Racing: Rembrandt could paint bookmaker into corner

If Sir Rembrandt wins the Gold Cup today, he will cost Ladbrokes a record pay-out. An internet punter from Halifax chanced a £10 Cheltenham ante-post accumulator in January and so far Arcalis (20-1), Hardy Eustace (10-1) and Trabolgan (10-1) have come in. There is now £25,410 rolling on to Sir Rembrandt at 33-1 and the punter stands to win £863,947.

If Sir Rembrandt wins the Gold Cup today, he will cost Ladbrokes a record pay-out. An internet punter from Halifax chanced a £10 Cheltenham ante-post accumulator in January and so far Arcalis (20-1), Hardy Eustace (10-1) and Trabolgan (10-1) have come in. There is now £25,410 rolling on to Sir Rembrandt at 33-1 and the punter stands to win £863,947.

"This would be the firm's biggest publicly acknowledged pay-out in 120 years of trading," Ladbrokes spokesman, Balthazar Fabricius, said.

But irrespective of what happens in today's Gold Cup, Moscow Flyer will be the season's champion chaser. The brilliant two-miler has been raised 1lb to a rating of 180 after his two-length defeat of Well Chief in Wednesday's Queen Mother Champion Chase.

His performance was judged his best ever by the official handicapper, Phil Smith, who said: "Well Chief's run was rock-solid to 177, and I've taken the view that the two lengths could have been three; Barry was doing a bit of whip-twirling and showboating at the end. I've left Azertyuiop on 178, as I feel that something was amiss and the run can be ignored for the moment."

The appraisal confirms the view of the 11-year-old's jockey that the horse is the best to have come out of Ireland since the days of Arkle and Flyingbolt, the stablemates who were rated 212 and 210, respectively, in 1966. Moscow Flyer is the first chaser to breach the 180 barrier since Desert Orchid, who 15 years ago was on 187.

"Even if something wins the Gold Cup by 20 lengths," added Smith, "the assumption would have to be that some of the others did not perform, and so whoever the winner is, his rating is not going to be better than Moscow Flyer's. He is the champion."

After a bright, breezy day, the Cheltenham executive decided yesterday afternoon to water the ground overnight to maintain the "good, good to soft in places" conditions that prevailed yesterday. The clerk of the course, Simon Claisse, said: "In view of the drying conditions and the forecast for tomorrow of temperatures of up to 17 degrees, the course will be watered this evening and overnight to maintain ground conditions. The equivalent of between four and five millimetres of rain will be put on."

Paul Nicholls and Howard Johnson, the trainers of Gold Cup candidates Strong Flow and Grey Abbey, both of whom have had well-documented leg problems, have voiced concerns about the drying ground.

"We would not want it too quick," Nicholls said. "I would not risk him if the ground gets faster, and that goes for my other runners too, like Cerium in the Triumph Hurdle and L'Ange Au Ciel in the Grand Annual."

If Grey Abbey does not run, he will be retired. The 11-year-old's off-fore suspensory ligament is under constant supervision and although he travelled to the course yesterday his chances of lining up are no more than 50-50. "I'll see what the ground is like, and what he is like, in the morning and then decide," Johnson said. "He's in the fettle of his life, but he owes us nothing and we'll do what's best for him."

Laska De Thaix became the meeting's second fatality after a fall in the four-mile National Hunt Chase. The seven-year-old, trained by Philip Hobbs, broke a leg after being brought down at the 14th obstacle. Persian Waters collapsed and died after finishing fourth on Wednesday.

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