Racing: Bay breezes in

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The Independent Online
COLLIER BAY heads for Cheltenham and the chance of a £50,000 bonus after running away with the Imperial Cup here yesterday. The Jim Old-trained five-year-old jumped past the trailblazing Amigos at the second-last hurdle and left his rivals, headed by Star Player, for dead up the hill.

He will turn out again in the Coral Cup on Wednesday, chasing the extra prize offered by Sunderlands bookmakers, sponsors of the Imperial Cup, to any horse winning the Sandown race and any of the Cheltenham handicaps. Collier Bay, owned by Wally Sturt, picked up a 7lb penalty for yesterday's win to bring his weight to a still-handy 9st 12lb, and has been cut from 20-1 to 5-1 favourite by Corals for their race.

Last month here Old was cursing his luck when Mole Board fell at the last with the Agfa Hurdle at his mercy, but since then the winners have started flowing and he reports Mole Board, on course for the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, "better than he has ever been".

Peter O'Sullevan's 128-mile dash from Chepstow, where he was commentating, to watch his Amigos was in vain. The Imperial Cup favourite faded badly in the closing stages.

Nick Henderson supplied the first and third past the post after a two- way photo for the novices' hurdle, but had to settle for the minor placings after Whattabob was demoted in favour of Josh Gifford's newcomer Foodbroker Star in the stewards' room. The Henderson pair were in the air together as they led over the last and Whattabob held on by a head to beat the fast-finishing Foodbroker Star, but an inquiry found that his swerve after the last had interfered with the runner-up.

Philip Hide, rider of Foodbroker Star, said: "He took my ground slightly after the last, just enough to make a difference in such a tight finish." Henderson was philosophical, saying: "It was right on the nod and I thought he'd beaten me anyway."

The former smart hurdler King Credo got off the mark over fences in the race named after two former Sandown winners in the royal colours, the Burnt Oak & Special Cargo Novices' Chase. The 10-year-old went clear before the last to justify his trainer Steve Woodman's faith after a shaky start over fences.

The top two jump jockeys, Richard Dunwoody and Adrian Maguire, go into Cheltenham week neck and neck after Dunwoody's win on Challenger du Luc at Chepstow brought him level with his arch-rival on 121 winners.

Of the 19 horses declared yesterday for Thursday's Gold Cup, the best- backed was Miinnehoma, cut from 12-1 to 10-1. Ladbrokes bet: 5-2 Master Oats, 4-1 Jodami, 8-1 Barton Bank and Merry Gale, 10-1 Val d'Alene and Miinnehoma, 12-1 bar.