Nicky Henderson will take the radical option of an all-weather bumper race to complete Oscar Whisky’s Cheltenham preparations. Flat racing warm-ups? It's certainly different, but hard times call for desperate measures.
An inspection at Kempton just an hour ago at eight o'clock this morning confirmed that it would be impossible to stage the jumps meeting planned for Friday. In its place the British Horseracing Authority has approved the first of two "bumpers for jumpers" meetings, with the second of them to take place at Southwell on Saturday.
The trainer said yesterday, "I'm coming round to running him there. Some of the other horses I have entered there have other races for them. Tetlami has options over hurdles and French Opera could run at Newbury (on Saturday). But what do I do with Oscar Whisky? I don't want to take him up to Haydock for the Rendlesham and slog his guts out there in testing ground. He's pretty much where I want him to be in any case and a spin round the Polytrack might just do the job."
Henderson had planned to run his leading World Hurdle contender in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las last Saturday, but that card fell foul of the weather as well.
Henderson also highlighted another issue that has the potential to attract some top-quality horses to some of the outposts of racing once the weather relents. "The other thing but very soon going to become a horrible problem is the deadline for the handicaps. They have to have three races and a lot of the novices are sitting on two, so in the next 10 days or so there are going to be some seriously competitive races."
One piece of good news for Kempton came from Betfair, as clerk of the course Brian Clifford explained. "The sponsors, Betfair, have agreed to transfer their support to the bumpers meeting, but it won’t be on the same terms and realistically we probably won't get the same numbers through the gate either."