Racing: Fast going will help Arch Rebel to bounce back

The day Best Mate dropped dead at Exeter, few retained much appetite to contemplate what had happened at the business end of the race. As things have turned out, however, Monkerhostin's defeat of Kauto Star represented an immediate claim to his share of the legacy.

These horses have since been elevated to favouritism for the two biggest steeplechases at the Cheltenham Festival next month, and both have been declared to run at Newbury today - though the course, like Ayr and Warwick, must pass an inspection this morning.

Stepped up to three miles, Monkerhostin failed by just a neck to run down Kicking King at Sandown on Boxing Day, and injury to the winner has completed his bewildering transformation into favourite for the Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup. Looking at his overall record, this is the equivalent of his disappearing into a phone kiosk and emerging dressed as Desert Orchid.

He faces only three rivals for the Aon Chase today, so it remains to be seen how thoroughly his credentials can be tested. For now, however, the onus of proof remains with Monkerhostin, who may well have exploited a series of weak links at Sandown - a dreadful performance from Kingscliff, for instance, and the palpable lack of stamina in Impek, who still managed third.

Take The Stand (2.35) also seemed to surpass himself when chasing home Kicking King at Cheltenham last year, but ran his best race since in unsuitable ground at Wetherby after Christmas.

Comply Or Die had a tough first season over fences but could enjoy the run of the race here and his own Festival form, when second to Trabolgan, should further discourage anyone tempted by short odds about Monkerhostin.

Kauto Star will, meanwhile, make just his fifth start over fences in the Totepool Game Spirit Chase, and in the circumstances looks a pretty short price for the Queen Mother Champion Chase. He has never run on ground as quick as this, and in terms of experience scarcely has an advantage over Tamarinbleu (3.45), who will be no pushover receiving 10lb.

Nicholls will walk the course before giving Kauto Star the green light to run, and said: "I shall have a walk round and see what the ground is like for Kauto Star but hopefully we'll be alright. Nicholls runs two novices in the valuable Totesport Trophy, but they may prove too innocent for a 26-runner stampede on fast ground.

Arch Rebel (3.10, next best) sank without trace on his two latest outings but certainly has the talent to make his presence felt. He was still doing so approaching the final flight in championship company at Leopardstown last time, and was marooned in heavy ground on his previous start. He has an American pedigree, and has not run on ground as fast as this since winning a Curragh handicap under topweight.

True, he has won in soft ground over hurdles, but only by outclassing inferiors, and Noel Meade's charge remains sufficiently unexposed to be worth chancing at 25-1.

Chief Yeoman also looks interesting, and his stable may offer the best opportunity of the day in FAIR QUESTION (4.25 Ayr, nap). He has plainly had problems but his trainer would seem fairly confident that he is ready to profit from a lenient mark, judging from the long journey he undertakes for his reappearance.

The Hennessy Gold Cup, cornerstone of a terrific card at Leopardstown tomorrow, looks another "home game" for the horse disputing Cheltenham favouritism with Monkerhostin, Beef Or Salmon. But there was no mistaking the sheer class in Hedgehunter at Aintree last year and it will be fascinating to see what progress he has made since these horses met at the Christmas meeting.

Racing Demon meanwhile seeks more experience over fences at Exeter tomorrow, having lost a similar opportunity at Chepstow last weekend. A lot of trainers are skating on perilously thin ice just now, desperate to get a run into horses while there is still time to freshen them up again before the Festival. They know that the window of opportunity narrows with every frost. The stewards at Bangor-on-Dee yesterday required four inspections before Paul Nicholls was able to run Denman. Once Jonjo O'Neill had scratched Black Jack Ketchum - in the hope that an easier opportunity survives at Warwick today - Denman was left to school round unmolested by any rival remotely in his class.

Despite one or two inattentive jumps, Nicholls was fully satisfied and said: "I am pleased I have got another run into him to sharpen him up and as I expected, he has had a real good blow," the trainer said. "He's still a big green baby and he's learning all the time. A race like today is about applying the finishing touches." Denman remains 3-1 favourite with Coral for the SunAlliance Hurdle, from Black Jack Ketchum on 9-2.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Fair Question (Fair Question 4.25)

NB: Arch Rebel

(Newbury 3.10)

Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Popes current and former won't be watching the football together
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting