Doumen to overshadow grey's day

Richard Edmondson expects another Boxing Day success for the French
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The performance of One Man in Tuesday's King George VI Chase at Kempton Park will determine once and for all the letter that is to be stamped on his apparel. He will either tear open his shirt to reveal an "S" on the leotard or be sent into the corner under a pointed hat bearing a "D". About six minutes of fibre-wrenching activity around Sunbury should tell us all we need to know about Gordon Richards's grey.

For those who like to accentuate the positive there was compelling evidence at Haydock earlier this month, when the seven-year-old captured the Tommy Whittle Chase without having to apply handkerchief to brow. Some of his exaggerated leaps that day were reminiscent of the distances that extras cover after being blown from the bomb scene of an action movie. That victory followed the humbling of the fading champion Jodami at Ayr.

In fact, One Man has won nine of the last 10 contests he has completed, yet it pricks that the blemish on that record was the single occasion he was truly tried in conditions company, the 1994 Sun Alliance Novices' Chase. That day he was beaten into the next county by one of Tuesday's rivals, Monsieur Le Cure, whose recent facility and speed suggest he should be preceded by tugs as he moves around the racecourse.

Further on the debit side, One Man's jumping has a tendency to unravel in the highest grade. The most serious brain-scrambler he has imposed on himself was over this course and distance earlier this year in the Racing Post Chase. It may be significant that of his 12 wins, just one of them has come on a right-handed track and he also appears to prefer terrain on the good side. Heavy overnight rain had turned the going to soft at Sunbury yesterday.

One Man, though, will at least have the benefit of having Richard Dunwoody at the controls. The champion jockey is riding with such skill that it may be that when he gets home to Faringdon he steps on an escalator that takes him up for repose on a fluffy cloud. Dun- woody has also won on the second favourite, the other young pretender (in what has recently been a young horses' race) Merry Gale.

The Irish horse is to be partnered by Graham Bradley (who would be in the saddle even if Dunwoody was available), the same man who steered the gelding into fourth place in the Gold Cup last March. Merry Gale palpably failed to stay that day, but word from his trainer, Jim Dreaper, is that the seven-year-old sent off for a Bullworker after the Festival and is now a more imposing beast with the capacity to see out greater distances. A defeat at the hands of Klairon Davis over an inadequate journey and a bloodless Punchestown victory this season mean this theory has yet to be tested.

If the tyros are not to succeed the bookmakers will have us believe that Barton Bank is the animal to be on. Had it not been for his calamitous fall when clear by the length of Kempton's well-populated Boxing Day bar 12 months ago, David Nicholson's gelding would now be on a hat-trick in the event.

"Had it not been", seems to be a phrase that has been appended to Barton Bank for much of his career, however, and he possesses the disheartening trait of treating at least one obstacle a round as if someone has just slipped a pillowcase cover over his head. He could win, but he could fall, and the odds on either are about the same.

Even less predictable will be the display of Book Of Music, who is pitched in here despite having run over fences only once previously in his life. When it comes to talking horses, this is the gelding that has been announced by the Lambourn town crier this season, thanks largely to his demolition of Master Oats on Kim Bailey's gallops. Tuesday will tell us more.

Dublin Flyer is far more reliable, though it will be rather disappointing if he is good enough to pummel this company into submission from the head of affairs, especially as he was considered to be Tim Forster's second string until Martha's Son dropped out.

Forster won the King George back in 1976 with Royal Marshall II, and since then another chap has won it four times (within the last eight years). This is the man who swings into Kempton Park with a carrier bag of duty- free at his side, a man who captivates women under his silver-grey coiffure (so they say). Jenny Pitman (who runs Egypt Mill Prince ) swoons at the sight of Francois Doumen.

For fellow trainers at least, Doumen is a man to be wary of. He regularly arrives at Kempton with the smiling disposition of Santa Claus, but then reverses the distributive element, leaving behind just mince-pie crumbs and a drained sherry glass as he takes away the trophy. The Frenchman is relatively unfancied this year (among the bookmakers at least) as he saddles Algan and VAL D'ALENE (nap 2.20). Both have already won lucrative prizes on their visits to this course: Algan, rather luckily in this race last year, and Val D'Alene in the Racing Post Chase. And while One Man may stand out on equine form, it is the record of this Gallic gentleman that presents itself among the human beings.