Racing: Pagan Sky to halt Balding's Turbo-charged final fling

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The Independent Online

Another Doncaster, another curtain comes down this afternoon as the leaning laurels are waiting to circle the necks of the respective turf champions.

Another Doncaster, another curtain comes down this afternoon as the leaning laurels are waiting to circle the necks of the respective turf champions.

It is an almost seamless transition, as the likes of Beef Or Salmon and Moscow Flyer enter from another wing to herald some serious stuff in the National Hunt sphere.

For today, though, we must hail Frankie Dettori, for regaining his appetite and jockeys' championship from Kieren Fallon. Hand in glove comes his great Godolphin confederate, Saeed bin Suroor, the leading trainer ahead of Sir Michael Stoute and Mark Johnston, who takes away the substantial consolation of having saddled the most winners.

This afternoon, while the credits roll to clapperboard and gopher level, we must also salute an outgoing participant. Toby Balding will end 47 years as a trainer at close of play.

His Kimpton Down stables are represented today by Desailly at Sandown and at Doncaster by Historic Place in the last and by Turbo, who has been made favourite to retain the notable pot of the November Handicap. "Turbo's an enigma," Balding said this week. "He's an autumn horse, he comes good at this time of year and he's in screamingly good form. He has not got a good draw [20] on paper, but, as he has got to be dropped in and likes to come wide, it's not a disaster.

"But he will not win on sticky ground. My worry is that it will get wet and then start to dry. He wants proper wet ground that he can slop through. He's in very good order and he could not go to the races in any better shape, but I certainly would not be wanting to back him as favourite. He was the right price last year at 20-1."

Turbo was second in his prep, just as he was in the equivalent race at Newbury last season. On the earlier outing he has something to find with a big-priced horse, one which also possesses form with other horses today in PAGAN SKY (nap 2.55).

The Listed sprint appears at the mercy of Quito (2.20), especially as Royal Storm is close by in the stalls and should give him the required lead. The nursery is less easy to read, but Ed Dunlop's Qawaafil (3.25) has always looked the part, goes on soft, appears to have the best of the draw and emanates from a yard surfing on a tsunami.

The jumping fraternity pulls on the gumboots at Wincanton, where top dollar is on offer. Swansea Bay is on a hat-trick in the Badger Ales Trophy, but, on the form of 12 months ago, Gunther McBride (next best 3.10), who was a solid winner on his Kempton reappearance, should give him a race.

Comply Or Die (2.05), who was fourth in the Royal & SunAlliance Hurdle last season, was beaten at Cheltenham last time out. That should be just a blip. The Elite Hurdle is a lopsided affair, with Rigmarole giving 19lb and upwards to his seven rivals. The credible alternative appears to be Howle Hill (3.40), who cleared the pipes under a monster weight at Wetherby on his seasonal debut and is now in receipt himself of 24lb.

The Irish fare begins today in the north at Down Royal, which is attended by Harbour Pilot, who has finished third in the last two Cheltenham Gold Cups. That, however, is not enough to gain Noel Meade's horse the largest capitals on the billboard. That honour goes to Kicking King on his first stretch to three miles and, particularly, Beef Or Salmon, whom all of Ireland believe will beat Best Mate one day.

Perhaps the best Irish jumping horse of recent years, Moscow Flyer, starts out again in the Fortria Chase at Navan tomorrow. Jessica Harrington's 10-year-old lost his sense of invulnerability when falling behind Azertyuiop in the Queen Mother Champion Chase in March.

Paul Nicholls's horse threw down a rather chunky and heavily spiked gauntlet at Exeter on Tuesday and Moscow Flyer must win well tomorrow to set up a tingling rematch in, what else, the Tingle Creek Trophy at Sandown in a month's time.