Racing: Nicholls to scoop main prize with Gift Horse

The last to carry more than nine stone to victory was King's Signet 12 years ago who, with 9st 10lb on his back, shares the avoirdupois record with the 1984 winner, Petong. The lightest burden ever carried successfully, incidentally, was the 5st 4lb of the boy Irvine that Psalmsinger barely noticed in 1845, four years after Oliver Twist first asked for more gruel in Dickens' eponymous social-conscience novel. Today's fatties can enjoy the luxury of a full English before they get the leg-up ahead of their minute or so's gallop towards prizes totalling £100,000.

The draw for this most competitive of handicaps is always under scrutiny. The perceived wisdom is that a high-numbered berth on the far side is a plus and, indeed, 11 of the past 20 winners have come from the upper third, with six of the past ten drawn 27 or higher. Five during that time, including last year's victor, Pivotal Point, from the number one box, have had a single-figure position, so the message seems to be to avoid those positioned in the middle.

Despite its open nature, the six-furlong dash is a pretty good one for favourites and fancied horses, with only Guinea Hunter (33-1), Shakari's Son (40-1) and Madraco (50-1) obliging the pin-stickers in recent years.

This year's hot-shot in the market has been Lafi, whose credentials stand close inspection. He is trained by Dandy Nicholls, who has made valuable sprints such as this a specialist subject; he ran an excellent trial at Newbury six days ago, when a closing second over five furlongs from an unfavourable draw, and goes on easy ground.

He has already been placed at Group 3 level and the fact that he holds entries in the Nunthorpe Stakes and Haydock Sprint Cup suggests that he is regarded in a progressive light.

But then, so does his stablemate Gift Horse (3.45). This five-year-old has stepped up a notch since being dropped back in distance by Nicholls, who acquired him for 25,000 guineas at auction last October. From three outings the Cadeaux Genereux gelding has won twice - most recently at Epsom, another downhill track, on Derby day - and finished third at York in a very decent contest. Kieren Fallon gave him a masterful ride at Epsom and is back in the saddle today. He can help the Yorkshire stable to a second Stewards' Cup win, after Tayseer, a horse with a similar profile, five years ago.

Others to consider are the Richard Fahey pair Mutawaffer and Fonthill Road, who sandwiched Gift Horse at York, and last year's third, High Reach, and Connect among the low-drawn brigade.

Class today comes with the meeting's second Group One contest, the Nassau Stakes. There are no riches to be gained by so doing, but it seems impossible to look beyond globetrotting Alexander Goldrun (3.10), one of the most consistent and admirable of performers at this level. Her past nine outings - in her native Ireland, France, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Britain - have been in the top grade, and yielded three wins, three seconds, a third and a fourth. Last time out, in the Falmouth Stakes, only miling queen Soviet Song proved her mistress and she will relish the return to 10 furlongs.

Sir Michael Stoute has sent out the past three Nassau winners - Favourable Terms, Russian Rhythm and Islington - and his charge Red Bloom is the obvious danger. She was caught a little flat-footed when second to Alexander Goldrun at the Curragh in May and, as a daughter of Selkirk, should appreciate the opportunity to race on soft ground.

The Oaks has produced three recent winners, Islington, Zahrat Dubai and Hawajiss. This year's Classic is represented by Something Exciting, second, and Virginia Waters, fourth, but the evidence suggests that the Classic filly generation, with the notable exception of French-trained Divine Proportions, who turns out tomorrow at Deauville for the Prix d'Astarte, may be vulnerable this year.

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Alexander Goldrun (Goodwood 3.10)

NB: Nuit Sombre (Doncaster 3.30)

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas