Racing: Pic Up Sticks to score for Channon

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The Independent Online

In their previous lives, Mick Channon, Alan Ball and Peter Shilton won 243 full international caps between them but teamed up on the greatest stage only six times. The last time the three legendary lions pulled on England jerseys in the same dressing room was at Wembley on 16 April 1975, when they were part of the team that trounced mighty Cyprus 5-0 in a European Championship qualifier.

In their previous lives, Mick Channon, Alan Ball and Peter Shilton won 243 full international caps between them but teamed up on the greatest stage only six times. The last time the three legendary lions pulled on England jerseys in the same dressing room was at Wembley on 16 April 1975, when they were part of the team that trounced mighty Cyprus 5-0 in a European Championship qualifier.

Channon did not get a chance to windmill that day; the goals were monopolised by Malcolm Macdonald. But, once again in cahoots with his old muckers, even if only indirectly, he can hit the target this afternoon in the Wokingham Stakes with his charge PIC UP STICKS (nap 4.25). The five-year-old son of Piccolo is part-owned by Ball and is out of Between The Sticks, who raced for Shilton. And neither against Cyprus, nor Scotland (twice), Northern Ireland, Wales and Czechoslovakia were the trio defeated when united on the big occasion.

The happy coincidence of another Euro footballing campaign apart, there are other, more sensible, arguments for siding with the grey. He has been a regular in the better six-furlong handicaps over the last couple of years and although he finished nearer last than first in this one 12 months ago he may be a better horse now. Last year's race was particularly competitive, too; one of the winning dead-heaters, Fayr Jag, contests today's Group One feature, the Golden Jubilee Stakes, third-placed The Tatling won the King's Stand Stakes on Tuesday and fifth-placed Patavellian subsequently took the Prix de l'Abbaye.

Pic Up Sticks suffered an injury in the Great St Wilfred at Ripon last August and was gelded during his recovery. The vet's attentions seem to have brought a revival in form, as has a busman's holiday in Dubai during the winter. He more than paid his way at the Nad Al Sheba carnival, with a third and a first from three runs in seven-furlong contests. After a month off on his return he ran an encouraging third over the minimum trip at Newbury when missing the break and encountering traffic problems, and comes fresh to today's fray. He beat Fayr Jag on his first outing last year.

If Pic Up Sticks, who in the past has raced prominently, can avoid getting embroiled in a battle for the lead, the fact that he has been running over further may stand him in good stead at the end of a stiff six furlongs made stiffer by the inevitable furious pace found when a large field of speedsters start eyeballing each other. A high or low draw, rather than the middle, seems desirable; Pic Up Sticks is near the far-side rail. Others to consider in a typical whose-turn-is-it-today cavalry charge are the lightly raced Fanny's Fancy, from a small yard in blinding form, Greenslades and Cardinal Venture.

The gulf between the best sprint handicappers and the best sprinters has not been huge in recent years and the mighty Australian flyer Choisir emphasised that with his King's Stand/Golden Jubilee double last year. Another foreigner in an increasingly cosmopolitan village, Cape Of Good Hope, made a brave stab at the first leg on Tuesday and the Hong Kong horse turns out again today to try to go one better. He is no Choisir, though, and may not be an Airwave (3.45) either. The filly was second last year, has her ground (assuming no rain) and should get the cover she needs from a middle draw.

Before the start of the meeting the Godolphin team offered Doyen (3.05) as their banker and it has to be said that those passed over for the nomination have not done too badly. And in the longest Flat race in the calendar and the last contest to be run at this meeting's traditional venue until 2005, Big Moment (5.35) can have his.

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