Racing: Bobby a dazzler in the Newcastle mud

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The Independent Online
BOBBY GRANT provided his trainer Chris Grant (no relation) with the biggest success of his training career by taking yesterday's Dipper Novices Chase at Newcastle yesterday. The eight-year-old chestnut, scoring for the first time over fences, overhauled Course Doctor on the run-in to take the Grade Two two-and-a-half mile contest by half a length. The favourite, the ex-New Zealander No Retreat, lost his unbeaten record in Britain in a weary third place.

It was the second landmark provided by Bobby Grant for his near-namesake, one of the most durable jockeys on the circuit before his retirement from the saddle three years ago.

"He was our first winner as a trainer in a bumper at Hexham just over two years ago," recalled Grant. "We broke him in and I thought he was such a nice horse I didn't want anyone else to have him, so he was the main reason why I decided to have a crack at training."

Bobby Grant was only third on the turn into the straight, but Robbie Supple never stopped persevering and was rewarded as his partner found new reserves after the last fence on the exceptionally testing going.

"A lot of races are won after the last here when the going is testing," said Grant, "it's a stiff track with a stiff finish and you need a horse who stays."

The victory was the second leg of a welcome Saturday televised double for Supple. Half an hour earlier he had had a more straightforward passage round Gosforth Park on the little grey Birkdale, who led from start to finish in the Newsquest Northeast Handicap Hurdle to win in a canter.

Like the runner-up Seven Towers, who made a valiant effort to close on the well-backed favourite off the final turn before the concession of 13lb proved too much, the winner was reverting to the smaller obstacles from fences.

The winning trainer, the Dumfriesshire-based Len Lungo, said: "The problem with him is one that we can't do anything about. He's simply not very big, barely 16 hands. And on soft ground - he's not very quick and he needs it to slow the others down - he disappears into it and becomes only 15 hands. He has won over fences but he doesn't really have the size and scope."

Russ Garrity was also in double form, on Dangerman in the opening four- year-olds' hurdle and on Major Sponsor in the Hennessy Cognac Novice Hurdle, a qualifier for a final at Kelso in March, on Major Sponsor. The big, handsome George Moore-trained seven-year-old jumped well and kept up his strong gallop to end the favourite Lord Lamb's unbeaten hurdles record in style.

Newcastle was the sole surviving jump meeting yesterday, Ascot and Warwick having fallen victim to waterlogging. The feature at the Berkshire course, the Victor Chandler Chase, has been switched to Friday's meeting, though punters involved in ante-post betting on the two-mile race will lose their advantage if they played with one of the big three bookmakers, Ladbrokes, Coral or Hills.

The triumvirate have decided bets are void and, though stakes will be refunded, that is cold comfort to anyone who took an early price about, say, Monnaie Forte, backed from 25-1 to 4-1. Two other firms, the Tote and the race sponsors, take a more sporting attitude and give the punter a choice by stating ante-post bets will stand unless cancelled by tomorrow.

At Lingfield, the amateur rider Keith Loads had what could be described as a varied day. In the morning he and his fiancee, Kate, were married in one of the function rooms on the course and in the afternoon he rode in the 1.25 race on his own horse Badrinath. Sadly, there was no cause for double celebration; he finished last.

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