Racing: Lee back on House after Abbey pulls out

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The Independent Online

In the end, Graham Lee's decision has been made for him. The leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival was behaving like the pretty prom girl as he decided which horse to ride in the Grand National. But one of his prospective partners, Grey Abbey, has dropped out, it was announced last night.

In the end, Graham Lee's decision has been made for him. The leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival was behaving like the pretty prom girl as he decided which horse to ride in the Grand National. But one of his prospective partners, Grey Abbey, has dropped out, it was announced last night.

The 11-year-old was schooled over Aintree-type fences at the Co Durham yard of Howard Johnson yesterday and apparently failed the exam. The grey remains a consideration instead over the Mildmay obstacles at Liverpool, leaving Lee to concentrate his National resources on last year's winner, Ginger McCain's Amberleigh House.

Binoculars will not apparently be needed in the grandstands to spot the winner of the opening leg of the Spring Double at Doncaster tomorrow. When the draw for the Lincoln was made yesterday, the committee opinion seemed to be that high was best.

In the absence of Ginger, the Town Moor executive called up another great bastion of liberal free-thinking in Eric Bristow to conduct the draw. The Crafty Cockney (the clue is in the name) first pulled the saddlecloth number of Philip Mitchell's Forever Free and the tone was set. A representative for the Epsom trainer selected stall 22 of the 22 available.

A pattern was then established as all the high numbers were snaffled, most significantly the 21-berth for the ante-post favourite New Seeker. That was enough for one firm to step in line about Clive Cox's runner and make him the 5-1 favourite.

Of the other fancied runners, Divine Gift will go from six, Stream Of Gold from 13 and St Petersburg will race from five. The last-named's trainer, Mark Tompkins, who won the Lincoln last year with Babodana, said: "I'm very happy with the horse. I could do with a bit more rain, but the ground will be okay. I'm drawn where I wanted to be drawn so I'm quite happy.

"He was second here last year in the Spring Mile behind Autumn Glory [a Doncaster winner yesterday] and then won a nice race at Pontefract and then he won at York. He's a decent horse and he's fit and well."

Terry Mills's Resplendent One will attempt to turn conventional thinking on its head from stall No 1. The four-year-old will at least have a jockey who is used to bucking convention on board. Kieren Fallon has been snapped up for the ride after his intended mount, Zero Tolerance, was found to be slightly lame yesterday morning. That meant that Gary Carter, Resplendent One's original jockey, was soon out of a job.

There was further shuffling of aces in the pack, when Frankie Dettori, who had been pencilled in for El Coto, switched to Blythe Knight for Ed Dunlop. Seb Sanders will now come in for the mount on Ed McMahon's charge.

As expected, a maximum field was declared for the Lincoln, with Uhoomagoo being taken out along with the ex-Godolphin Meshaheer, who misses the race as he failed to sparkle in a gallop on Wednesday.

The latter's trainer, Marcus Tregoning, said: "He worked yesterday and I was not happy with him so I have decided not to declare him and will have to go back to the drawing board." Although Kevin Ryan has taken out Uhoomagoo, he still has three runners - Cardinal Venture, Always Esteemed and My Paris. "All three horses are going into the race very well," he said.

"Always Esteemed has come through his preparation - he was third in the Lincoln Trial, which seems to be a good guide to this race. He's in great form and we've had a clear run with him so we're very happy. It's very hard for a horse like Cardinal Venture to make all the running in a race like the Lincoln so we'll probably hang on to him a little bit. He doesn't have to make the running. We've just got to ride him a bit different on Saturday."

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