Racing: Black to brighten Brooks's day: Hennessy hope can underline his place in trainer's good books. Richard Edmondson reports

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The Independent Online
THE BOOKS, those containing both form and financial figures, are looking a lot better at Charlie Brooks's Lambourn yard this season.

An ailing figure for much of the last two years courtesy of a virus that attached itself to his historic Uplands stable, Brooks's tenure of Fred Winter's former base appeared to be drawing to a close.

But this season the bug has been swatted and Uplands, at 41 per cent, possesses the best strike-rate among the country's leading yards. This figure has tempted additional owners to the stable and, most importantly of all, has attracted the attention of a serious investor.

'I'm having talks with a potential partner,' Brooks said this week. 'A financial partner who would look after the money side while I'd be doing the training 100 per cent. We would be partners in the business of training horses.'

Despite his untended hair and blithe demeanour, the business of training horses is something that the Old Etonian Charlie Patrick Evelyn Brooks takes very seriously. 'One of the worst things for me would be to be thought of as a failure,' he once said.

The few who still consider him an under-achiever will have to give way if, as the bookmakers expect, his Black Humour wins the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury this afternoon. The trainer himself acknowledges the importance of winning a high-profile race, but sees his overall performance rather than a single victory as the mechanism for attracting owners.

'I don't think getting horses into the yard hinges on the Hennessy, rather it's more a question of keeping up the momentum of the horses running well,' he said. 'I'm not going to blow the Hennessy out of all proportion in my own mind. It would be nice to win it, but I don't want to start thinking it would be a huge advantage if I won it and a disaster if I didn't. That would be a dangerous position to get into mentally.'

Black Humour (next best 1.35) has strands of form that could certainly lure Brooks into the danger zone, particularly his run at Warwick in January, when he gave the recent Mackeson Gold Cup winner, Bradbury Star, a beating at level weights.

By Brooks's admission, Black Humour takes little training. 'He doesn't need a lot of work, he's a naturally fit horse, and if you work him too much it puts him off his grub,' the trainer said. 'He's a got very good chance, but to say he's just got to turn up and jump round would be way off the mark.'

Black Humour's most formidable obstacle may, however, be the weather, which caused the first day of the Newbury meeting to be abandoned. Fog, which shrouded the course yesterday, is expected again this morning but weathermen have predicted a sunny afternoon. Yesterday's main race, the Jacky Upton Handicap Chase, has been carried over and will start today's card at noon.

In the second event, David Nicholson and Shirley Robins, who won the race 12 months ago with Mighty Mogul, will hope that Winter Squall (12.30) manages to repeat at least this bit of his predecessor's career, while the other televised race should go to SWEET DUKE (nap 1.00).

At Newcastle, repetition should also be a factor in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, which is contested by last season's winner, Halkopous (2.40). Others to consider are Highbrook (2.05), Loch Blue (3.10) and Mick Easterby's 'new Desert Orchid' Coulton (1.30), who will have to beat this modest opposition to prevent his trainer becoming the 'new Baron Munchausen'.

(Photograph omitted)

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