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)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high