Horse Racing: Wylde day again for McManus

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The Independent Online
TWO of Ireland's top staying steeplechasers sidestepped Aintree's gruelling marathon last Saturday, but Time For A Run and Wylde Hide cannot avoid another slog through the mud - in Monday's Irish Grand National.

Both are owned by J P McManus, who just failed to collect on a pounds 10,000 each-way Aintree bet at 66-1 on Gimme Five (finished fifth in the National). McManus has a fine opportunity for compensation with Time For A Run and Wylde Hyde at Fairyhouse. Both have plenty of weight in a field of 23 declared for the IRpounds 125,000 event yesterday, but are classy competitors as well as possessing proven stamina.

That pair, however, do not lead the home defence against a British challenge which has supplied the winner four times in the past 15 years - through Rhyme 'N' Reason (1985), Desert Orchid (1990), Omerta (1991) and Mudahim (1997).

Miss Orchestra, trained by Jessica Harrington at Moone, Co Kildare, is the strong favourite for Monday. This mare landed some hefty bets when winning the Midlands National at Uttoxeter three weeks ago, and has again been heavily backed this week to follow up at Fairyhouse. She appears to be again well-handicapped even though her regular rider, Barry Geraghty, cannot claim the 5lb allowance which came in handy at Uttoxeter.

Torrential rain fell on the Co Meath track on Thursday. The course drains well, but further rain in the next day or so would ensure very testing conditions.

This would seem to favour Druid's Brook - the main British hope according to substantial ante-post support in the past few days. From Kim Bailey's Lambourn yard, this former Scottish point-to-pointer has run only five times under Rules, despite being a nine-year-old.

Druid's Brook ran only twice last season because of the prevailing firm ground, but this campaign won first time out at Towcester and finished a creditable fourth in the four-mile Eider Chase at Newcastle in February. On his latest outing, in a three-mile amateur riders' chase on good going at Sandown, he was a moderate fourth.

That display does not seem to have dampened the enthusiasm of his connections, however. He is to be ridden for the first time by a professional jockey - namely Andrew Thornton, whose skills when taking over from an amateur have already been amply demonstrated on Cool Dawn. Bailey emphasises of his charge: ``He needs extremes of distances.'' The plan is that Druid's Brook will run in next year's Aintree National.

Britain will have three other runners - the enigmatic Call It A Day, as well as those dour stayers, Hermes Harvest and Full Of Oats.

After Monday, attention switches firmly to the Flat season, with the ante-post markets for the Classics set for a major shake-up during next week's Craven three-day meeting at Newmarket.

The volatility of the 2,000 Guineas betting has been highlighted by the bookmakers this week. They drastically shortening the odds for Lend A Hand, from 25-1 to as little as 12-1 third-favourite behind Xaar and King Of Kings.

The colt's trainer, Mark Johnston, has now pointed however that Lend A Hand could instead run in the Italian or German equivalents of the Guineas.