Racing: Antonin surprises

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The Independent Online
THE New Year began better for Sue Bramall and John Burke than the old one ended. The trainer and jockey, in trouble with the Warwick stewards on Thursday, bounced back to win the Ladbroke Gold Cup Handicap Chase here yesterday with the 25-1 shot Antonin.

The six-year-old, making a quick reappearance after unseating Burke at Kempton five days ago, was untested over yesterday's three-mile, two-and-a- half furlong trip, but stamina proved no problem, even on the soggy Newbury ground. Bramall said: 'It was an experiment, but it came off. He loves this ground and is very tough.'

It was the 18th win of Burke's career, and the biggest. The 23-year-old starts a seven- day ban next Saturday for whip abuse at Warwick, but did little wrong on Antonin. He sent the French-bred past the long-time leader Rathvinden House at the cross fence five out and, after a tussle in the straight, shook off his rival to come home 12 lengths clear. The favourite, Midnight Caller, fell at the second.

Antonin, found in France for Bramall by Francois Doumen, proved incapable of winning a selling race as a hurdler but has found his niche as a chaser, and may be aimed at March's Cheltenham Festival.

One who definitely will be at the Festival is Large Action, the impressive winner of the Challow Hurdle. The Oliver Sherwood-trained gelding was not unduly troubled to land the Grade 1 event, beating Corrouge readily by three and a half lengths.

His progress this season is an example of how the overlap between equestrian sports can be of benefit. Large Action has regained his confidence at jumping after a course of lessons from the eventing guru Yogi Breisner.

Large Action's Cheltenham target is likely to be the Sun Alliance Novices' Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs, though he will be entered in the two- mile Citroen Novices' Hurdle as well. Sherwood said: 'He idled in front a bit today, but he stays well.'

It was a day of doubles. Almost inevitably, Adrian Maguire rode the first winner of the year, the David Nicholson- trained novice hurdling debutant Winter Forest, and followed up immediately on Avery Whitfield's Newbury specialist Nikitas for his 107th victory of the season.

Large Action was the first of two for Jamie Osborne, and his second, on Seekin Cash, also made it two for Winter Forest's owner, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, one of the Maktoum clan.

On the all-weather track at Lingfield, Frankie Dettori's bid for the Flat jockey's title got off to a flier when he rode the first winner of the 1994 campaign, Tiddy Oggie, and later doubled up on Able Choice. He is now 6- 4 joint favourite with the reigning champion, Pat Eddery - who is still on holiday - for the William Hill-sponsored jockeys' championship, the first to be officially decided over the entire year rather than just the March to November Turf season.

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