Racing: Hors La Roi can justify ploy to try longer trip

The concept of a racecourse indulging in a bit of fleecing is not altogether an alien concept as far as visitors are concerned but should today's meeting at Newbury go ahead the track's clientele will, for once, be quite happy. With temperatures forecast at minus four, the entire 15-furlong Berkshire circuit was swathed in the fruit-growers' friend for the second night in succession, a tactic that enabled sport to take place yesterday. All that remains is for punters to find the plums in a pie that has a rather pre-Cheltenham look to it.

Most of the runners in the feature chase, a two and a half-mile handicap, are engaged in similar contests at the Festival. None, though, will match the record at Prestbury Park of a certain 11-year-old who has been there, done that, sometimes with honour, sometimes in disgrace. The chequeredness of his career makes a chessboard look monotone.

Four years ago the faithful cheered Hors La Loi III (3.15) home in the Champion Hurdle, two seasons after he had beaten all bar Istabraq in the race. And as a four-year-old, he won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. But his most recent visit to a Festival ended in ignominy, when he refused to even try to defend his hurdling crown, digging his toes in as the tapes went up in 2003.

Hors La Loi is talented, but has had his physical vicissitudes - he has bled and suffered leg and foot problems - and, by association, discomfort generally translates into reluctance in the equine mind. Paul Green's French-bred gelding has had a succession of trainers, having passed, variously, though the hands of François Doumen, Martin Pipe and James Fanshawe for his hurdling career.

He joined Paul Nicholls last year to be reinvented as a chaser and, after an absence of 20 months, reappeared to win a novices' chase at Taunton, his first success since his day of days at Cheltenham. He jumped big, bold, and, more important, happily that day and since then has posted a couple of solid efforts, firstly behind Justified on today's track and then his stablemate Cerium at Wincanton.

Nicholls is of the opinion that the step up to today's trip will suit Hors La Loi, who has 5lb removed from his burden today by the able Liam Heard, just fine. "He is as well as he has ever been since he joined us," he said. "And I am sure that there is a big race in this horse over farther than two miles." The Ditcheat handler also sends two more first-season chasers, Cornish Sett and Albuhera, to the fray and a case can be made for either, particularly Cornish Sett, Ruby Walsh's second mount back after his injury-induced five weeks off. The seven-year-old was in front of Hors La Loi at the track in January and although he, too, sometimes thinks a bit about his job, he will be jollied today along by a fast pace in a bustling field.

Nicholls has not got to where he is today - more than half a million clear at the head of the trainers' table - by saving all his ammunition for just one target each. Sure, the élite of the elite in his yard have their sole aims, but the foot soldiers are sent out to pick up what they can along the way.

Not all of his colleagues have that luxury, however, and for Oliver Sherwood, today's £57,000 prize has been the plan for some time. Sherwood, who has sent out 132 runners for 13 winners this term (to Nicholls' 487 for 121), is responsible for the likely favourite Claymore, a good winner at Wetherby last month on ground softer than today's. "We've been going for this since the start of the season," he said, "and I was over the moon with his last run."

Walsh returns to action on point-to-point-winning hurdling debutant Captain Windsor (1.35) in the opener and can tail a successful day for his Somerset yard on Pepporoni Pete (4.55) in the bumper. The five-year-old, so impressive at Wincanton on Boxing Day, is rated the equal of Nicholls' Cheltenham candidate Kicks For Free at home.

Today's meetings at Haydock and Kelso are subject to early-morning inspections, and should the Scottish venue pass, the selection of the day, both in terms of topicality and form credentials, has to be SNOWY (nap 3.55).

There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'