Korelo's odds fall into place against brilliant Baracouda

It is said that owners begin to look like their dogs. Where François Doumen and his horse Baracouda are concerned, the comparison is not physical: one is handsome, urbane, attractive, and knows it; the other is angular, plain, agricultural, and doesn't care a jot. But mentally, perhaps there is an empathy. Although Doumen, who knows the great hurdler better than anyone, does not doubt Baracouda's bravery, there is no gainsaying that the gelding is unstraightforward, verging on tricky.

The horse's record is virtually blemish-free, 18 victories and never worse than second in 23 runs over hurdles. He has won the stayers' crown, run today for the 33rd time under its new World Hurdle banner, twice. But he can be a jockeys' nightmare, an athlete of infinite talent, but one whose abilities must be deployed at the last possible moment, leaving massive potential for embarrassment. With a target to aim at, he is as wholeheartedly competitive as any, but once in front, he considers he has done enough, and often evinces a heart-stopping tendency to flounce.

Doumen's now-retired son Thierry knew Baracouda backwards; Tony McCoy, who has replaced him in the saddle this season, is still on a learning curve. Last time out, at Windsor in December, it very nearly took a downward slant as, in an extraordinarily tactical race, he was so nearly outmanoeuvred, eventually coaxing his mount home to beat two of today's rivals, Crystal d'Ainay and Rule Supreme, by three-quarters of a length and a short-head.

The body language between trainer and jockey in the unsaddling enclosure afterwards was a caution to behold.

Doumen takes every slight to his brilliant charge fairly personally, and that day gave the impression that the 10-year-old had won despite, rather than because of, the man on top. "The horse has great confidence in himself," he said yesterday. "I know my horse, and I am sure he is just as strong as ever, maybe even better. I was impressed by the way he approached the last hurdle last time out, pulling double. He gets excited and wants to experience that burst of speed, he is so keen to go. I am very pleased this race now has a day to itself at Cheltenham, so the winner can get his due praise. I am so proud of mine that the more praise he gets the better."

Baracouda's strength is revelling in his power, travelling on the bridle behind a fast pace. All went more or less to plan 12 months ago; he was defeated simply by a better horse on the day in Iris's Gift in his bid for a unique third victory. Every rider out there will be well aware that trailblazing will set the contest up for the French crack, but a race of this calibre is unlikely to be run at an "after-you" dawdle either.

The best tactic for those in the stands in search of reward may be to seek each-way value. Every drop of rain that falls will aid the cause of Inglis Drever, but he is another one with apparent quirks and preference is for the battling, progressive, thorough stayer Korelo (3.15, each-way).

One of the first four-day Festival's innovations is the Daily Telegraph Trophy, which does not yet have Grade 1 status but is the de facto two-and-a-half mile championship. At his best, Native Upmanship would have gained his due reward over the intermediate distance, but the 12-year-old is now past his sell-by date.

The horse who has stepped into his shoes in Ireland is Rathgar Beau, who comes to the fray at the top of his game physically and mentally, with two easy romps over the trip since the turn of the year. By contrast Our Vic (2.35) has not been sighted since November, when he took a muscle-crunching fall here when poised to win a valuable handicap under a huge weight. He seemed not to get home in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase last year, but this distance should suit ideally and he may be the genuine top-grade horse in the field.

The Martin Pipe stable can hit the mark again in the closing three-mile handicap with the well-treated Ravenswood (5.20), whose sole outing since running fourth in the same race last year was a ring-rusty but highly encouraging fifth place at Haydock last month. And Nicky Henderson can continue his Festival comeback with Sleep Bal (2.00, nap), whose elegant action was turned into that of a square-wheeled bike in the mud at Fontwell last time out.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Broken Knights

(Cheltenham 5.20)

NB: Copsale Lad

(Cheltenham 2.00)

Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
news
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Arts and Entertainment
(L-R) Amanda Peet as Tina Morris, Melanie Lynskey as Michelle Pierson, Abby Ryder Fortson as Sophie Pierson, Mark Duplass as Brett Pierson and Steve Zissis as Alex Pappas in Togetherness
TV First US networks like HBO shook up drama - now it's comedy's turn
News
i100
Travel
Pool with a view: the mMarina Bay Sands in Singapore
travel From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
News
The will of Helen Beatrix Heelis, better known as Beatrix Potter, was among those to be archived
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
News
Nigel Farage: 'I don't know anybody in politics as poor as we are'
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect