Racing: Dawn to enhance Alner's golden feeling

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The Independent Online
With each success this season a 10-year-old former hunter chaser has been entering more and more notebooks as a possible for jumping's greatest prize at the Cheltenham Festival.

Today, as Richard Edmondson reports, that winning run should continue at Sandown.

When the bugle sounds each morning at Locketts Farm in the Dorset village of Droop there is always one slacker who remains glued to his camp bed.

Cool Dawn has the reputation of being the laziest creature at Robert Alner's racing stables, but it is a trait his trainer can handle as the 10-year-old is quite the opposite on the track.

Three times at Ascot this season we have seen the gelding run his opponents into the soil. As he has been repelling all boarders, the horizon has been pushed further back and there are now some judges who believe Cool Dawn can be an influence in the Cheltenham Gold Cup itself.

Alner does not disagree but considers his horse will have to improve about a stone between now and 19 March to be a factor. "I'm not bullish about the Gold Cup at all because there are classier horses about," he said. "But they've got to be fit and well on the day, as mine has. Sillier things have happened. So far ours has done nothing wrong, and when he does we can think again."

Cool Dawn has been a tremendous hunter chaser in his time and was runner- up to Elegant Lord in the Foxhunters at the Festival in 1996. He went on to finish third in the Irish National. Last season was something of a washout as he injured a check ligament on his only start at Sandown, but it did stop the body clock running. Cool Dawn (3.35) will be having only his 12th race under Rules when he sets out in the Agfa Diamond Chase at Sandown today.

It could even be that he is improving, judged on his most recent win. "The horse is fine and that last run will have done him good," Alner said. "He was taken on by Go Ballistic which made him have a race. Carrying 12st in that sticky ground was absolutely ideal because it made him do a bit of work."

The other televised races from Esher are harder to call. Marello puts her unbeaten record following three bumpers and six hurdles in its greatest jeopardy yet in the Agfa Hurdle. Three of her rivals met at Kempton's Christmas meeting and Shadow Leader (2.30) came out best even though he was in need of the run and was bussed in from a stable that was more like a sick bay at the time.

The most valuable race on the card is actually a Scilly Isles Novices' Chase which is heavily stocked with Festival aspirants. Cyfor Malta will be well fancied, but on this ground Jack Doyle (3.05) is a better option.

Mistinguett (4.10) is back to form and should follow up last Saturday's win in the Cleeve Hurdle, while Dean Gallagher's wish in the closing novice hurdle will be simply that he gets round in one piece on Claudia Electric. He is now the only one of the "weighing room three" in working condition.

The most important news of the day, of course, concerns Uttoxeter, where a new, improved press box will be unveiled for the hard-working men and women who keep the sport going.

The day's largest pot is at the Midlands track and connected to the Singer & Friedlander National Trial, which is an Aintree trial in more than name as 12 months ago it was collected by Lord Gyllene. The distance of the contest has been reduced but it will still need a beast with considerable constitution to succeed. NAHTHEN LAD (nap 2.20) is the one to be on.

A plausible candidate for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase runs in the opener. Paul Nicholls rates Strong Chairman (next best 1.15) as potentially the best horse he has trained.

Cheltenham opposition for the Chairman will be on view at Leopardstown tomorrow. Florida Pearl, last year's Festival bumper winner, will be the favourite here, but it will be no cakewalk with the likes of Boss Doyle and Hill Society, who are undefeated in seven completed starts over fences between them, in the field.

The focus of the card though is the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup, in which Go Ballistic and Hermes Harvest form the British representation in a race which may deliver the Gold Cup favourite. Jodami and Imperial Call have used it as a platform for Blue Riband success and the latter again turns up for duty tomorrow. His most dangerous rival is Dorans Pride, who has worked well since having a bad air day last month at Naas, where he finished in "respiratory distress".

RICHARD EDMONDSON

NAP: Nahthen Lad

(Uttoxeter 2.20)

NB: Strong Chairman

(Uttoxeter 1.15)

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