegeez Newshttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngGeegeez News2022-02-07 11:48:252022-02-07 11:48:25McMenamin in dreamland with Tommy’s Oscar
A tilt at the Champion Hurdle looks to be on the cards for Tommy’s Oscar after he extended his winning streak to four at Haydock.
Handicap victories at this venue, Doncaster and Musselburgh had seen the seven-year-old’s mark rise from 138 to 156 – earning him a step up to Grade Two level for ‘The New One’ Unibet Hurdle.
The 4-7 favourite was given a cool ride by champion conditional Danny McMenamin, who was happy to sit several lengths behind last year’s winner Navajo Pass and Global Citizen for much of the way.
Ann Hamilton’s charge readily made up the ground in the home straight and was driven out after the final flight to beat the latter by five lengths.
Coral cut Tommy’s Oscar to 25-1 from 33-1 for the Champion Hurdle – and despite having doubts about the suitability of the undulating track at Cheltenham, connections will consider giving it a go.
Hamilton’s husband, Ian, said: “He couldn’t have done it any easier really. He was there to be shot at today, odds-on favourite, he had quite a bit to lose and not a lot to gain.
“He’s seven, his improving all the time. We bought him as three-mile chaser but he doesn’t stay, he’s a two-miler.
“I’m chuffed to bits with him. If someone will drive the box we’ll go (to Cheltenham)!
“The only thing is he’s been winning races here and at Musselburgh and they are flat tracks, Cheltenham is very undulating which will be different.
“I suppose we’ve got to give it a go.”
Ann Hamilton is of a similar mindset, adding: “The horses are very well this year, next year they might not be, things might go wrong, so we’ll probably have a go.
“It was quite a hard watch for a bit until they turned in from the bottom corner when Danny started to move up. He’s a lovely horse and he tries his best.
“If we’re going to go to Cheltenham this is the year to do it, when the horses are well.”
Minella Drama stamped his class on the Patrick Coyne Memorial Altcar Novices’ Chase.
Fifth in the Grade One Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown last month, Donald McCain’s charge was the 85-40 favourite as he stepped up top two and a half miles in the hands of Brian Hughes.
The seven-year-old moved smoothly to the lead early in the home straight – and while Hardy Du Seuil threatened to make a race of it, Minella Drama was nine and a half lengths too good.
McCain said: “I couldn’t believe he wasn’t favourite to begin with because we think he’s a genuine Grade One performer.
“It’s been a slow process with him because he’s wild, but Adrian (Lane, assistant trainer) rides him every day and has done a great job with him because he’s not easy.
“It was always the plan to come here, but we felt we had to run him over two miles a few times first to get the freshness out of him.
“Aintree has been discussed, but what before then I don’t know because he’s difficult to make plans for. Brian wants me to go to Ayr which comes first this year.”
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Ann and Ian Hamilton have to decide whether or not to enter Tommy’s Oscar in the Champion Hurdle before he tests his mettle in the New One Unibet Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock on January 22.
The seven-year-old has won his last three, rising to a rating of 156 which considering former champion hurdler Epatante is only rated 153 having dead-heated in the Fighting Fifth and won the Christmas Hurdle on her last two starts, compares favourably.
The Hamiltons are not exactly used to making entries for early-closing races, with a string of just six horses and two of those currently out injured, but they will have to bite the bullet soon.
“He came out of Musselburgh well and it’s Haydock next,” said Ian Hamilton.
“The press are trying to build him up, but he’d have to win at Haydock to go to Cheltenham – the thing is we’ve got to enter for Cheltenham before he goes to Haydock.
“I personally think he’s still a bit off Champion Hurdle class, he’d have to go really well at Haydock but we’ve got to pay £500 before Haydock!
“He’s a smashing horse, he really is. The horses are healthy and well, but we’ve only four in training as we’ve two off sick.
“We’ve tried him over two and a half miles before, and he did have top-weight in heavy ground but he didn’t get home – that’s why we’re not thinking of Aintree.
“With his rating, he’s got to go in the level-weights races.
“We should have had him in the Fighting Fifth really – although he still wouldn’t have run as we were coming to the Rehearsal Chase with Nuts Well but we couldn’t get out because of the storm.”
Nuts Well instead ran in the Castleford Chase over two miles at Wetherby, finishing third, and will step up to three miles next time out.
“Brian (Hughes) gave him a lovely ride at Wetherby with a big weight to be third,” Hamilton went on.
“He’ll go to Doncaster next for the Sky Bet Chase at the end of the month (January 29). That’s three miles, but the ground never gets too bad there and it’s a flat track so there’s a good chance he’ll get the trip.
“He’s 11 now but he seems as good as ever.”
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Nuts Well will bid for second Old Roan Chase at Aintree on October 24 having made a winning comeback at Kelso recently.
The 10-year-old was an 18-1 winner of the Grade Two last season, claiming a one-and-a-half-length victory from Clondaw Castle under Danny McMenamin.
He went back to Aintree in April for the Marsh Chase, better known as the Melling, where he finished a creditable second.
Fakir D’oudairies was the eventual winner, but Nuts Well was severely hampered when landing after the third-last and was forced to regain lost ground from there on.
“He won there (Aintree) and he was very unlucky the next time,” said Ian Hamilton, owner of the horse and husband of trainer Ann.
“They tried to put him through the rails and it didn’t work.”
The Grade Two Peterborough Chase has also been pencilled in on Nuts Wells’ calendar, a race he missed last season as flooding caused the abandonment of the fixture and the race was moved to Cheltenham from Huntingdon.
“That’s the plan anyway, the plan last year was Aintree and then Huntingdon for the Peterborough Chase, but it was off last year and they moved it to Cheltenham,” said Hamilton.
“We didn’t think Cheltenham would suit him so we had a curtailed season really, because of that and the weather, so he didn’t run until later in the season.
“That’s the plan, he’s got to run in Graded races now because they keep putting him up but you never know, we might go to Cheltenham later on – he seems to be getting better with age like I am!”
The Hamiltons had two runners at Wetherby on Wednesday afternoon, one of whom was six-year-old novice chaser Pay The Piper, who was left to tackle the majority of his race alone after his only rival fell at the first fence.
“He made a good job of it though, didn’t he?” Hamilton said.
“A lot of horses wouldn’t have, but he seemed to enjoy just jumping round on his own.”
Their other runner was Tommy’s Oscar in the Watch Racing TV Anywhere Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, with the six-year-old finishing the runner-up after starting as the 7-4 favourite under William Shanahan.
“They’ll both probably run at Carlisle,” Hamilton said of their future plans.
“There’s a 0-150 handicap hurdle that will probably do for Tommy’s Oscar and then the Colin Parker Chase at the end of the month for the other fella – that’s what we’re thinking.”
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