Racing: Buckby Lane can capture the cash for Webber

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The Independent Online

It is jeopardy every time a chaser is sent out for conflict by its seconds, but, at Newbury today, the peril is even more relevant. Plenty of the field in the feature race, the Vodafone Gold Cup, also hold an engagement at the Festival, which is now rushing up, just 10 days away.

It is jeopardy every time a chaser is sent out for conflict by its seconds, but, at Newbury today, the peril is even more relevant. Plenty of the field in the feature race, the Vodafone Gold Cup, also hold an engagement at the Festival, which is now rushing up, just 10 days away.

A bad run, bad luck, or even the tiniest of injuries could push Cheltenham out of reach, pull away the chair from the top table. So why is the immediate future of these many talented handicappers being put at risk? To find that answer you need only to look deep into the eyes of their trainers. There you will find dollar signs. This afternoon's race is worth £100,000, more even than many of the assignments at the Festival.

Martin Pipe, who has developed rather a keen nose for currency down the years, has three irons. Timmy Murphy ride It Takes Time, who persuasively disposed of Ollie Magern and a rival again today, Hand Inn Hand, at Lingfield last time. Horus is the least easy of the three to fancy, but Pipe also saddles, for the first time, Venn Ottery, a consideration still for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Venn Ottery has had his problems, either ones created for him by his enigmatic owner, Oliver Carter, or the malfunctioning breathing that has let him down at the end of races. Yet the 10-year-old has survived an induction up the Jungfrau at Nicholashayne, and no horse with permanently damaged passages has ever done that. He is interesting.

Nicky Henderson also has options in the shape of Scots Grey and Chauvinist, the latter the mount of stable jockey Mick Fitzgerald. "I had to take Scots Grey out of the Racing Post Trophy last Saturday as it was pointless running him on that ground," the trainer said yesterday. "He is a genuine two-and-a-half-mile horse on good ground, so hopefully that is what he will get.

"Chauvinist wouldn't mind it a little bit softer, but he deserves a crack at it. He was impressive at Sandown two weeks ago [when winning by 11 lengths] and rather than going to Cheltenham I am tempted to go here with him and on to Liverpool."

The form which burns on the page though belongs to Buckby Lane (next best 3.15), who overcame a 413-day absence to win at Cheltenham in January. That was sufficient to make him favourite for the Festival's Mildmay of Flete Chase, which looms 12 days ahead.

The greatest achievement of Paul Webber's horse was that he did it the hard way, pounding out on the lead, even though he appeared just short of peak fitness. Still, Buckby Lane was good enough to see off the likes of Whereareyounow, a subsequent winner, as well as Farmer Jack and Iznogoud, who went on to fight out the finish of the Racing Post Chase. That sort of form is about as good as it gets.

The other standout wager at Newbury is also enmeshed in the Racing Post Chase form. Zeta's River (2.45) was second to the canny Banker Count at Kempton, and that winner went on to finish third on his return to Sunbury and the big race.

The top of the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster is dominated by old warriors. Gingembre and Hussard Collonges, both formerly of high station, are still feeling their way back from injury, while this is yet another piece of preparation as 13-year-old Amberleigh House goes about the business of trying to retain the Grand National.

As they creak their way around, it may pay to side with a course-and-distance winner who appears extremely well treated. Run For Paddy (nap 2.25) is actually down 1lb form the mark from which he finished third recently in what was the Great Yorkshire Chase, again over course and distance.

Away from the terrestrial cameras but still with the intrigue, something has to crack at Kelso, where two of the north's leading novices, Mephisto and Faasel, lower their antlers. The former, the winner of the Ebor Handicap on the Flat last summer, is entered in the Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham, while Faasel, another smart handicapper on the Flat, has a selection of Festival entries.

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