Racing: Ebtikaar the name to remember in November

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The Independent Online

The November Handicap does not rank high on Piggott's CV. He won the traditional curtain-dropper to the Flat season only once, on the Richmond Sturdy-trained Tintagel in 1969. But at least he did win it; two other feature handicaps, the Lincoln and the Cambridgeshire, were unconquered.

Piggott was champion apprentice twice, in 1950 and 1951. By then he had had a Derby ride, unplaced on Zucchero, and won an Eclipse Stakes, on Mystery. This afternoon's sport will reveal the identity of this year's boy wonder. Or, it may be, girl; Hayley Turner and Saleem Golam are locked together on 44 winners.

Today, the duelling pair have seven head-to-head rides each, in all six contests at Southwell, which will bring a rare focus of interest to a morning-start banded meeting, before they head up the A1 to Doncaster, and the November Handicap, in which Turner partners Rawdon for Michael Bell and Golam is on Chris Thornton-trained Lets Roll.

In its heyday the November Handicap, first run in 1876, was the last great gambling spectacle of the year, even though it was usually run on hock-deep ground on a track with the action mostly invisible because of the habitual fog shroud of its old home alongside the River Irwell. The race was transferred to Town Moor after the Manchester course's closure in 1963 (and it was Piggott who rode the last winner there, on Fury Royal in the Goodbye Plate).

Although all-weather racing now keeps the Flat's participants in a job all year round, the last day of the turf season marks - rather arbitrarily - the cut-off point for the various championships. Jamie Spencer is assured his first senior riders' title, Sir Michael Stoute his eighth trainers' crown, and Hamdan Al Maktoum will be leading owner for the fifth time.

In the absence of a superstar performer (one-trick pony Eswarah, the Oaks winner, was his leading earner) Sheikh Hamdan has done it with numbers. He goes into the day not only with more prize-money in the coffers than anyone else (more than £1.7m) but more winners, 95. Ebtikaar (3.35), his November Handicap candidate, will be the 543rd and last runner of the domestic season and this progressive, in-form three-year-old, winner of a competitive contest at Newmarket last month, can end it with a flourish. Others to consider are Rawdon and Gold Gun.

Ten furlongs on easy ground in south Yorkshire is successfully trodden territory for Mango Mischief (3.00), who was making such a good fist of giving weight to Ouija Board in the Princess Royal Stakes at Newmarket last month before her stamina patently ran out. Kevin Darley ended yesterday still on 99 winners; in the nursery London Express (12.45) can bring up his century.

The unhappy events of Tuesday at Exeter notwithstanding, the jumps campaign is gathering pace and today at Down Royal two horses who have the scalps of the most recent Gold Cup winners meet in the season's first Grade One contest, the James Nicholson Chase.

For an if-only horse, Beef Or Salmon does not have a bad record, half of his 12 jumping wins having come at the top level, including a defeat of Kicking King in this last year, before beating Best Mate at Leopardstown. He comes here with a cobweb-removing run on the Flat under his girth.

The rising star War Of Attrition (2.40) beat Kicking King fair and square at Punchestown last month, when making their returns, and although he will be trying today's trip for the first time, he stayed on over two furlongs less there. He may prefer better ground, but has youth and speed on his side.

Wincanton stages a cracking card, brimful of interest for the future. Napolitain (2.10) is Paul Nicholls's pick from a multiple entry in the novices' chase, while Red Devil Robert (3.15) can emerge as a Hennessy Gold Cup contender for the powerful Ditcheat yard in the stayers' handicap.

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Gold Gun (Doncaster 3.35)

NB: Naunton Brook

(Wincanton 3.15)