Racing: Ryalux can collect just reward for consistency

This is the annual weekend when the domestic DIY is limited to nailing a few planks across the inside of the front door to prevent intruders from disturbing a passage of premium sports drama.

This is the annual weekend when the domestic DIY is limited to nailing a few planks across the inside of the front door to prevent intruders from disturbing a passage of premium sports drama.

There is the Masters from Augusta, FA Cup and Premiership football, as well as racing doing its bit across the board with high-quality Flat fare from Newbury and Leopardstown as well as Ayr's celebrated Scottish National meeting.

We can start with the last named because jumping has precious few remaining opportunities to take centre stage.

The west coast action is gently warmed up by a Scottish Champion Hurdle which includes several renegades from the definitive version at Cheltenham last month. As the Festival runner-up Westender (2.15) comes here off a light season he has to be the selection.

The Caledonian National is less easy to fathom. The top weight is the disappointing Aintree favourite, Shotgun Willy, who was pulled up last weekend, apparently the victim of a broken blood vessel. The blood, like the performance, though, proved not to be his. "Shotgun Willy definitely runs as long as the ground is safe," Paul Nicholls, the trainer, said yesterday. "One factor we had to consider was that this year his whole season had been geared around two or three races and, if we were to miss out in Scotland, it would be the end of the year before I could possibly run him again.

"In the National, Ruby [Walsh] thought he had broken a blood vessel and we did scope him when we got him home and that scope proved clean. I said to his owner, Graham Roach, 'it's your choice', and we have decided to go. We scoped him in order to have a look and make sure because Ruby came back covered in blood, but I think the bottom line was the fact that, for some reason, the horse didn't do a tap at Aintree."

Shotgun Willy was runner-up 12 months ago, a place in front of Gunther McBride, who now reopposes on better terms. These arrangements have been well spotted.

"I see they've made Gunther McBride favourite and I can understand it," Philip Hobbs, the trainer, said. "This season we deliberately missed out on Aintree to get him here a fresh horse and I'm very pleased that Shotgun Willy is running and keeping the weights down for the better horses."

There are only nine animals in the handicap proper, including Ryalux, who has finished in the first three on every completed start. Last time out, in the Racing Post Chase, he was just behind Gunther McBride when the pair were second and third behind La Landiere. The mare went on to win the Cathcart Chase at the Festival.

"The one thing that worried me for Ryalux was that if the weights shot up it would compromise our chance," Andy Crook, the trainer, said. "I was also a little concerned about the going but I'm sure we'll be all right on that score." More than all right. RYALUX (nap 3.30) is untouchable each-way and also a good win bet.

Newbury debuts with the John Porter Stakes, which features a Classic winner in the shape of the St Leger victor, Bollin Eric. Classic winners, however, have to carry Classic penalties, and more attractive here is Clive Brittain's Warrsan (1.35), who can grind his opponents down.

The Fred Darling Stakes is destined for Sir Michael Stoute's Crystal Star (2.35), while the colts' Classic trial, the Greenham Stakes, is headed by Elusive City, the Prix Morny winner. Gerard Butler's colt is a tricky character, though. A more sensible proposition is the Deauville runner-up Zafeen (next best 3.05), whom Mick Channon has always insisted is a cracking beast in the making.

There are animals already of great calibre to be seen on Leopardstown's turf tomorrow. The Derby second favourite, Alberto Giacometti, competes in the Ballysax Stakes, the contest in which Sinndar, Galileo and High Chaparral have begun their Derby conquests over the last three years. He puts his unbeaten record on the line against Alamshar, another who has yet to taste defeat.

In the 2,000 Guineas Trial, another Epsom aspirant, Refuse To Bend, will show his mettle, while the best action may come in an event which is not even on the card. Brian Boru, the Derby favourite, works after racing and it will be serious work, from stalls, over 10 furlongs and in quality company. It may be the most instructive Classic gathering of the year.

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