It is rather incongruous, but racing royalty rarely comes to Windsor. However, a transplanted card from Ascot means a gilded horsebox, and a much-travelled one at that, has transported an equine prince for this afternoon's card.
Inglis Drever, the staying hurdle champion of all he surveys, is in the castellated town and appears to have little more than a coronation service to conduct in the Long Walk Hurdle.
Things could have been more difficult. Baracouda, the gelding Inglis Drever supplanted as the best long-distance performer over timber, should have been champing to gain revenge. But there has been a denial of a third clash of the year between our titans because of a clerical error in the François Doumen office. Baracouda was not confirmed for the race. Sacre bleu, François may have said. Well something bleu at least.
Therefore, the loss for Arena Leisure, who run Windsor, is a gain for several others. Connections of the few challengers take on Inglis Drever in the knowledge they may not beat the northern horse, but at least the scraps are of a cordon bleu variety. Consolation for second place is £16,000, while there is £8,000 for third. Even the last home will pay for his failure with expenses of £2,000.
At some point in the race there will also be hope for those who choose to oppose the roughly 1-3 odds which will be quoted about Inglis Drever (2.10). He likes to throw in a flat spot in his races which suggests he is going nowhere. Quite the opposite quickly becomes apparent. The six-year-old's transport needs to possess as much stamina as the contents. Yesterday, the World Hurdle winner from the Cheltenham Festival embarked on a 280-mile trek from Howard Johnson's stable in County Durham.
"He's spot on," the trainer said. "He set off for Windsor just before 11am. You're not going to get a quick journey down with this Friday traffic. It'll take a long time - about six or seven hours." Graham Lee is expected to partner Inglis Drever despite missing his one ride at Uttoxeter yesterday. Good horses have that recuperative effect on jockeys. Lee took an ugly tumble from Grattan Lodge at Catterick on Thursday and missed his final mount of the day.
"He was a bit stiff when he got up this morning and decided to take a day off to be 100 per cent for a big day on Saturday," Richard Hale, Lee's agent, said. "He has had a rest and a bit of physio and should be right for tomorrow."
In the absence of Baracouda, only four horses take on the British Horseracing Board Order of Merit winner, including Crystal d'Ainay, the runner-up 12 months ago. The six-year-old has been beaten by Inglis Drever at both Wetherby and Newbury this season, but Alan King is trusting to the fabled system of third time lucky.
"Everything has gone fine since Newbury and I'm very happy with him," the Barbury Castle-based trainer said. "He ran very well in the race last year. We just got beat close home by Baracouda."
The Ian Williams-trained Brewster was back in fifth place on his seasonal reappearance behind Inglis Drever and Crystal d'Ainay at Wetherby, but was later found to have been suffering from a sinus problem. "He came back from Wetherby with a sinus infection, but he's very well now," the Alvechurch trainer said.
"While it's obviously still a huge ask tomorrow we're hoping he'll show some improved form. We're very fortunate enough to have AP [Tony McCoy]. He's ridden the horse before, so he knows what he has and hasn't got."
Risk Accessor turns out quickly again in the 1.40 after ruining McCoy's boyish good looks after slipping up the on the bend approaching the fourth in the Robin Cook Memorial Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday. Both the 10-year-old and the champion's teeth have since been rearranged.
There will, however, be no fairytale ending for the fairytale prince. The one to be on here is LIMERICK BOY (nap 1.40), whose latter form from last season stinks, but who runs well fresh and hails from the in-form premises of Venetia Williams.
Haydock and Newcastle inspect
Today's meetings at Haydock and Newcastle are both subject to 8am inspections due to the threat of overnight frost.
Temperatures are set to dip below freezing, prompting the Haydock clerk of the course, Kirkland Tellwright, to take an early look. "After a spell of mild weather, it is due to get a lot colder," he said. "It could drop as low as minus three which would give us an even-money chance of going ahead."
James Armstrong, his opposite number at Newcastle, added: "It should only get to minus one overnight, which does not sound much, but there will be a strong wind and I'm told the frost could get in a bit."
Nap: Limerick Boy (Windsor 1.40)
NB: Silver Knight
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