Gifford and Johnson bank on the rain

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Connoisseurs of racing will be hoping the heavens open this week so that two of last season's most impressive chasers, Morceli and Brief Gale, will get the ground they want to contest the First National Bank Gold Cup at Ascot on Saturday.

Josh Gifford, the trainer of the top-weight, Brief Gale, said yesterday: "She'll run if it rains, but we need lots of rain. She's well and has done plenty of work."

Howard Johnson, who handles Morceli, is also praying for rain for his gelding. "I'd like him to run if it rains as he's been ready to go for three weeks, but I won't make a final decision until Thursday," he said. If the grey does make the journey to post, Adrian Maguire is booked to ride.

Sound Man, who was narrowly beaten in the Arkle Chase at the Festival, is the Irish hope for the race and although his trainer, Edward O'Grady, is slightly less concerned with the ground, he will still take the precaution of travelling to Ascot on Friday to walk the course before confirming his horse as a definite participant.