Racing: Hobbs moves up a gear with Detroit City spin

The biggest price against any favourite in the first four races here yesterday was just 11-10, but one after another they all contrived to get themselves beaten. And while Philip Hobbs saddled two of the winners, he is hoping that the formbook proves rather more reliable when Detroit City, the Smurfit Champion Hurdle favourite, warms up at Sandown on Saturday.

The grey could scarcely have enjoyed a better weekend than he did in the sanctuary of his stable, just up the road from here. On Saturday, Blazing Bailey became the latest to buttress the form of his success at the Festival last year by winning the Byrne Bros Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham - having finished third, just behind Fair Along and in front of Afsoun, in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

And the next day Hardy Eustace, Detroit City's narrow victim at Cheltenham last month, produced a vintage performance to beat his successor as champion hurdler, Brave Inca, at Leopardstown. Plainly, Detroit City towers above the British hurdlers hoping to break Ireland's hegemony in March.

Partly as a result, there is no mistaking the frisson of partisanship now infecting opinions in the build-up. Brave Inca retains his stubborn disciples, too, but much now hinges on the substance or otherwise of Detroit City's defeat of Hardy Eustace in that sprint finish to the Boylesports Hurdle. Both camps seem equally adamant that the different demands of the Champion Hurdle will favour them in the rematch - though each must first undergo one last rehearsal, Hardy Eustace at Gowran on 17 February and Detroit City in the Agfa Hurdle on Saturday.

"Six weeks today, we'll all know," Hobbs said with a shrug. "In fairness, when he won last time, he was receiving weight [4lb] from Hardy Eustace, which was probably quite important, but I'd like to think as a five-year-old he might still be improving, whereas that can't be true of the rest. I don't mind what sort of race it is on Saturday, it wouldn't matter if he had to make the running again - the important thing is to get another run into him before the big day."

Of course, as his trainer notes, Blazing Bailey is far better suited by the extra distance he covered last weekend. "We knew that already last season," Alan King said. "After the Triumph we stepped him up to two and a half miles at Aintree, where he ran into Natal but pulled a long way clear of the rest."

King had just denied Hobbs a double in the first two races by turning over Leading Contender with Itsa Legend. The winner sampled pioneering stem-cell treatment after suffering a leg injury in his youth and spent the next three years off the track.

His trainer hopes that Blazing Bailey's performance in the Triumph will at least be matched by Katchit, whose own success at Cheltenham on Saturday sustained his bewildering improvement since reaching Barbary Castle. "He's amazing, and I swear he's getting smaller all the time!" King exclaimed. "He won off [a rating of] 77 on the Flat the day before we bought him, but when he arrived I worked him with my 80 horses and he couldn't live with them."

Katchit has since won five of his six starts over timber, the last three at Cheltenham, and his relish for the hill makes him a copper-bottomed Triumph candidate. "The only one I really would fear is the Irish filly, Lounaos," King said. "I thought she ran a cracker when fourth to Hardy Eustace on Sunday."

Among those chastened by odds-on defeat was Venetia Williams, whose Chief Yeoman was collared by a 28-1 shot, Always Waining, in a chaotic novices' chase. She could not begrudge the winning trainer, Robert Stronge, his first victory since last April - not least as she had to wait only five minutes to watch Gustavo, at Folkestone, recording the 50th success of the trainer's excellent season.

The race had been notable for a gymnastic recovery on L'Oudon by the peerless Ruby Walsh, who was hanging round the horse's neck with a circuit to go and might be charged with larceny for the £493 he secured for third place.

Instead he was summoned before the stewards to explain his riding on Another Bottle, never nearer than third in one of the novice hurdles. Paul Nicholls, his trainer, was entitled to feel affronted, candour with the betting public having been integral to his journey to the top.

All he needed to tell the stewards was to review the tape of Walsh riding Predateur here earlier in the month, the only difference being that the nervy Another Bottle was neither as adept in his schooling, nor as fit, as that winner. Both men were properly exonerated.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Barton Sun

(Leicester 2.50)

NB: Jimmy Bond

(Leicester 3.20)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

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
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform