Racing: Wylie investment pays off with a double dividend

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The Independent Online

One of the recurring bleats in this sport is that the so-called little man stands little chance against the big battalions in the ownership stakes. But then, why should he? Racing has always been the province of the wealthy; no one considered ordinarily poor could afford to possess and campaign even one horse, and there seems no reason to begrudge those who make the biggest investment the biggest rewards.

One of the recurring bleats in this sport is that the so-called little man stands little chance against the big battalions in the ownership stakes. But then, why should he? Racing has always been the province of the wealthy; no one considered ordinarily poor could afford to possess and campaign even one horse, and there seems no reason to begrudge those who make the biggest investment the biggest rewards.

Graham Wylie is the latest free-spending self-made businessman to enter the jumping arena, and yesterday at Haydock came his best day to date, when Lord Transcend and Inglis Drever carried his Newcastle United-inspired colours to victory in the after-noon's two feature contests. In pursuit of his new hobby, Wylie has spent some £2m on the 82 horses he has with Howard Johnson in Co Durham - but everything is relative. The miner's son, who co-founded the Sage accounting software company in 1981 while still a Newcastle student, is valued at £175m.

Yesterday's prize money came to £66,700, but the pride and pleasure Wylie and his wife, Andrea, gained was priceless. Lord Transcend, a handsome, upstanding grey, made a thrilling sight as he sailed along in front and galloped his rivals silly in the Peter Marsh Chase, eventually beating First Gold by an eased-down 10 lengths. The triumph was the sweeter because Lord Transcend has required patience and understanding. After a most promising hurdles career, the eight-year-old needed a year off to recover from injury, but the wait has clearly been worth it.

Backed to 9-4 favouritism, Lord Transcend was sent to the front after the second fence by Graham Lee and, on the soft ground he revels in, made the three-mile contest a true test. Bowling along in front with his ears pricked, he was more settled than when he jumped badly and eventually fell at Wetherby last time out. The only blip in the rhythm came six fences from home, when he did not get nearly high enough, but it was a splendid performance for a horse running for only the fourth time over fences. First Gold, a winner of the King George VI Chase in his prime, was the only one who could go with him, with Take The Stand the best of the others at the line, six lengths adrift.

The Grade Two race is often a Grand National pointer; but although the 12-year-old First Gold, giving away 17lb, ran a fine Aintree trial, there will be no tilt at the big fences for Lord Transcend.

"He is far too precious to us," said Wylie. "He was the first horse I bought - Andrea loves greys - four years ago. It was wonderful to watch him today, and though I had the greatest respect for a horse as good as First Gold when he was upsides him, I just knew Tranny would gallop and gallop."

Such an exciting prospect's future will be well-guarded. "He was buzzy and sweating at Wetherby," said Johnson, "but when I saw him in the paddock I thought today was the day; I wouldn't mind if he didn't run again this season."

Inglis Drever's Festival target will depend entirely on the ground. The six-year-old, one of last term's best staying novices, had not won over the title distance of two miles before yesterday, but the testing underfoot conditions in the Grade Two Champion Hurdle Trial enabled his stamina to come into play. Mister McGoldrick, better known as a chaser, had the field stretched on the turn for home, but Inglis Drever dug deep under pressure, caught him by the last flight and galloped away on the run-in to score by eight lengths.

"He's very tough," said Lee of the winner. "No horse really wants that sort of ground and a lot would have shirked it, because I asked him for his effort some way out." If the ground comes up soft at Cheltenham, Inglis Drever may take his chance in the Champion Hurdle; otherwise, he may tackle the stayers' crown, for which his connections also have Royal Rosa.

A more serious Champion Hurdle test comes this afternoon in Ireland, where lies this year's power base. Four of the first six in the betting - Mac's Joy, Hardy Eustace, Accordion Etoile and Brave Inca - clash in the Irish version at Leopardstown, plus the proven mudlark Solerina.

At Uttoxeter, My Will, the middle leg of a treble for Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh, booked his Cheltenham ticket with a gutsy defeat of Ashley Brook in the two-mile Grade Two novices' contest. There was drama later, when four runners in the three-mile novices' chase were disqualified, leaving only the winner, Headliner, and the fifth home, Indian Laburnum, on the results sheet. Alvaro (Paddy Brennan), Briar's Mist (Richard McGrath), Bdellium (Colin Bolger) and Isou (Andrew Tinkler) were thrown out after going the wrong side of a hurdles wing and their riders suspended for between three and 13 days.

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