Racing: Spot too sprightly for younger rivals

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He deals with the bewildering obstacles on the cross-country course here with such uniform contempt that it is becoming difficult to tell his races apart. Spot Thedifference yesterday won over the course for the fifth time, and the Sporting Index Chase for the third year running, showing not the faintest hint of staleness as he approaches his 14th birthday.

Indeed, he went with more gusto than ever in the hands of JT McNamara, whose contribution to this idiosyncratic adventure has been no less delightful to his owner. "The horse must be getting better with age," JP McManus said. "I don't think any professional could ride him better than John Thomas, and it takes a master craftsman like Enda [Bolger] to prepare horses for this type of race. The old horse is a bit of a thinker, keeps a bit for himself, but is at home over these fences."

Despite his love of the course, Spot Thedifference was somehow allowed to go off at 5-1, and there was no mistaking the warmth of his reception in the winner's enclosure. "I didn't back him," McManus said. "I suppose that helped!"

There was a wretched postscript for McManus and Bolger, however, when their other runner, Buailtes And Fadas, collapsed and died moments after finishing third. In a grotesque coincidence, the same had happened to War General after he finished second in the Anglo Irish Private Banking Novices' Hurdle.

That prize was presented to Moon Over Miami on a silver tray. For it was plainly an illusion that he was finishing fast: he was simply less exhausted than those who contested an excessive early pace, having been ridden with commendable patience by Noel Fehily. "He has got himself beat the last twice, pulling too free," Charlie Mann, his trainer, said. "They went no pace in those races, but they have gone a decent gallop here and it played into our hands."

Standin Obligation, who had been David Pipe's first winner when taking over the training licence from his father, Martin, maintained the stable's outstanding record at this meeting with a fluent display in the Steel Plate and Sections Novices' Chase.