Derek Fox is on course for a return to action in the middle of next week, just days before he is due to make his Grand National debut aboard the fancied One For Arthur. The jockey broke his left wrist and his right collarbone less than three weeks ago but is determined to get back in the saddle for a tilt at Aintree glory if the authorities will allow it and has been undergoing intensive rehabilitation at an Injured Jockeys Fund facility in Yorkshire.
“I spoke to a lady from the IJF this morning and the news is positive, they’re very confident he can get back in time,” said Peter Scudamore, whose partner, Lucinda Russell, trains One For Arthur. “The plan is for him to be assessed and hopefully passed fit by the doctor at Kelso on Monday. His first ride back will be in a bumper at Carlisle next Wednesday and then he’ll return to full action at Aintree the next day.”
That would give Fox a maximum of two days riding in races over obstacles before Grand National day but Scudamore is satisfied that the 24-year-old Irishman will not be short of peak fitness. “He’s been doing a lot of gym work, they say he’s fitter than ever.
“We’ll find out [about the extent of Fox’s recovery] at Carlisle and hopefully the wrist won’t hurt him. He’s not like a rugby player, he’s not likely to take a bang on it, as long as he doesn’t have another bad fall.”
One For Arthur is no bigger than 16-1 for the National on Saturday week, putting him among the most fancied runners, after a season in which the eight‑year‑old has shown a lot of improvement. Scudamore reckons that giving him time between his races has been the key for a horse he describes as “big and lean”, last seen hammering 19 rivals by six lengths at Warwick in January.
“I feel he’s improving, watching him at home. He’s working better than I’ve ever seen him, working with a bit of class. He looks well in himself. But you’re touching wood all the time.
“I would just like to see a bit of rain. I wouldn’t want the ground too fast for him. But surely they’ve got to keep the ground on the softer side of good, whatever the weather does, with welfare being so important.”
Scudamore recently met up with his fellow retired jump jockeys John Francome and Jonjo O’Neill for an ITV feature that will be screened during coverage on National day. “It was a party of champion jockeys who never won the National,” joked Scudamore, who made 13 attempts on the race before retiring in 1993.
His father, Michael, rode the 1959 National winner and his son, Tom, will have a fine chance in this year’s race aboard Vieux Lion Rouge, currently the 10-1 favourite. “You’re going to ask me who I’ll cheer for if Tom’s horse jumps the last level with One For Arthur,” Scudamore said. “But if either of them wins, I’ll happily bask in the reflected glory.”
Meanwhile, Patricia Thompson has bought the Grand National entrant Le Mercurey, reviving memories of 25 years ago when she purchased Party Politics just days before he won the Aintree race. The trade in National runners appears to be vigorous this year, as Vicente also changed hands recently while Just A Par is due to be sold at auction next week. All three are trained by Paul Nicholls.
Sean Bowen has been confirmed to ride Le Mercurey but one jockey still looking for a partner in the race is the reigning champion, Richard Johnson. “It’s just unfortunate that nothing I ride regularly is going for it this year,” he said. “My agent, Dave Roberts, is keeping an eye on it and I’ve just got to concentrate on the day job. Let’s hope something turns up nearer the time.”
Wednesday’s tips by Chris Cook
5.55 Sir Harry Collins 6.25 Classic Pursuit 6.55 Eskendash 7.25 Chamasay 7.55 The Warrior 8.25 Escalating
2.20 Bishop Cannings 2.50 Living Leader 3.20 Wonder Of Dubai 3.50 Athletic 4.20 Gala Celebration 4.55 Taajub 5.25 Moayadd
2.10 Houndscourt 2.40 Little Miss Poet 3.10 Inchcolm 3.40 Crackdeloust (nap) 4.10 Don Franco 4.45 Bordeaux Bill 5.20 Ange Des Malberaux
2.00 Treaty Of Rome 2.30 Hungarian Rhapsody 3.00 House Of Commons 3.30 Seaview (nb) 4.00 Red Flute 4.35 Cosmic Tigress