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Sunday, 09 December, 2018

Garner hoping American dream is realised as Oskar win would end claiming days

Tom Garner: jockey had a winner in Jersey last week
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6.00 Saratoga
AP Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase (hurdle) (Grade 1) | 2m½f | turf | 4yo+

Tom Garner will have double reason to celebrate if Oskar Denarius strikes on his US debut as victory for Ben Pauling's raider would mean the end of the globetrotting conditional's claim.

Garner, who has ridden winners in Italy, France, Germany and the Czech Republic, finished eighth on Andi'amu in the race last year and, with his knowledge of the international programme book, had a part to play in suggesting a trip across the Atlantic.

"I had a few rides here last year – five at Saratoga – without success, so it would be my first US winner," said Garner, who is based in Lambourn with Grand National-winning trainer Oliver Sherwood.

"I rode a winner last week in Jersey, which was my 74th, so I've one more winner to lose my claim. It would be a dream to lose it in a Grade 1."

Successful in three of his five starts for Pauling, Oskar Denarius faces six rivals, including former Jessica Harrington-trained Modem, who was second in the $175,000 prize 12 months ago.

Watch Garner win the 2016 Kingwell Hurdle on Rayvin Black

Garner, whose biggest win in Britain came on Sherwood stalwart Rayvin Black in the Kingwell Hurdle in 2016, added: "After Oskar Denarius won at Newton Abbot in May, I got on the phone to Ben's assistant Tom David and owner Sam Painting, who are very good friends, and said he'd suit American courses and that the prize-money was very good. 

"He was a bit disappointing at Uttoxeter last time, but the plan was made to come over. Not necessarily for Saratoga, but this looked a good option."

The 27-year-old described the jumps track at Saratoga – one of the most storied venues in the States – as being "a bit like Worcester, but a lot smaller. It would be less than six furlongs round".

See how Oskar Denarius impressed at Newton Abbot in May

He got a feel for surroundings when sitting on the son of Authorized on Wednesday. "He did a circuit and had a look at the paddock," reported the jockey. 

"He was very relaxed. It's a bit different here, but he handled it all right. He got over here last Tuesday and has taken everything well.

"All signs are good but, if they have too much rain, the race might be moved to Monday. We're praying it doesn't come."

Garner has clearly done his homework, outlining of the opposition: "Last year the race was won at 3min 48sec and he clocked – carrying 11st and 11st 1lb at Worcester and Southwell – similar times on watered ground.

"Some of these horses here have done slower times on faster ground with less weight, so on timings he's well in but that's not everything.

"Modem's got the class, but this might be a bit sharp for him, while Iranistan has won three this year and on the Flat the other day. They think he's a bit of a tool and he's a front-runner I'd be worried about, but he's only a four-year-old and we've got experience.

"We're coming in at the bottom of the weights, so we've an advantage there, but there are definitely some dangers, including Overwhelming and Personal Start."

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He was very relaxed. It's a bit different here, but he handled it all right
E.W. Terms
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