Padre and Brooks warm to their task

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This could be a very dangerous weekend for Charlie Brooks. As the Lambourn trainer slides through his wardrobe, past the checked suits and the canary gaberdine in preparation for watching Padre Mio run, he will be tempted to select the attire he wore when the gelding won before. If he does it will be the last decision he ever makes.

For when Padre Pio was victorious at Clairefontaine last summer, Brooks was wearing natty shorts, prompting Pierre Lepeudry, the chairman of the course, to comment: "Congratulations. With the winnings you'll be able to afford some long trousers for your next visit to my racecourse."

Brooks will be a rare beast indeed this weekend, a British trainer able to watch one of his string in action on turf when Padre Pio returns over La Manche for the Prix Alain de Breil over two miles and one furlong at Cagnes sur Mer. The Old Etonian will be advised to take that most British of accoutrements, the umbrella, when he starts his journey later this afternoon as the forecast is for rain at the French track.

It seems as though it will be no more comfortable for Padre Mio, the winner of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle. In a race won by the stable's All Jeff five years ago, Graham Bradley's mount faces Akwaba, who is one of the best hurdlers in France. After Cagnes, the seven-year- old will continue on to Pisa, where he will winter for six weeks with stablemate Couldnt Be Better before returning for an assault on the Champion Hurdle.

Turf racing in Britain suffers its fifth consecutive blank day today and even Wolverhampton's double-header of afternoon and evening all-weather cards is in danger from the freeze.

If the fixture on Fibresand goes ahead, Rod Simpson intends to make the most of the opportunity. In terms of unlikely comebacks, Simpson has only Captain Scarlet for competition and he now fights out of Ferdy Murphy's old yard near Taunton after being forced from his previous base at Newport.

The trainer obviously expects his horses to be as resilient as himself as Araboybill is declared for both today's cards at Dunstall Park. "He runs in both races," Simpson said. "And if there was another meeting I'd run the bastard in that as well."

By far the best quality racing, Jack Frost willing, will be at Leopardstown, where all four days of the Christmas Festival were lost this week. The course hopes to stage some of the abandoned races this weekend, starting with today's card which contains many names that will be part of the travelling caravan to Cheltenham in March.

Aidan O'Brien's That's My Man should advertise his Festival prospects, while the race of the day is between Klairon Davis and Strong Platinum, who has to give the Arkle Chase winner 5lb. Tomorrow's Leopardstown offering should be no less informative, with some quality athletes being drawn to the December Hurdle. O'Brien has prospects with Hotel Minella, who takes on the lightly raced Balawhar and another irregular performer in Montelado, who, like Santa's reindeer, seems to manage just one outing a year.