Nicholls holds the call over old rival

There were Border collies and ducks at Cheltenham yesterday and the other depictions of bucolic life you might find on a child's jigsaw. Back at Prestbury Park for the second day of the Murphy's meeting this afternoon there will once again be horses, but they will not be having rosettes pinned to their bridle or fed oats over the stable door. Cheltenham racecourse is where horses come to do business and these working animals, especially after this afternoon's Murphy's Gold Cup, will not be a sight for young eyes. It will be less my little pony than my knackered selection.

There were Border collies and ducks at Cheltenham yesterday and the other depictions of bucolic life you might find on a child's jigsaw. Back at Prestbury Park for the second day of the Murphy's meeting this afternoon there will once again be horses, but they will not be having rosettes pinned to their bridle or fed oats over the stable door. Cheltenham racecourse is where horses come to do business and these working animals, especially after this afternoon's Murphy's Gold Cup, will not be a sight for young eyes. It will be less my little pony than my knackered selection.

The Murphy's, for so long the Mackeson, is the 800m of championship racing. You have to start at a sprint and keep it up for two and a half miles until the fellow on top stops kicking you in the guts. And there is no extra hay even if you win.

It is a hard race but, as we get ready for the 40th running, it is by no means an unfair race. The record shows that it is not a haven for outsiders. In the last 26 runnings, 22 of the winners have started at 15-2 or less. Good horses win. To appreciate that, one needs only look down on the past victors which will parade today. Another Coral, Tipping Tim, Bradbury Star, Dublin Flyer and Senor El Betrutti will be reminders of breathless times past.

The most promising newcomer in today's Murphy's is Majadou, the winner of last year's Mildmay of Flete Chase on only the fourth outing of his British career. He attempts to give Martin Pipe a record-equalling fourth win in the race.

As Majadou's main market rival is Call Equiname we are afforded an early rut between Pipe's old stag and the growing pretender in Paul Nicholls. Call Equiname is also a Festival winner, having collected the Queen Mother Champion Chase in March. He has never been beaten over fences at Cheltenham. The grey carries 11st 10lb rather than 12st because Nicholls rather foxily used the system and originally entered See More Business to keep the weights down.

Nicholls believes CALL EQUINAME (nap 2.50) may eventually prove to be better at this extended trip than his championship distance of two miles and it is worth betting on the trainer's beliefs.

Whatever the result, it will be worth booking an overnight hotel in the Cotswolds to return for tomorrow's third and final day of the meeting. If you win big today, then there is the option of rerouting to Paris and watching the Prix Renaud du Vivier at Auteuil. This £64,000 contest brings together Hors La Loi III (not to be confused with Hors La Loi who makes his jumping debut at Uttoxeter this afternoon), the winner of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle now with François Doumen, and Katarino, Nicky Henderson's Triumph Hurdle victor.

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