Racing: Barton's back, but no banker to stay course

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The Independent Online
As usual, the Flat season has dragged on a little too long. Celtic Swing's sensational success in last Saturday's Racing Post Trophy would have been a fitting climax to the year on turf, but the season splutters on through today's monster card at Newmarket to Doncaster next Saturday.

Pat Eddery, the reigning champion jockey, has long since given up the fruitless pursuit of Lanfranco Dettori and this week had his last ride of the year in Britain. He has switched his attention to America, where he has some plum rides for Khalid Abdullah this weekend and will stay there until next Saturday's Breeders' Cup. The Irish champion, Michael Kinane, has also deserted these islands for Hong Kong, and it now looks likely that he will be required to make the hop to Australia for Tuesday's Melbourne Cup.

Vintage Crop, his mount there, continues to make good progress from the training injury which left him needing 14 stitches in a foreleg and is reported a likely runner by his trainer, Dermot Weld.

Should Vintage Crop fail to make the line-up, Weld could take a lesson in stoicism from David Nicholson, who had to freeze his upper lip when Barton Bank was forced to miss last season's Cheltenham Gold Cup after bursting a blood vessel eight days before the race.

Barton Bank makes his first appearance since, and his first of the year, in today's Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, the race which last season propelled him from being a 50-1 Gold Cup shot to the leading rank. Twelve months ago he was a 12-1 chance against Jodami, Cab On Target and Tipping Tim; 15-8 are the best odds available this morning against him conceding plenty of weight to Run For Free and holding the young, aspiring Antonin.

Perhaps those odds should just reflect his chances of returning home healthy. Nicholson reports that 'there has been no recurrence of his blood vessel problem', but the gelding will not have faced a test at home to compare with today's gruelling three-mile contest.

On the positive side, Barton Bank is unbeaten in his seven completed starts over fences and, as Nicholson says, 'I'd like to think he is still improving'. Also in his favour is that he has won on his seasonal debut for the last two years and will not be inconvenienced by going that has required watering to provide an acceptable surface for top-level chasers.

Antonin's best form has come with give in the ground, but at the age of six, he has arguably even more improvement in him. Even if he fails today, the 20-1 generally on offer about his prospects for the 1995 Gold Cup look more attractive than the 14-1 available about a horse of such questionable durability as Barton Bank.

Then there is The Fellow, who makes his seasonal reappearance at Enghien today. The reigning Gold Cup winner must give weight to all but two of his eight rivals and it will be slightly surprising if he wins. Adam Kondrat keeps the ride despite suggestions that he had incurred the displeasure of the gelding's owner.

Back at Wetherby, two of Barton Bank's victims, Cab On Target and Tipping Tim, continue in the hurdling ranks after failures over fences, while Docklands Express, whose last two races have been on the Flat at Kempton and over a twisting chase course at Merano in Italy, provides an example in dedication for all. For those who cannot resist a bet on the Flat, the favourite for Newmarket's big race, Winter Coat, has to be the most topical tip.

GOLD CUP BETTING: Ladbrokes: 7-1 Jodami, 8-1 Merry Gale, 10-1 The Fellow & Monsieur Le Cure, 12-1 Barton Bank & Flashing Steel, 14-1 Young Hustler, 16-1 Dubacilla, 20- 1 Antonin, 25-1 Deep Bramble, Gaelstrom, Martomick, Crystal Spirit, 33-1 Bradbury Star, Miinnehoma, 40-1 Cab On Target, One Man.

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