Racing: Darley's drive gathers pace

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KEVIN DARLEY, a sufficiently improbable candidate for champion jockey at the start of the season for bookmakers to be quoting him at odds of 100-1, emphasised yesterday that he has become a real contender by winning the first four races at Beverley to follow his success in his last ride at Catterick the previous night.

Those wins drew him almost alongside Pat Eddery (114 played 111) in the title race, before the champion responded with a double at Salisbury and a further success at Sandown. William Hill gave recognition to Darley's achievement by cutting his title odds from 5-1 to 7-2. They eased Eddery's price to 1-6 from 1-8. The firm's betting extends to the end of the turf season only, although wins on the all-weather tracks after 8 November will count for the championship.

Darley has undertaken a two meetings-per-day schedule during the past six weeks which has enabled him to almost double his tally from 58 during that period.

Last week he became the first northern-based Flat rider for 12 years to top a century in a season, and another flag bearer for those north of the Trent, Jack Berry, reached the same mark yesterday at Salisbury.

This, though, was Berry's fourth consecutive century, a remarkable achievement considering his annual expenditure on yearlings is roughly equivalent to the sum spent on a single purchase by some owners in more fashionable stables.