Heavy threat dismissed

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The Independent Online
David Nicholson yesterday shrugged off news that Barton Bank, the Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite, will encounter testing ground in Saturday's Pillar Chase at Prestbury Park. With rain in the area yesterday and more forecast for today, Cheltenham's clerk of the course, Philip Arkwright, is predicting that the ground will be heavy . Nevertheless, Nicholson is not unduly concerned.

"Barton Bank won his first ever race [a novice hurdle at Worcester in 1991] on heavy ground and he will cope with it fine," Nicholson said.

The trainer is also confident there will be no repeat of the blunder which unseated Adrian Maguire in the King George VI Chase. "I am not concerned that the heavy ground will put pressure on his jumping. Conceding 6lb to Master Oats might prove difficult. He's an up-and-comer and no doubt a good horse."

A broken blood vessel stopped Barton Bank running in last year's Gold Cup and Nicholson has been careful not to over-race the eight-year-old.

"He goes straight for the Gold Cup after this and if he can't take two races in about 50 days it is a poor show. Dubacilla also runs on Saturday and her preparation has gone well too. But the fact is she has come to win two races this season and hasn't won either."