Racing: Red Lancer stakes claim to tilt at the Arc

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The Independent Online

By Richard Edmondson at Chester

By Richard Edmondson at Chester

There was a historical perspective here yesterday when the apparently overfaced dirt horse Red Lancer was asked to compete in the race made famous by Shergar, the Chester Vase. He looked to have as much chance as those lancers sent in to the Valley Of Death.

Not only did the farmer's horse survive though, he actually put his five rivals to the sword. It was wild unlikelihood in action. "It's like a fairy story," Richard Price, the cattleman trainer, said. But it was more improbable than that.

Red Lancer was claimed out of a Wolverhampton seller for £5,500 in October by the Herefordshire man. That race itself is notable as the three-year-old, then trained by Shaun Keightley, remains under investigation by the Jockey Club, having run a stinker after drifting extravagantly on the exchanges.

The ambitions then were not so mighty. "The plan was to win on the all-weather and perhaps an early turf race," Price said. "We will think about the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe now. I'd love to have a day out there. I like Paris." It sounded faintly ridiculous, but not as much as it would have done in the morning. Criftage Farm at Ullingswick may not be the most celebrated of racing strongholds, housing as it does just 13 horses. But Price is no fool, having already won a Champion Hurdle, in 1994, with Flakey Dove. If he feels inferiority, he hides it well. "On the racetrack it doesn't matter if a horse cost £1m or £1,000," the trainer said. "On the course they all go out to compete and they are all equals."

Price sent out three winners on Tuesday, yet the week had started dreadfully for the yard when Court Shareef, their Coral Cup runner-up at the Cheltenham Festival, was killed at Haydock. "We still haven't come to terms with that really. This is the best possible way to get over it," the trainer said. The unlikely saviour was slow out of the stalls for the Group race yesterday as the more favoured horses took their positions. Isidore Bonheur and Temple Place hammered away on the lead and the latter ploughed on about four furlongs out. Graham Island followed him through, but the growing and startling realisation was that Red Lancer was still not off the bridle.

In the straight, the gelding scooted along the rail as the remainder looked in desperate need of lifebelts. By the time Robert Miles started to arrest his partner, he was five lengths to the good. Neither has the 22-year-old jockey hitherto been a compelling force in the Flat realm. A voice over the Roodeye Tannoy told us that not only was this his biggest success on the course but it was also his first.

Miles was almost lost to racing aged 16, when he began to find the whole thing rather irksome. "I'd just had enough of horses," he said. The young man started fitting tyres and, after a new career which lasted two weeks, really understood what boredom meant.

"It's not the same as riding horses you know," he said. "I didn't quite get the same thrill." Now, if the story runs it true course, Miles must wait to see if he keeps the ride at Longchamp in a Parisian autumn. "People underestimate Red Lancer," the jockey said. "I heard Frankie Dettori say that I'd passed him like a Group One horse. His heart is as big as a house. He wants to gallop. He left them for dead." He did the same to credulity.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Retirement

(Chester 4.05)

NB: Wanna Shout

(Lingfield 5.05)

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