The days are continuing to get shorter and whilst the majority of the nation cling on to the last throws of summer, the impending National Hunt season is beginning to loom large in the minds of racing fans. Jump racing enthusiasts will already excited for the meat of the new campaign to get under-way and with that, there has been plenty of National Hunt news over the last seven daysto catch up on.
We have once again been keeping our finger on the jump racing pulse to bring to you five of the most interesting and important stories from National Hunt world from the last week all in one place.
Trainer Oliver Brady Passes Away
The week began on a sad note with the news that popular trainer Oliver Brady had passed away at his home in Ireland at the age of 75. Brady was one of the biggest and most flamboyant characters in the sport and had been battling with his health for a number of years.
Brady was known for his outlandish celebrations and had a number of nice horses in his care over the years. He came closest to Cheltenham Festival success in 2007 when Baron De Feypo finished third in the Coral Cup, while he tasted good success with horse like Maralan, Ebediyan and Balapour among plenty of others. Brady was laid to rest in Co Monaghan on Thursday.
Popular Hurdler Celestial Halo Retired
An old favourite of the Cheltenham Festival was retired on Thursday the 18th when it was announced that Celestial Halo had run his last race. The Paul Nicholls trained hurdler had been a mainstay at Prestbury Park for a number of years but the 10-year-old has now been retired after appearing to lose some of his enthusiasm at home. Celestial gave Andy Stewart his first Festival win when he won the Triumph Hurdle back in 2008 but perhaps his most memorable performances came in defeat.
Celestial Halo was a neck second in the 2009 Champion Hurdle behind Punjabi over two miles, while he had an Indian summer over three miles as he showed when chasing home Solwhit in the 2013 World Hurdle at the Festival. He was 7th in the St Leger on the flat before going hurdling with Paul Nicholls where he would win six races at Grade 2 level and in the process amasses over £650,000 in prize money.
Jason Maguire Returns with a Winner
There was a good news story at Newton Abbot on Friday with Jockey Jason Maguire returning to race riding following a six month spell on the sidelines. The Grand National winning rider fractured his sternum and had part of liver removed following a fall at Stratford back in March and he was clearly delighted to get back to the day job. Maguire even managed to pick up a winner on his return, scoring on-board Bonne Fee for Kim Bailey at 5/6f.
The Giant Bolster Set For Another Gold Cup Tilt
Trainer David Bridgwater has announced that The Giant Bolster will be aimed at another attempt to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2015. The popular 9-year-old has finished third, fourth and second in the race for the last three years and connections are still hopeful he can go one better this season. Bridgwater announced that the horse is likely to start off his season in either the Charlie Hall or the Betfair Chase on his route back to Prestbury Park. The horse is currently available at a best price of 33/1 for the Gold Cup with a number of firms which could appeal to plenty of each-way punters given his record at Cheltenham and his Gold Cup record in particular.
Nicky Henderson Hosts Annual Owners Day
There were more signs that the new season was fast approaching on Sunday when Nicky Henderson hosted his annual owners day at Seven Barrows. There were plenty of positive bulletins reported out of the day including about Sprinter Sacre who is back to full fitness. The 2013 Queen Mother Champion Chaser missed the defence of his title through injury last season but Henderson is clearly happy with his form at home going into the new season.
Sprinter Sacre looks set for a duel with Sire De Grugy this season with both likely to go to Sandown for the Tingle Creek before Christmas. Sire De Grugy was imperious in the absence of Sprinter Sacre last season and they could well meet each other five times through the winter if all the plans work out.