Racing: Another nice little earner by Top Cees

AS SOMEONE pointed out afterwards, the biggest surprise about the success of Top Cees in the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham yesterday was that the horse at the head of the weights, Allegation, did not finish second. Just a few weeks ago, Top Cees was the focus of a dramatic libel action in the High Court, during which Derek Thompson, the Channel 4 presenter, claimed that Kieren Fallon, the champion Flat jockey, had admitted stopping Top Cees in a race at Newmarket in 1995. Yesterday, the horse reclaimed his place in the headlines, while the Channel 4 crew kept their distance.

The libel action, which fascinated the racing world for almost three weeks in February, ended in victory for Fallon, Lynda Ramsden, Top Cees' trainer, and her husband, Jack. They had sued the Sporting Life over an allegation that they had been "cheating" when the horse finished fifth in the Swaffham Handicap at Newmarket in 1995. The claim was published following Top Cees' easy win in the Chester Cup, a few weeks after the Swaffham. They won their case, and were awarded a total of almost pounds 200,000 in damages.

As a result, Top Cees is possibly the most famous horse in training, though not, it would seem, the most popular. There were boos sprinkled amid the applause as the horse returned to the unsaddling enclosure, and his reception was, by Festival standards, a muted one. Top Cees started at 11-1, although the Tote paid almost 17-1.

The Ramsdens were understandably delighted with the success, for which Barry Fenton, his jockey, deserves much credit. Fenton was towards the rear for most of the race, but timed his challenge to perfection, hitting the front as they jumped the final flight.

"Top Cees is the love of my life after Jack," Lynda Ramsden said. "He is such a comical character. We only have two jumpers, so it is great for a Flat trainer to be able to take on the best National Hunt trainers."

Jack Ramsden, who is well known for his substantial and successful raids on the betting ring, said that he had had "a little bit" on Top Cees, but "I just wanted to see him do it. He is one of the family and he's been a good earner in many ways."

Channel 4 television, several of whose employees gave evidence in the libel trial, did not request an interview with the winner's connections.

Top Cees is not expected to run over hurdles again this season and may now attempt to win the Chester Cup for a third time at the course's big May meeting.

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