Racing: Arctic Copper can secure Irish National for Meade

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The Independent Online

The volume may be in Britain this afternoon on the busiest day of the domestic racing season, but the brilliance is all in Ireland, where Commanche Court goes for a second Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse.

Second was also the position which Ted Walsh's nine-year-old managed to fill in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and, if Best Mate is really the flying machine that some commentators believe him to be, then the horse which finished a length and three-quarters behind him at the Festival can be no slug either.

The last animal to win more than one Irish National was Brown Lad, who completed a hat-trick in 1978, having previously won in 1975 and 1976. Commanche Court has been allocated top-weight and only Flashing Steel in 1995 has carried 12st to victory since Desert Orchid, partnered by Richard Dunwoody, did so 12 years ago.

Commanche Court's attendance means that though there will be 19 runners at the tape, the race is superficially barely more competitive than the one between Putney and Mortlake on Saturday. The favourite apart, the only two runners in the handicap proper are Rathbawn Prince, who was runner-up to Davids Lad 12 months ago, and Arctic Copper. Everything else carries at least 4lb more than its official weight.

Yet this is no three-horse contest. For a start, there is a National winner from this season, albeit the Midlands version, in the race. The Bunny Boiler is one of three saddled by Noel Meade as the Navan trainer goes for his first Irish National.

Elsewhere, several other troops have regrouped following battlefield Cheltenham. Rathbawn Prince himself was sixth in the Mildmay of Flete Chase, while Dessie Hughes's Timbera was second to Rith Dubh in the National Hunt Chase.

Cregg House was another runner-up at the Festival, to Royal Auclair in the Cathcart, the event which provided Tony McCoy's only winner of the meeting. Strangely considering his vaulting record, Arctic Copper (3.50) fell at the first in that race. Back over a sapping trip and with a low weight against his name, Meade's eight-year-old appears the likeliest beast to slay Commanche Court.

McCoy himself is on duty at Chepstow, where the multiple champion jockey has picked up a fancied selection of rides as he closes in on Sir Gordon Richards's mark of 269 winners set in the 1947 season. The Ulsterman has had his paw on the tail of the record for some time now – he needs three winners to equal it after moving one step closer on Saturday when Polar Champ took him to victory at Newton Abbot.

Such is McCoy's proximity to the milestone that Channel 4 have added Chepstow highlights to commitments at Kempton and Newcastle. It will be the first time they have visited the Welsh course.

The Flat's best known horseman appears for the first time this season at Kempton this afternoon. Frankie Dettori has tipped the sand from his suitcase and is now in place to take up three rides at Sunbury. It is a sign of changed times that the champion jockey of 1994 and 1995 can now be backed at 50-1 to win a third title. Dettori's allegiance to Godolphin means he is no longer in the mass market, rather a player on quality street. His target will be to better the 17 Group One successes he registered around the globe last season.

Off camera there is an interesting runner in the seven-furlong maiden in the shape of Frenchmans Bay. When he was third to Golan in the 2,000 Guineas last spring, Roger Charlton's runner was considered the best maiden seen on a racecourse in Europe. Now, he has to start all over again.

Earlier on the card there are prospects for Lady Bear (next best 3.05), who has already pocketed the Doncaster Spring Mile, and the old warhorse BORDER ARROW (nap 2.35), who is primed for a repeat success in the Magnolia Stakes.

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