Racing: Innox leads Doumen domination

French trainer finds perfect prep for Grand National and Gold Cup challengers

The tricolore flew high here yesterday as François Doumen rolled his Cheltenham and Aintree trials into one race. The Chantilly-based trainer notched a one-two in the Racing Post Chase, as Innox, bound for the Grand National, beat L'Ami, whose target is the Gold Cup.

And while delighted to plunder nearly £80,000 in prize-money, the Frenchman's greater satisfaction came in thinking of the more prestigious pots ahead. "Of course you run your horses to win, if possible," he said, "but getting a race into them was the important thing. And they will now be in top condition for the big ones."

Doumen's conditioning programmes have been thwarted by bad weather on both sides of the Channel, but if Innox and L'Ami came to yesterday's fray underprepared, the question is begged as to what they will do when fully fit. Some punters have already taken the hint; the last-named is now as short as 10-1 for the Gold Cup. "The training gallops at home have been frozen," his trainersaid, "and I have been longing to get a comeback into these two horses. For L'Ami, this was his last chance before Cheltenham. I had hoped to run him at Newbury two weeks ago, but that was frozen as well."

The stablemates benefited from very different rides yesterday. Innox, the tough marathon handicapper, was kept in the van throughout by Tony McCoy, and reacted favourably to the punching ride, gaining lengths each time he put in a power-packed, accurate leap. He led for most of the final circuit, taken on by Ballycassidy over the railway fences, but was back in front by the third-last, the Pond. The classier L'Ami, with young Arnaud Duchêne in the saddle, was handled more conservatively, taken wide and produced late from off the pace.

Carrying top weight, and giving 7lb to Innox, his was a fine effort to go down, staying on well, by two and a half lengths. Half a length behind, two more stable companions, the Paul Nicholls pair My Will and Ladalko, the 11-2 favourite, were split by three-quarters of a length, with Ballycassidy just behind.

Innox, owned by J P McManus, is one of Doumen's favourites. "A lovely chap," he said, "such a nice horse to deal with. He had back trouble early in his career, but Tony said his jumping was so strong today, he gave a hard race to the others." The 10-year-old will go straight to Aintree, where he finished seventh in the National last year. "That was very good, for his first try over the fences," Doumen added. "He seems to run well fresh."

Doumen's good day started when his Triumph Hurdle contender Kasbah Bliss took the Grade Two juvenile hurdle. It was a good afternoon for Duchêne, too; the four-year-old was his first winner of the year and he earned plaudits from his boss for his performance on L'Ami. "I thought it was impeccable," Doumen said. "He made sure he was not blinded by taking him on the outside, gave him a clean race and was not hard with the whip."

The other Gold Cup pointer came in Ireland, where Forget The Past gave 4lb and an eight-length beating to the Grand National candidate Garvivonnian in a Grade Two contest at Fairyhouse. The Michael O'Brien-trained eight-year-old was cut from being one of the rank outsiders for the chasing crown to as low as 16-1.

In the novice ranks, Napolitain looked a different horse to the one who was gifted a Grade One contest earlier this month. Then, Paul Nicholls' five-year-old was running out of puff when the horse in front all but ground to a halt at the final obstacle, but this time he stripped fit as a flea and jumped like one too as Christian Williams took the race to his rivals from the first stride.

Only Gallant Approach, the odds-on favourite, could match his attitude and joined issue on the sweep to the back straight for the final time. A blunder at the first of the railway fences tested McCoy's stickability, but the big chestnut was soon back on an even keel and upsides his smaller bay rival, again apparently galloping the easier.

But Napolitain, now in the frame for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase, is as game as he is talented and, responding to Williams' urgings, stuck out his white-blazed face and eyeballed the challenger, daring him to pass. By the last fence he was in command again, cleared it as cleanly as he had the other 16, and outstayed Gallant Approach up the hill for a five-length win.

BETS OF THE DAY

Serious bet
Gunship (Fontwell 4.40) improved for the step up in trip last time and goes on the ground.

Fun bet
Drop in trip and company might get a tune from Schumann (Fontwell 2.10).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
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