Gutted Geraghty misses meeting with serious chest injuries
Barry Geraghty will miss this year's Cheltenham Festival after it emerged the injuries he sustained at Kempton on Saturday were more severe than first thought.
JP McManus's retained rider was diagnosed with a cracked rib and a punctured lung in the hours after the fall on Saturday, but the initial prognosis suggested he had a fighting chance of returning in time for the opening day of the Prestbury Park gala on March 14.
However, Geraghty, 37, revealed on Sunday evening that Cheltenham will come too soon. He said on At The Races: "I've a collapsed lung and six broken ribs on my right side.
Describing his current state, he said: "Last night was pretty rough. I've broken ribs individually before but never had six go all at the same time. I'll be in hospital for a few more days but once the lung improves my recovery should be straightforward and I expect to be back for Aintree."
Geraghty will be denied the opportunity to choose between Stan James Champion Hurdle market leaders Buveur D'Air and Yanworth on the opening day of the festival.
McManus's racing manager Frank Berry expressed his disappointment at the news of his injuries, but suggested that it was too early to consider who might replace Geraghty on the various big-race fancies.
"It's bad luck on Barry," Berry said from Naas. "I've only just heard myself. We were hoping it would be good news we would be hearing, so we haven't had a chance to digest it.
"Barry hadn't even made up his mind as to what he was going to ride in a lot of the races, so we have no idea at this stage who'll ride what."
That said, it is the choice Champion Hurdle mounts Buveur D'Air and Yanworth who will have Geraghty's potential replacements salivating.
Aidan Coleman, who rides regularly for McManus and partnered Buveur D'Air in both of his starts during his aborted chasing career, is also sure to be in the mix for many of the British-based McManus horses.
Fehily may also be in the front rank for Stayers' Hurdle favourite Unowhatimeanharry, as he was the regular partner of Harry Fry's charge last term.
Only Geraghty and his predecessor AP McCoy have ridden Yanworth over hurdles, while the mount on King's Ryanair Chase-bound Uxizandre is also now up for grabs.
The plum mount on Defi Du Seuil, hot favourite to stretch his unbeaten record over hurdles to six in the JCB Triumph, may well return to champion jockey Richard Johnson, who partnered Philip Hobbs's classy four-year-old to Grade 1 success at Chepstow on December 27.
Geraghty had been cut for the Festival's leading award, which he has won twice before, in recent weeks. He traded at as low as 7-4 before he was hurled into the ground at Kempton, but Ruby Walsh has since hardened from 4-7 to 2-5.
Festival record will be stalled
Paddy Power cut Johnson from 25-1 to 16-1, and the same firm now have Coleman as clear second favourite at 7-1 from 12-1. Power introduced Mark Walsh at 12-1.
Geraghty's absence means his remarkable festival record will be temporarily stalled. With 34 winners amassed at the four-day bonanza, the County Meath native is the second most successful rider in the history of the meeting, behind Walsh.
A dual Gold Cup winner aboard Kicking King and Bobs Worth, he has won five Champion Chases (twice on Moscow Flyer and also on Big Zeb, Finian's Rainbow and Sprinter Sacre) and two Champion Hurdles, taking the opening day feature aboard Punjabi and Jezki.
Since plundering his breakthrough success on Moscow Flyer in the 2002 Arkle Trophy, Geraghty has ridden at least one winner at 15 consecutive festivals. Sadly, he won't be able to add to that remarkable sequence next month.
Those in line to replace Geraghty
He has fitted in neatly with riding plans in Britain for JP McManus, particularly with horses trained by Jonjo O’Neill when Geraghty has not made the trip from Ireland. He seems certain to be called upon.
He could prove the surprise package for McManus, especially given his association with Unowhatimeanharry on whom he was unbeaten in four runs last term. Fehily is regarded by many as the go-to jockey for the big occasion.
McManus-owned horses played a role in Johnson becoming champion jockey for the first time last season after having to settle for the runner-up spot behind McCoy for so many years. He undoubtedly has the respect of the owner and is another who must be on the shortlist.
Often viewed in the shadow of McCoy and now Geraghty, Walsh is not a regular visitor to Britain but has been held in high regard in the McManus camp for many years and is considered rock-steady when it comes to riding the owner’s lesser lights.