Racing: Classy Ackzo puts up claim in testing Eider

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The Independent Online

Plenty of the pretty horses will be on view at Ascot today, but the hard cases will be at Newcastle for a four-miles-and-one-furlong slog through the mud in the main betting interest of the day, the Eider Chase.

Runners carrying around the bottom weight of 10st understandably have a fine record in this endurance test, but do not ignore the claims of the two at the top of the handicap, Ackzo and Narrow Water. Both are saddled by Ferdy Murphy, who has the strongest team of out-and-out stayers of any jumping yard in the country.

The trainer yesterday predicted big runs from his charges, both of whom are proven in testing ground. Ackzo is a classier type, but Murphy suggested that Narrow Water's dismal form figures this season of "PPP" can be dismissed.

"Narrow Water is a Billy Bunter of a horse and all he wants to do is eat and sleep," Murphy said. "So we've been cutting the protein level in his feed. He takes a lot of getting fit but he's a fair bit slimmer lately and seems to be on his way back."

The talented 22-year-old J P McNamara (John Patrick back home in Co Offaly) has the ride of Narrow Water and adds: "All the signs are that he's returning to the horse he was when he won the Eider Chase last year."

But the word in the Murphy stable is that McNamara, the No 2 rider in the yard, would – if given the choice – have picked to ride Ackzo. Adrian Maguire, the stable No 1, has that privilege, however, and Maguire's judgement proved spot on two weeks ago when he partnered Streamstown to victory in the National Trial at Uttoxeter in preference to another, better-backed Murphy runner. ACKZO (nap, 3.35) can defy the burden of top weight. The same trainer/rider combination can strike with Luzcadou (3.05), who just failed to take third place in better company at Kempton last week.

At Ascot, rave notices were out for Tiutchev (2.35) after an effortless Sandown win last time. He did not have much to beat that day, however, and the opposition is stronger now, so ridiculously short odds should not be taken. Exit To Nowhere could have been put up as a danger had Paul Nicholls' stable had not been struggling of late.

Valley Henry runs later in the card as Nicholls attempts to prove wrong those who insist his high quality seven-year-old novice chaser does not handle right-handed courses. Iznogoud (3.45) is on the small side, but can take this contest for the champion jockey, Tony McCoy.

Mick Fitzgerald has the most attractive book of rides on the card, though. In addition to Tiutchev, Fitzgerald has great chances on Calling Brave (4.50), Farmer Jack (next best, 2.00) and Artic Jack in the first race.

A horse named Mini Sensation finished the runner-up to Artic Jack over course and distance five weeks ago but proved anything but that with a very poor performance at Kempton last week. Mini Sensation let the Ascot form down in a big way, so the ex-French Jimmy Tennis (1.30) can take advantage of an 11lb weight concession from Fitzgerald's mount.

* Racing at Carlisle on Monday is described as "extremely unlikely" following yesterday's inspection. Parts of the course are waterlogged and another inspection will be held at 1.0pm today.

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