Normal Business resumes

On the sort of filthy afternoon that is sometimes mystifyingly referred to as good jumping weather, See More Business provided a spark of light in the gloom on the first serious Saturday of the winter game. The 10-year-old, winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1999 and a dual King George VI Chase winner, is the highest-rated chaser in Britain and his consummately easy winning seasonal debut in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby yesterday was a delectable
bonne bouche to the new campaign.

On the sort of filthy afternoon that is sometimes mystifyingly referred to as good jumping weather, See More Business provided a spark of light in the gloom on the first serious Saturday of the winter game. The 10-year-old, winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1999 and a dual King George VI Chase winner, is the highest-rated chaser in Britain and his consummately easy winning seasonal debut in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby yesterday was a delectable bonne bouche to the new campaign.

With only three rivals, and those long-distance plodders, the result of the contest was in the formbook from the moment that Mick Fitzgerald let See More Business pull his way six lengths clear of Young Kenny going past the winning post on the first circuit. The only hiccup in an otherwise immaculate round of clean, active jumping through driving wind and rain came three out, when See More Business veered alarmingly left and took the obstacle on the angle.

"The others were always going too slow for him; he likes to hit a rhythm and jump in it," said a delighted and slightly relieved Fitzgerald. "I gave him a squeeze going into the straight and, slightly to my surprise, he picked up the bridle. At that third-last fence he wavered to correct his take-off; he had been out on his own for more than a circuit and I had just let him run a bit too long down to it and he's have been too close if he'd stayed straight. If they were wetting themselves in the stands, just think how I felt. But professional that he is, he got me out of jail."

See More Business, who came home 30 lengths clear of Bobby Grant, is now on course for a tilt at a third victory in Kempton's Boxing Day showpiece. He remains 10-1 for a second Gold Cup in March, with reigning champion Looks Like Trouble, who makes his first appearance of the year at Down Royal in Ulster 13 days hence, the 5-1 favourite.

"Mick said he feels as good as ever, and that's good enough for me," said trainer Paul Nicholls. "In the Gold Cup this year, when he was fourth, the race wasn't run to suit and the ground was too fast. If he gets his conditions he'll give it another good shot, even though he'll be 11 by then."

Paul Barber, See More Business's equally relieved owner, had made the trek from Somerset to Yorkshire to watch his favourite. "When the weather is like this you wonder sometimes why you bother going racing," he said, "and then a horse like this, and a performance like this, reminds you."

With the best jumpers now up and running, there are few flickers left in the domestic Flat season and two of yesterday's winning trainers at Newmarket, Richard Hannon and Mick Channon, had opted for the wedding of the former's daughter instead of headquarters' blasted heath.

Worthily, Channon's charge, won the Zetland Stakes, a ten-furlong contest for two-year-olds that regularly produces a high-class stayer, or better, of the future. Recent winners include Bob's Return, Double Trigger, Double Eclipse and Silver Patriarch. Yesterday's test was a searching one for a juvenile but Worthily, a son of Northern Spur, dug as deep as the ground under John Reid's driving and stayed on stoutly to beat the handsome Capal Garmon by a length and a quarter. Bruce Raymond, racing manager to the colt's owner Salem Suhail, said: "We thought he would stay every yard. He has done well physically through the summer and there is every reason to suggest he should go on the better things next year."

Channon, responsible for Salamandre and Dewhurst Stakes winner Tobougg, fields Ayr maiden winner Samara Middle East in the final Group One for two-year-olds of the European season, the Criterium de Saint-Cloud. The other British challenger is Gerard Butler's Reduit, against two from Ireland and a home defence of four led by Sagamix's brother Sagacity.

Much further afield on the global circuit antipodean superstar Sunline became the seventh different winner in the seven races run so far in this year's Emirates World Series when she repeated her victory of 12 months ago in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley in Melbourne early yesterday. The 10-furlong contest is Australia's most important weight-for-age race, the equivalent of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes or Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and Sunline, a five-year-old mare, produced a breathtaking performance under Greg Childs to defeat last week's Caulfield Cup winner Diatribe, ridden by Craig Williams, by seven lengths.

Her £473,896 win made her Australia's highest earner. The New Zealand-bred daughter of Desert Sun, trained by Trevor McKee, is now on schedule to display her talent further afield with a tilt at the Hong Kong Cup, the final leg of the Emirates World Series, racing's international championship, in December.

The next two in the 11-race series are the Breeders' Cup Turf and Classic on Saturday, followed by the Japan Cup later next month. The only other winners in the series still in action, all on 12 points, are Giant's Causeway, who contests the Classic; Montjeu, about whose will-he, won't-he Turf participation no decision had yet been made early yesterday evening; Samum, retired for the season; and Mutafaweq, who sidesteps the Turf in favour of the Japan Cup.

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