Thinking big: Fry adds American to Gold Cup field
Harry Fry will send out a first runner in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, as connections on Saturday stumped up £27,500 to add the eight-year-old to the field.
Talented but fragile, American has been seen only twice this term, but his season will now reach a rousing crescendo next Friday after being supplemented for the Grade 1.
American did have the option of running at Kelso on Sunday, but for a second time the meeting was cancelled due to bad weather, which left jump racing's most prestigious prize as a tantalising alternative for which he is now generally a 25-1 shot.
Speaking on Saturday, Fry said: "There's only one Gold Cup so we'll take our chance. It's a dream come true for all of us. It's quite a tall order we've set him and if he ran into a place we'd be absolutely thrilled.
"We discussed it with the Jago family [owners] and they were very keen to run and the horse is in very good form. Hopefully the forecast rain doesn't dry up on us."
With the ground turning soft again on Saturday at Cheltenham, Fry is keen for conditions to remain taxing, as American thrives on slower ground.
Sent off a 5-1 shot for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in December, American was pulled up that day, but returned to form in the Cotswold Chase when an eight-length runner-up to fellow Gold Cup hopeful Definitly Red.
American's entry also brings jockey Noel Fehily back into the race. He was originally booked for Our Duke but when stablemate Sizing John was ruled out by Jessica Harrington earlier in the week Robbie Power switched to Our Duke, leaving Fehily without a ride.
Fry is pleased to be call on his regular rider, and added: "Noel knows the horse extremely well and has been a big part of our team since we started. It's great that the man who has been key to a lot of our success is on board again."
Kelso's cancellation also raised the question of whether Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai could be added to the Gold Cup picture, but connections decided against supplementing the seven-year-old, preferring to wait for Aintree.
Following Saturday's forfeits, 19 horses remain engaged for the Gold Cup, headed by favourite Might Bite.
Albert Bartlett additions
American was not the only runner to be added to Friday's fields, with the JP McManus pair Ok Corral and Tower Bridge supplemented for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle.
Wednesday's Ballymore Novices' Hurdle is an option for both runners, but McManus parted with £12,500 to add the duo to Friday's 3m Grade 1.
Ok Corral is a general 14-1 chance for the Albert Bartlett, and trainer Nicky Henderson said on Saturday: "Three miles should not be a problem and hopefully the ground will have dried out that bit more by the end of the week."
Supreme for Western Ryder
The prospect of soft ground on Tuesday has prompted Warren Greatrex to aim Western Ryder at the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle rather than the longer Ballymore Novices' Hurdle a day later.
The trainer said about the Tolworth Hurdle fourth, on Saturday a general 33-1 chance for both races: "After chatting to Dicky Johnson I’m going to switch and aim Western Ryder at the Supreme rather than the Ballymore. We feel the two miles on soft ground will be better for him, with possibly more rain coming Wednesday.
"Dicky came and schooled him yesterday and he jumped brilliantly. We both think he is the forgotten horse. But if it came up heavy on Tuesday I would think of pulling stumps."