Racing: Darkness ready to emerge from gloom: Richard Edmondson on the final fixture of the year at Flat racing's Headquarters

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The Independent Online
The sweeping Kingsclere gallops of Ian Balding have been the training grounds for many outstanding modern racehorses. But notable names have also come to grief on the downland turf of Watership Down.

In 1972, Mill Reef, perhaps the outstanding throughbred of recent years, almost had to be destroyed after breaking his leg at home. Complex surgery saved the colt for a stud career and he went on to sire top performers including Shirley Heights, Diamond Shoal and Glint Of Gold.

It was something of a sickening coincidence when Heart Of Darkness, a son of Glint Of Gold, also broke a cannon bone two years ago at Kingsclere following a rewarding juvenile campaign.

The colt had already won a Group One race, the National Stakes at The Curragh, and was being prepared for another, Newmarket's Dewhurst Stakes, in what was seen as a prelude to a Classic career.

From that point it has been a long way back for Heart Of Darkness. Balding's enduring faith in his horse looked increasingly misplaced as he racked up 12 consecutive defeats, and, until recently, the nearest the four-year-old came to greatness was when he worked with Selkirk on the gallops.

HEART OF DARKNESS (nap 3.10), though, is now stirring the waters himself. A winner at Warwick earlier this month, he followed up at Newbury nine days ago and goes for a hat-trick in the Autumn Handicap on Newmarket's final card of the year this afternoon from a mark just 1lb higher than his latest win.

In the first of two Listed races at Headquarters, a good case can be made for Prevene, provided a page is ripped out of the form book. When the colt was a dribbling sixth to Visto Si Stampi at Haydock last month, his run bore no relation to what had come before.

Those tempted to follow the horse today will be more inclined to look at his Newmarket victory from a subsequent winner in Double Bass and a third to White Crown and Geisway at Newbury. If either of those efforts is a guide, Prevene (1.40) can upset Elkhart.

The second Listed race has a much more plausible favourite in Luca Cumani's Inner City (2.10). A winner in this grade on his last two starts, the colt needs to only reproduce something close to his recent four-length beating of Soiree over course and distance to become another of the card's hat- trick horses.

The following Royston Stakes would be destined for Ruhr if the Highflyer Stakes of last year, in which Barry Hills's colt finished fourth to the class animals Young Senor, Dr Devious and Alnasr Alwasheek, was the only piece of evidence available.

However, Ruhr, as his name might suggest, has turned in two leaden-footed displays this season, and is passed over in favour of a more reliable beast. Waterfowl Creek (2.40) appears the most consistent of his rivals.

Hills, who is by some way the most successful British trainer of the last two weeks, should continue his run at Wetherby, where one of the South Bank stalwarts, Nomadic Way (1.30), makes his seasonal debut.

The seven-year-old, who has twice been runner-up in the Champion Hurdle, may not be the fittest runner in the Grade Two West Yorkshire Hurdle, but he is by some way the best and that should more than offset any rustiness.

Fitness will also be the key to the course's Grade Two chase, which features the reappearance of both Cool Ground, the Gold Cup winner, and Cahervillahow, who was disqualified after taking the Whitbread Gold Cup two seasons ago. Both are likely to be just out of a summer slumber at this stage of the year and may provide Tipping Tim (2.00) with the most notable scalps of his career.

The card's opener features several hurdlers who have already shown promise this season. The race may go to one who has not, however, Take By Storm (1.00), who was best of these on the Flat.

(Photograph omitted)