Racing: Adamant cements Marble standing

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The Independent Online

Adamant approach picked up a decent prize in the Pierse Handicap Hurdle at Leopardstown yesterday, pointed out the excellent future prospects of his Ascot conqueror, Marble Arch, and kick-started a debate about the harshness of the British handicappers.

Beaten almost 11 lengths into fourth behind Marble Arch in the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot last month, Adamant Approach justified good support to 8-1 yesterday to outpace the second favourite, Janidou, and hold the challenge of the novice Native Scout. The win sparked a reduction in his odds for the Tote Gold Trophy to 6-1, from 25-1, with the sponsor, while Marble Arch went from 6-1 to 5-1.

The winning trainer, Willie Mullins, felt that winning the EUR130,000 (£82,000) first prize bore out his conviction that Irish horses are badly handicapped in Britain. "I could not believe that no English-trained horse came over for such a valuable race. I think the Irish horses are about 10lb wrong with them when they go over there and Adamant Approach could only finish fourth at Ascot when we fancied him there last time out," Mullins said.

The trainer will now assess whether to send Adamant Approach back to Britain for the Tote Gold Trophy at Newbury next month, but the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham is certainly on his agenda.

"I've no interest in thinking about the County [handicap] Hurdle at Cheltenham for Adamant Approach," Mullins said. "The Supreme Novices' is the race for him and we'll see about Newbury in the meantime."

Doonaree, forecast as favourite for the race, drifted to 11-2 and never looked like sustaining Tony McCoy's run of success. Rounding the last bend, McCoy was already hard at work on Doonaree, whom he reported needs a longer trip. "I was never happy," he said. "My foot was to the boards all the way and he couldn't get competitive."

Rince Ri, the 11-8 favourite for the Pierse Handicap Chase, had to give best to the Arthur Moore-trained Lyreen Wonder, who has the Grand National at Aintree on 6 April as his target. "Lyreen Wonder loves left-hand tracks," Moore said, "and we will look at the Grand National, with maybe the Greenalls Chase at Haydock in the meantime."

Moore also won the opening hurdle with The Gatherer, yet another with the Tote Gold Trophy on his list. "He needed a run before going to Newbury," Moore added, "and these conditions suited ideally, although he picks up a 4lb penalty." He also picks up a quote of 14-1, from 20-1, from the sponsor.

Nicky Henderson, attempting to win the Tote Gold Trophy for the fourth time in five years, has started to tighten up his plans and reports that Saturday's Ascot winner Got One Too is a likely starter at Newbury.

"When he won the Gerry Feilden, we thought he might have pinched it," Henderson said. "But now he's done it again against good horses, you'd have to say he's progressing. When you've a horse in form, there's no point in not pushing on."

Regal Exit, another of Henderson's six Newbury entries, finished down the field behind Got One Too but is a shorter price in betting. The six-year-old was having his first run since breaking down at Punchestown in 1999 and Henderson said: "Mick [Fitzgerald] wanted to ride him with an eye to the future and he ran as well as could be expected. He travelled well until he blew up coming into the straight. It will bring him on and I think he'll run at Newbury.

"Tysou goes for the Lanzarote at Kempton before we make any other plans but the one of our six we might struggle with is Dark Shell. He's prominent in the betting and I wouldn't want anybody to back him at the moment."

TOTE GOLD TROPHY (Newbury, 9 February) Tote: 5-1 Marble Arch, 6-1 Adamant Approach, 8-1 Regal Exit, Valiramix, 9-1 Got One Too, 10-1 Dark Shell, In Contrast, Lady Boston, Magnus, 12-1 Brother Joe, Silver Top, 14-1 Ilnamar, Tango Royal, The Gatherer, Tysou, Westender, 16-1 Fait Le Jojo, Got One Too, Image De Marque II, Lord Brex, Salamah, 20-1 others.

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