Racing: Irish absence gives Rooster chance to crow again

The doors of the Last Chance Saloon are swinging for Rooster Booster, but at Sandown this afternoon the grizzled veteran gets the opportunity to prove he is still The Man, at least while the boys from Ireland are out of town. The 11-year-old takes on five rivals in the Agfa Hurdle and, on very much better terms than he would be if he met them in a handicap, should be rewarded with the confidence-restoring success that would be no more than his due after some fine efforts this season.

It is now more than 12 months since the former champ recorded a victory, when he took the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock. That success preceded his tremendous short-head second under top-weight in the Tote Gold Trophy, which was the last time a British-trained horse - Geos - won a race in which Rooster Booster took part. In the old boy's six outings since, the reigning title holder Hardy Eustace (twice), Rhinestone Cowboy, Accordion Etoile, Back In Front and Harchibald have led home.

Rooster Booster has dodged the Newbury February showpiece a week hence, when he would be set to concede 15lb to Royal Shakespeare, for instance, instead of 4lb today. And although there are no doubt younger legs now out there on the park, the gallant grey has not exactly disgraced himself lately. Last time out, in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, such was the storming pace he set that Harchibald, the favourite for the crown, caught him only in the last 100 yards.

In the saddle, Richard Johnson is likely to again play his cards early. "I'm mindful of the fact that we will possibly have to make our own running," said trainer Philip Hobbs, "but we don't have anything of Harchibald's calibre to worry about."

If there is an Eric Stoner to take on Rooster Booster, who won today's two-miler two years ago before his finest hour at Cheltenham, in his Lancey Howard role, it is likely to be Royal Shakespeare, fourth in a bog in the latest Champion Hurdle Trial. His trainer, Steve Gollings, rates the six-year-old a genuine contender and he will be more at home on today's better ground, but the experience, technique, toughness and talent of Rooster Booster (2.15) should be too much for The Kid.

The Scilly Isles Novices' Chase is a Grade One contest that produces useful, but rarely exceptional, performers. The 2001 winner, Best Mate, is the odd one out. Back on a right-handed track the triple Gold Cup hero's stablemate El Vaq-uero (2.50), less than fortunate at Cheltenham on his last two outings, can confirm superiority over two earlier victims, Le Passing and Lacdoudal, both of whom have franked the form.

Paul Nicholls's decision not to send Great Travel (1.40) to run in the Victor Chandler Chase at Cheltenham last week from miles out of the handicap looked wise before the event; afterwards, in view of the performance of the winner, Well Chief, it made Solomon look slow-witted. The six-year-old, whose stablemate Cenkos shoulders top weight, can thwart a five-timer by similarly progressive Oneway.

In the day's most valuable hurdle, Liberman, who beat subsequent Grade Two winner Patriarch Express last time, looks a typical Martin Pipe candidate for another big Saturday prize, but better value may be found in Petite Margot (3.25), stepping up in trip after a staying-on third at Haydock.

Back in novice company, the mare's stablemate Ollie Magern (2.30) will start at short odds at Wetherby for compensation after his fall in the Pillar Property Chase a week ago. Grand National winner Amberleigh House continues his road back to Aintree in the two and a half mile handicap chase but is passed over in favour of Mister McGoldrick (3.05), who must concede weight all round but is back on his favourite course.

The Gold Cup second favourite, Beef Or Salmon, is the star turn in the last of the three Grade One contests tomorrow at Leopardstown, where he will face six in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup in his attempt to follow up his defeat of Best Mate at the Co Dublin track last month. The nine-year-old won this three-miler two years ago on his fourth run over fences, a task essayed by the sole British challenger, Murphy's Cardinal, who lost his unbeaten record on his last run, at Sandown.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us