Racing: Business all dressed up for Rehearsal

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The Independent Online
FOR THOSE who lose a winning ticket on the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day and feel the need to jump off the grandstand, there is these days at least some compensation.

It is not from some dirty old edifice that they make their final vault but rather the new pounds 9m building which was built last year to accommodate those trying to rid themselves of a Yuletide hangover.

This season it will be that bungee jumpers landing in the Premier Enclosure will not take as many with them as would have been the case in previous years. Sunbury's version of the Eton wall game should not be so tumultuous this year as the numbers will be limited to 3,500, 1,000 down on last season. If you have paid pounds 27 to get in, it's always good to have your feet touch the floor.

Boxing Day falls on a Saturday this year which means the Kempton two- day meeting - offering pounds 300,000 in prize-money and featuring three Grade One contests - will be completed on the Monday.

The sponsors, for the third year, are Pertemps, who have negotiated to support the King George until the year 2,000. Such an eventuality looked rather distant in September when a horse leased by the recruitment agency on St Leger day was disqualified from first place. Tim Watts, the Pertemps Group Chairman, took this rather badly. In fact, you could have fried an egg on his head.

All manner of dark warnings about future sponsorship subsequently tumbled forth, but it now seems Mr Watts's body temperature is back to normal.

Desert Orchid, who won the King George four times, will be there, as will another horse who will be attempting to join the likes of Silver Buck, Captain Christy, Pendil and One Man as dual winners.

See More Business did not cause great palpitations in his camp when beaten by Suny Bay on his seasonal debut at Haydock last month as that was exactly how he began his agenda when capturing the King George last year. To maintain the symmetry the gelding will now have to collect the Rehearsal Chase at the weekend.

"He runs on Saturday at Chepstow and it will be the same programme as last year," Paul Nicholls, See More Business's trainer, said yesterday. "I was very happy with his run at Haydock because he's always a little bit rusty first time. Haydock doesn't really suit him and he ran off a 12lb higher mark than in the same race last year. He will improve and run really well.

"If everything is all right, we will then go straight to Kempton. It's a very big day trying to win a race like that and we thoroughly enjoyed it last year because we had always thought he was a decent horse.

"They are all a decent lot of horses and any race like that is very hard to win, but, according to the handicapper, he's as good as any of them. Level-weights races like the King George suit him better than handicaps now."

Challenger du Luc, last year's runner-up, is one of six entries from Martin Pipe's Fort Nicholashayne, which has yet to receive a King George winner. Saturday's Hennessy winner, Teeton Mill, is also a consideration, especially as he has gone up a stone in the weights and handicaps no longer look so comfortable. The grey is also entered in the Betterware Cup at Ascot and Chepstow's Welsh National, the weights for which were issued yesterday.

Suny Bay is at the head of the list but it seems most unlikely that he will be asked to transport 12st around Chepstow's demanding acres on 28 December. "He would be a longshot," Simon Sherwood, the grey's trainer, said yesterday. "You can't fit every race into the season. He either goes in the Rehearsal Chase or for the Tommy Whittle at Haydock. Then he might go for the Ericsson Chase in Ireland."

Suny Bay's defection will mean that topweight is transported by Britain's foremost trundler, Earth Summit. The Grand National winner relishes the murderous conditions which Chepstow often provides, but even his steely frame will be tested by a weight of 11st 10lb. "He has proved he can carry weight - he had 12st at the Becher meeting and carried heavy weight as a novice - so I wouldn't be saying for that reason we would be frightened of running," Nigel Payne, one of the gelding's co-owners, said yesterday.

"You would be giving lumps of weight away to some decent horses but that is one of the problems of having a horse that has performed well and has gone up to be one of the top horses in the handicap."