Racing: Kauto Star to prevail in Tingle dogfight

Speed usually provides the thrills of this afternoon's Tingle Creek Chase but, after downpours turned the Sandown ground to heavy yesterday, it could be the nearest thing to a slogger who lifts the prize.

The long climb to the winning post at Sandown Park looked tougher race by race yesterday. If bookmakers offered prices on who would be in front at the foot of the hill, two fences from home, in the Tingle Creek, then Ashley Brook would be odds-on . But it is at that point that this exuberant front-runner will have to start repelling challengers.

The sternest challenge of all is likely to come from Kauto Star (2.35). On the steep ascent to the line, he seems sure to handle the conditions better than any of the seven-strong field.

The five-year-old, ridden by Mick Fitzgerald for the first time because Ruby Walsh is injured, can make this morning's tight odds seem justified.

Paul Nicholls, the grey's trainer whose stable was again among the winners yesterday, pointed out that Kauto Star had performed well on very soft ground in his native France. "To be honest it might help him," he said. "If there was more rain they probably would not go so quick in the early stages. As he is a less experienced horse, that would be in his favour."

If the Sandown card goes ahead - stewards will inspect the track at 7.30am - one horse will be better equipped than any other to handle the heavy ground. Every morning, Victram goes for a paddle in the Irish Sea.

Victram's trainer, Adrian McGuinness, trains on the Co Dublin coast at Lusk and exercises his small team daily on the beach at nearby Rush. Usually they paddle, some days they wade.

More and more trainers these days are building spas at their stables - experience shows that the bathing helps with leg knocks and general well-being.

"We use Rush beach as our spa," McGuinness explained yesterday. "The horses enjoy it and it definitely does them good. In fact,Victram had a paddle yesterday before we put him in the truck. He loves it."

When the truck reached England yesterday morning it broke down. But a replacement was soon found and last night Victram was at Sandown safe and sound.

McGuinness, a former trainer of show-jumping ponies, has trusted the ride on his strongly fancied five-year-old to Andrew Lynch, a 20-year-old unknown in Britain. But the trainer has no doubts about the skills of this 5lb claimer who was Ireland's champion novice point-to- point rider last season.

"Andrew turned professional only in July this year and has had 11 or 12 winners. I can assure you he's an up-and-coming rider. People will be hearing a lot more of him."

McGuinness confesses to having plenty of confidence too in Victram's chance this afternoon. "I wouldn't be sending him over there if I didn't have big hopes for him."

The horse's handicap mark has been protected by running him - successfully - on the Flat. Victram finished powerfully over 10 furlongs to win last month at Navan - a tough track - and he looks leniently weighted today.

Not far inland from McGuinness's stables, Fairyhouse tomorrow stages the Hatton's Grace Hurdle. This invariably instructive contest has only five runners - but includes the high-class Brave Inca, Back In Front and Solerina, as well as Golden Cross making a comeback with the top Flat rider Johnny Murtagh in the saddle.

Brave Inca's trainer, Colm Murphy, reopposes last year's winner, Solerina, in the two-and-a-half mile race and is hoping the seven-year-old can avenge that six-length defeat.

"My fellow is definitely more mature this year and it is a case that there are so few opportunities for him," Murphy said. Brave Inca, the mount of Tony McCoy, can continue a fine winning run en route to a bid for the 2006 Champion Hurdle.

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Adopted Hero (Sandown 3.10)

NB: Brave Spirit

(Sandown 3.40)