Racing: Weld plans in the air for Swallow's return

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A day after the 2,000 Guineas market leader, One Cool Cat, made his first public appearance of the year in a racecourse spin at the Curragh, the second favourite for the premier mile Classic, Grey Swallow, faced similar scrutiny on the grassy Co Kildare acres. And as far as his trainer, Dermot Weld, is concerned, the bird has nothing to fear from the feline in terms of close- season progress.

A day after the 2,000 Guineas market leader, One Cool Cat, made his first public appearance of the year in a racecourse spin at the Curragh, the second favourite for the premier mile Classic, Grey Swallow, faced similar scrutiny on the grassy Co Kildare acres. And as far as his trainer, Dermot Weld, is concerned, the bird has nothing to fear from the feline in terms of close- season progress.

"He has grown and lengthened over the winter and I am extremely happy with him," said the master of Rosewell House, aiming for back-to-back Guineas wins. "He has matured mentally and physically and while he has not yet been asked to do any serious work, I am very pleased with the little bits he has done."

Grey Swallow, unbeaten in his two runs last year, emerged from his stable, hardly a horseshoe's throw from the racetrack, to strut his stuff at Weld's pre-season media morning. The son of Daylami breezed purposefully on an all-weather strip with Pat Smullen in the saddle, but a decision has yet to be made as to whether he will have a race before tackling the big one on the Rowley Mile on 1 May.

Last year, Weld prepped his 2,000 Guineas winner, Refuse To Bend, in the Leopardstown trial but the timing was more favourable then. "That race is ideal, but whereas it was three weeks before Newmarket last season, there are only two weeks between the races this time."

Other Guineas-entered colts to receive favourable mention from their trainer were Gowran maiden winner Medicinal; winter acquisition Wathab, second to One Cool Cat in the National Stakes; and Simple Exchange, winner of a Listed race at Cork. "He is a late May foal who was immature last year and has progressed considerably," said Weld. On the three-year-old-filly front, he singled out Misty Heights and Refuse To Bend's unraced sister Genuine Charm.

Apart from his Classic-winning and globetrotting exploits, Weld has the claim to fame that he is the trainer who has come closest to bringing off the Spring Double in the same year. Only five trainers have won both the Lincoln and Grand National in the 161 years since the two were run, but none in the same season. In 1984, Weld sent out Saving Mercy to win at Doncaster and Greasepaint to chase Hallo Dandy home at Aintree. The last-named, incidentally, the oldest living National hero, was presented yesterday with a new rug by big-race sponsors Martell to mark his 30th birthday.

The field for the 150th Lincoln was whittled to a mere 90, from a modern-day record entry of 141, at the penultimate declaration stage yesterday. In the old days, when the mile prize was contested on the Carholme at Lincoln, more than half would have got a run (58 did in 1948) but since its transfer to Town Moor there has been a safety limit and a maximum of 24 will face the starter on Saturday. Punting will start in earnest once the final line-up and draw are known on Thursday, but there was a market move yesterday for the Marcus Tregoning-trained Alkaadhem, who has wintered in Italy and is challenging Fremen (Sir Michael Stoute) for favouritism at 10-1.

Andrew Balding is one of three handlers with contenders in both legs of the Spring Double, a concept that was, before all-weather racing took the gloss off the start of the Flat, once a serious medium for gamblers.

Balding has two Lincoln prospects, Our Teddy, the choice of Martin Dwyer, and Pentecost. Tony Dobbin has been offered the National ride on last year's fourth, Gunner Welburn.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Noble Baron

(Exeter 2.50)

NB: Bak To Bill

(Exeter 3.20)

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