Racing: Detroit City not so slick

Champion Hurdle favourite is far from impressive despite landing another victory

The received wisdom is that five-year-olds do not win Champion Hurdles, or if they do they must be exceptional. The last of the vintage to do so was See You Then 22 years ago; others to back up the claim before him have included Persian War and Night Nurse. Detroit City is favourite to become the next in the sequence at Cheltenham next month, but heads for his assignment on the back of a performance here yesterday that even his trainer, Philip Hobbs, described as only workmanlike.

The massive grey gelding was anything but sparklingly brilliant as he ground out a length-and-three-quarter defeat of Straw Bear in the Agfa Hurdle. Yet he keeps producing persuasive statistics. This was his eighth successive victory, a sequence started over hurdles in January last year. He became the first horse in more than 25 years to win both the Triumph Hurdle - a vintage running in record time - and its Aintree equivalent.

In his run before yesterday he disposed of the former dual champion, Hardy Eustace, who himself saw off the reigning king, Brave Inca, a week ago. So, nothing wrong with the substance. And even if the style does not please, its effect cannot be crabbed. Detroit City just keeps motoring along.

"He just does as much as he has to, and not an inch more," said his rider, Richard Johnson. "The more you ask, the more he gives, and gives willingly and very professionally. But he won't volunteer anything. Which is probably good, especially on a day like today, when the ground was very gluey and tiring. He'll have a bit left for next time."

The clue to the action on the track was there in the preliminaries. Detroit City slouched round the parade ring, blinkered head low and walk indolent. His only credible rival, Straw Bear, stepped out as briskly as a marching Gurkha, neck arched high and proud, but his quick enthusiasm was just not enough.

Johnson let Detroit City leap to the lead at the third hurdle and Straw Bear, on the comeback trail after a flop in top company at Christmas, kept him honest all the way to the line but could not even capitalise on a blunder by the 1-3 favourite - which frightened his backers and trainer more than his rider - at the last flight.

"He half-caught his knee on it, but I think it looked worse than it felt," said Johnson. "OK, he didn't pull away, but that's a hard thing to do up the Sandown hill under any circumstances. He's idle, but he keeps winning. I wouldn't swap him for anything."

Terry Warner's colour-bearer, 17 hands and built with it, will not be allowed much time off before his big day five weeks on Tuesday. "Big, strong and stuffy," said the Minehead-based Hobbs. "He'd come here pretty straight - we didn't want to get him beaten - but he is hard to motivate at home. He swims every day as well as being ridden, and we take him to the beach once a week, which he enjoys and tightens him up."

Hobbs has no illusions about the task facing his stable star, but feels that his very youth may be a quality on his side. "Those Irish horses are very good but they are getting older," he said. "Ours is the one that's improving, and will do so again. Perhaps he was more workmanlike than impres-sive today but he had to do it the hard way. He's the Champion Hurdle favourite, and so he should be."

Yesterday's race caused barely a ripple in the market: Detroit City remains at its head at a general 5-2; Straw Bear, the perceived next best of the home defence, was trimmed to around 10-1. "Whether we beat the winner again remains to be seen," said the chestnut's trainer, Nick Gifford, "but we've put his last run behind us and he's showed he belongs in this sort of company."

A year ago, Detroit City put down his Triumph Hurdle marker in the day's opening juvenile contest. This time it was the turn of last year's Derby eighth, Mountain - now a gelding and transferred from Ballydoyle to Jonjo O'Neill - who rapidly recovered ground lost in a babyish leap two out to win most competently under Tony McCoy. He is now third favourite for the Cheltenham race.

The day's most gratifying win, though, was by Cheshire housewife Agnes Haddock, who picked Taranis to win the Totescoop6 Hurdle and battered the bookies to the tune of £688,000 for a stake of £2 in the eponymous accumulative bet.

BETS OF THE DAY

Best shortshot
The experience of Degas Art (2.30), the only horse to beat Katchit over hurdles, is preferred to record-priced auction buy Purple Moon.

Best longshot
Singhalongtasveer (1.30), not the most consistent, may find his stamina stretched but is dropping in the weights and down in grade.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
News
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
video
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little