Jewels in racing's crown: Q&A

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Q. In the world of horse racing, which is considered to be the most prestigious Flat race to win? And also the most prestigious steeplechase.

A. On the Flat, it is very difficult to define. Two immediate candidates are the Derby and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. In recent times the US Breeders' Cup races have carried immense prestige. Each of these reward different qualities to both horse andtrainer. The Derby is noted as a supreme test of a young horse, the parade, the downhill stretch to Tattenham Corner creating pressures for a three-year-old. This race comes very early in the calendar, some say too early before a horse has reached maturity.

The "Arc", however, comes at the end of a long season and it is also open to horses of all ages. The great skill here is with a trainer producing a horse "fresh" so late in the season, particularly so with the English horses. They have been campaigning in the Classics from early Spring. Many true champions from England have failed to continue their runs of glory in the Autumn of Longchamp, notably the great Derby winners Troy and Reference Point.

However, many other races carry enormous prestige, particularly the big gambling handicaps of the season. Races I have in mind are the Royal Hunt Cup (Ascot), the Autumn Double of the "Cambridge" and the Cesarewitch (Newmarket) and possibly the Ayr Gold Cup.

As for a steeplechase there are only two or three to consider: the Grand National (Aintree), the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the King George (Kempton) Undoubtedly, the most prestigious is the Grand National, though in terms of quality the other two are much lighter. Only a great champion is likely to win the National and the Gold Cup. Any Gold Cup winner is likely to be weighted to the hilt, though horses have succeded, notably L'Escargot. - Nigel Woolliscroft, Newcastle-under-Lyne Q. How important is home advantage in the following sports: football, American football, baseball and cricket.

A. The importance of home advantage in football seems to diminish the lower the league division, possibly due to the smaller crowds involved; I have calculated the percentage of points taken at home for the four divisions of the Scottish and English leagues.

The figures are as follows: Scottish Premier 64 per cent; First Division 63; Second 56; Third 48. FA Carling Premiership 64. Endsleigh First Division 64; Second 60; Third 55 for the games played up to and including 26 November, season 1994-95 - Ian Donaldson, Fort William Q. Other than news fillers, English cricket followers have the prospect of no other visual coverage of the Ashes series on terrestrial television. Is Britain unique in having a major national sporting event excluded from mainstream television?

A. It is a pity that the coverage of the Ashes series can only be seen on satellite TV. But let's not be insular - there are many other major sporting events which don't even make Sky. What, for instance, about the other Test series taking place at the moment? I am sure that with England due to play West Indies next summer, there would be many genuine cricketing enthusiasts interested in viewing their games against India. After all, if Channel 4 can screen Italian football, why doesn't the BBC s how cricket from the Indian subcontinent?

And if we're talking about other countries, I doubt whether the United States would bother with cricket at all, just as I cannot recall our terrestial channels giving coverage to World Series baseball. In past years the BBC used to just have a half-hour highlights programme, often put on at a very late hour. I am no defender of Sky , but I do think they have raised our expectations somewhat. - Tim Mickleburgh, Grimsby ANSWERS PLEASE Q. Is a ringside seat at a top boxing event in the UK the most expensive sport to watch? Which is the cheapest? - Kevin Maguire, Batley Q. It may be a truism that only a small proportion of footballers can become football managers, but it is interesting to note how many of the current crop of young managers were playing forEngland in the early 1980s. A plausible team of subsequent managers could be selected from the players who appeared for England in 1982, as follows: Shilton, Neal, Mills, Wilkins, Butcher, Osman, Coppell, Robson, Keegan, Hoddle, Francis. Substitutes: Clemence, Anderson, McDermott, Withe.

Does success as a player correlate with success as a manager or does it merely provide more opportunity to become a manager, given that the above have had varying success? - James Farnbrough, Bedford Q. "Lucky" Arsenal ? Their visit to Millwall in the FACup third round means that, in the last 20 seasons, the Gunners have been given 17 away fixtures and a mere three home games at this stage of the competition.

Have any other teams suffered, or benefited, so markedly from the "luck of the draw?" - Rupert Baker, London N15

Q. It is now more than 12 games, and 1,100 minutes, since Manchester United last conceded a league goal at home. Is this a record? - Michael Crick, Chipping Norton If you know the answers to any of these questions, or have a sporting question of your ownyou would like answered, write to: Q&A Sports Desk Independent on Sunday 1 Canada Square Canary Wharf London E14 5DL Fax: 0171-293 2043