Anzum looks good to gain upper hand for Nicholson

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The Independent Online
Just in case the Flat was having any second thoughts about retiring to its winter quarters, the National Hunt heavy mob is out in force this afternoon to persuade its summer cousin that its time is up. If it has any sense, the Flat will go quietly.

It is quite simply no contest. The afternoon's only card on the level is at Doncaster, where the feature race, the November Handicap, brings together a tired and familiar collection of animals, asked to drag themselves to the well one last time. Over the sticks, by contrast, five meetings in Britain and an excellent card at Navan will bring many of the best hurdlers and chasers into competition for the first time.

The five televised National Hunt races, from Chepstow and Wincanton, are just the beginning. Atours, Balanak, Hebridean, Her Honour, Berude Not To and the highly promising Cherrynut are among those involved, but events on the "minor" cards include the Ekbalco Hurdle at Newcastle and a Grade Two novice hurdle at Uttoxeter. At Navan, meanwhile, Dorans Pride, winner of the Stayers' Hurdle at last year's Cheltenham Festival, and Sound Man, narrow runner-up in the Arkle Trophy, are the principal attractions, not least for Richard Dunwoody, who will ride in Ireland in order to maintain his association with Sound Man.

Some of the names in the Rising Stars Novice Chase at Chepstow may not yet be so familiar, but it is just a matter of time. A fascinating event pits Cherrynut, Paul Nicholls's latest recruit from point-to-pointing, against Berude Not To, one of last season's best novice hurdlers.

Nicholls's string finished last season in indifferent form, after an excellent start which took several good prizes back to the West Country. All seems to be well now, and Cherrynut (2.00), highly thought of by his trainer, can reinforce Nicholls's growing reputation as a rising star in his own right, particularly where chasers are concerned.

Cherrynut's seasonal debut, at Worcester, brought a convincing three- length defeat of Linden's Lotto, another of today's rivals, and while John White's chaser should, in theory, be able to reverse the form on 10lb better terms, he was already race-fit at Worcester while Cherrynut must have plenty of improvement to come.

The colours to back in the Tote Silver Trophy are usually the black and orange of Bill and Shirley Robins, successful in three of the last four years and carried today by Silver Wedge, one of last season's best juveniles. The silks are one of the few constants in the racing life of Mr and Mrs Robins, who change trainers as regularly as Gazza changes his hairstyle. Oliver Sherwood, who prepares Silver Wedge - for the moment, at least - inherited him from David Nicholson, who in turn took delivery of the Robins string from Jenny Pitman. Both trainers saddle runners in today's race, but it is Nicholson's ANZUM (nap 1.30) who looks weighted to exact revenge.

At Wincanton, David Elsworth saddles two-thirds of the runners in the Elite Hurdle, with Atours (2.30), who might yet be a Champion Hurdle contender in a very weak year, fancied to beat his stablemate, Absalom's Lady. Paul Nicholls pops up again in the Badger Beer Chase, in which he saddles Brackenfield, but they will all struggle to keep pace with Wise Approach (next best 3.00). Kim Bailey's chaser simply jumped too well when knuckling over on landing at Cheltenham last week. Back on a more suitable track, his rapid progress can continue.

And as for Doncaster, try Indigo Time (3.25) and Royale Figurine (2.50). If you must.

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