Racing: Fallon can take a final salute on Capitano

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The Independent Online

Another flat season in Britain passes under the bridge this afternoon and, quite appropriately as the winter game forces its softer cousin off stage, it is being carried away by great torrents of water.

It may even be that the November Handicap, symbolically the final "big" race of the season, will not be staged at all. Around 9mm of rain fell on Town Moor yesterday and the fair citizens of Doncaster were not due to be spared last night either, when a further 7mm was forecast.

By the time they go sploshing out on to the South Yorkshire turf at 8am today we will already know if another of the day's leading races has been called off. An inspection at Down Royal comes half an hour earlier to determine if their Champion Chase, Northern Ireland's richest race, goes ahead.

Abandonment would be a pity, as some favourite old warriors are due to come clanking, once again, on to the battlefield. Florida Pearl is due to make his seasonal reappearance for the fourth consecutive year here in an event he won back in 1999. His conqueror 12 months ago, Foxchapel King, is also among the cast.

There is a place in Ulster too for Paul Nicholls's first runners at Down Royal, including the marvellous See More Business. The 1999 Gold Cup winner, who finished third in the Blue Riband in March, will be 13 in seven weeks' time but he is still creaking quickly.

Doncaster will be akin to trench warfare, and the only horses to consider are those capable of pulling a cannon through a quagmire. Mesmeric (2.25) is a qualifier, as is CAPITANO CORELLI (nap 3.30), the mount of Kieren Fallon, who has yet another jockeys' championship in the bag.

Fallon will have to be on minimum rations to make the weight of 8st 4lb, but it should be worth it. Capitano Corelli won over course and distance two weeks ago, beating Luca Cumani's Sarin, a late withdrawal from today's race. The selection is a young horse, a big horse, and that should carry him through.

There is a similar profile at Chepstow about Nicholls's Le Roi Miguel, who is already second favourite for the Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival behind stablemate Azertyuiop, even before jumping a fence in anger.

The four-year-old (and it hard to believe that figure when you see his huge frame before you) goes for the Rising Star Novices' Chase, a contest which has been won before by the likes of Bindaree, Lady Cricket and Northern Starlight.

Nicholls himself has gathered it with See More Business and Irbee and already believes Le Roi Miguel (next best 1.10) worthy of mention in their company. He is one of the few horses ever to make it up the Matterhorn gallops at Ditcheat three times on the trot.

The scattered forces of Manor Farm stables also take in the neighbourhood challenge of Wincanton and the Badger Brewery Chase. The top weight, Carbury Cross, is an interesting visitor from Jonjo O'Neill's yard and a good run here could cause promotion to Hennessy Gold Cup favouritism. His very position at the top of the handicap though leaves him vulnerable.

Nicholls collected this in 2000 and the following year with Flaked Oats and the scene is set for the creation of another dual winner, Montifault (2.40), the winner 12 months ago.

There are testing conditions also today in France for their final Group One event of the season, the Criterium de Saint-Cloud. Aidan O'Brien saddled the first three home in this 12 months ago, but obviously thought that was not good enough. This afternoon the Ballydoyle trainer sends out Alberto Giacometti, The Great Gatsby, Cougar and Delacroix, the first two of which will be ridden by Michael Kinane and Johnny Murtagh respectively.

There may not be great pleasantry between the two jockeys in the Parisian parade ring as they are locked together in a compelling dual for the Irish jockeys' championship. Both are on 76 winners and both have a full book of eight rides for the final day at Leopardstown tomorrow. In fact, both could still win. One set of odds has the dead-heat at 7-4.