Cavalier has odds and attitude on his side

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Victor Chandler and Ladbrokes are both bookmakers, but this afternoon Britain's punters get their annual chance to compare two very different approaches to the business of laying odds. The feature race in Britain is the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot, fiercely competitive yet offering backers a fair crack of the whip. In Ireland, by contrast, the 10th running of the Ladbroke Hurdle is once again a hopeless raffle giving punters as little chance of success as possible.

Chandler, of course, is a bookie of the old school, shouting the odds on the rails and always prepared to back his own judgement by laying an extra point about a horse he does not fancy. Not that he will have any difficulty finding backers for all but a couple of the runners in his race this afternoon. As ever, it has attracted a high-quality field, but this year's renewal is one of the most competitive yet, with established performers from the top rank such as Egypt Mill Prince taking on upwardly mobile chasers like Front Street and Martin's Lamp.

Egypt Mill Prince has probably been attempting the impossible on his last two outings, when second both to Dublin Flyer in the Mackeson Gold Cup and then to Lonesome Glory, the best chaser in America, who for some reason was weighted like a struggling novice for his British chasing debut. Jenny Pitman's runner is painfully vulnerable to an improving, unexposed rival with a low weight, however, and today's contest has a long list of candidates.

There is no shortage either of form lines to connect them, but firm conclusions are rather harder to come by. Front Street, three times a winner this season, beat Martin's Lamp four weeks ago but is now 6lb worse off for four lengths. Front Street has also beaten Gales Cavalier, who in turn has finished second to Kibreet and, last season, Dancing Paddy. Add in the ever-changing burdens involved and not one of those results is guaranteed to be repeated.

Confused? You should be. One obvious point, though, is that with so many credible winners, there can be no value in a short price about Front Street or, in particular, Martin's Lamp, who may contract still further this morning following Adrian Maguire's double at Ascot yesterday. In a difficult race, preference must be for a runner at longer odds, and while Dancing Paddy is too long at 14-1, Gales Cavalier (2.10) at 10-1 is the pick of the prices.

That nice Mr Chandler also lends his support to the opening novice hurdle, another fascinating contest with any number of possible winners. This trip is far from certain to suit either Tennessee Twist or Wisley Wonder and BUTTERCUP JOE (nap 1.00) and Adrian Maguire are the pair to be on. The same jockey has every chance of recording a swift double on Seven Of Diamonds (1.35).

The 23-runner contest at Leopardstown should be avoided - four of the last six winners have started at 20-1 or greater. Those who cannot resist should consider both the poor record of British challengers - which this year are headed by the Simon Dow-trained, Richard Dunwoody-ridden Chief's Song - and the success of Paddy Mullins and Arthur Moore. Mullins's Gambolling Doc has clearly been laid out for the race, but then so have most of the others.

At Warwick, As De Carres, one of the best chasers in France, tackles British fences for the first time following his somewhat bizarre appearance in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown seven days ago. Today's trip and company will be much more to his liking - the Grand National is his principal target. A safe round of jumping is the most we can expect from Moorcroft Boy, racing today for the first time since a near-fatal fall at Aintree in November 1994.


1986 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 Fate of the favourites: 18 1 15 3 3 6 17 5 15 3

Winner's place in betting: 2 1 2 0 0 3 0 0 0 0

Starting-prices: 5-1 5-2 5-1 16-1 20-1 7-1 20-1 20-1 10-1 25-1

Ages: 6 6 6 6 7 10 6 5 7 5

Weights: 10-13 11-8 11-1 10-0 11-5 10-13 10-2 10-13 10-8 10-2

Profit or loss to pounds 1 stake: Favourites -pounds 6.50. Second Favourites +pounds 2.00

Percentage of winners placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd in last race: 50%

Shortest-priced winner: Barnbrook Again 5-2 (1987)

Longest-priced winner: Anusha 25-1 (1995)

Top trainers: P Mullins - Redundant Pal (1989, 1990)

A Moore - Bonalma (1986), Roark (1988)

Top jockeys: T J Taaffe - Bonalma (1986), Roark (1988)