Racing: Dashing simply superb

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The Independent Online
Simply Dashing gave notice that he may be one to worry the best for the big prizes later in the season with a hugely impressive display in the First National Bank Gold Cup here yesterday. The six-year-old was stopped in his tracks by a blunder at half-way in the two-mile-three-and- a-half-furlong contest but, under a ride of the highest order from Richard Dunwoody, was able not merely to get back into contention but power away for a six-length victory.

Dunwoody demonstrates again and again the measure of his horsemanship, and as examples go this was a collector's item. The Ulsterman sat the mistake, at the open ditch before the water jump on the far side of the course, like a limpet, and allowed his mount time to catch his breath before asking him to race again. "I just squeezed him up a bit long going into the fence, and he put his front feet in the ditch," he said, "He did very well to get to the other side.

"Apart from the mistake, though, he jumped better than he's ever done. I was a bit more aggressive on him because he does tend to be a bit switched off about it all. But things do come very easy for him."

Simply Dashing, who went to the front approaching the last fence, confirmed previous form over the course with the gambled-on Or Royal, another of last season's leading novices but only third yesterday, half a length behind the runner-up Fine Thyne. No definite plans have yet been laid for Simply Dashing, but a step up to three miles in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day would be no surprise, and he is now 16- 1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup itself. The gelding's trainer Tim Easterby, a Yorkshireman, typically wasted few words. "Good 'oss", he said, "great ride".

The Royal Ascot winner Zaralaska returned to the Berkshire course to make an eminently satisfactory timber debut in the Holloways Gate Novices' Hurdle. None was more impressed than Adrian Maguire, whose comment on dismounting from the white-faced chestnut was, succinctly, "Brilliant".

Maguire steered a wide course on Zaralaska before easing past another first-timer, Kurakka, between the last two flights. One kick in the belly on the run-in was enough to ensure that the six-year-old son of Shernazar engaged his flat-race gears to stretch the winning margin to 11 lengths.

Zaralaska landed a couple of hefty punts for his owner-breeder-trainer Luca Cumani during the summer before joining David Nicholson, for a reputed six-figure sum, to run in Lady Harris's colours, but his new trainer poured scorn on the bookmakers' installation of the gelding in the Champion Hurdle lists. "Rubbish", said the master of Jackdaws' Castle, clearly recovered from a recent bout of 'flu, "he's a once-raced novice, and will stick to novice races this season."

None the less, the Hills representative David Hood reported an immediate Champion Hurdle bet of pounds 1,000 at 20-1 from one of his firm's more sensible clients. One more run is planned for Zaralaska before he tackles the novice hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day won last year by his stablemate Sanmartino (inferior to Zaralaska on the Flat) who, despite similar protestations from Nicholson, did eventually take his chance in the Champion and finished sixth.

An hour later the same jockey-trainer combo was back in the winners' enclosure with Real Estate, who stepped up markedly on his debut fourth at Kempton last month to take the Timeform-sponsored Aurelius Hurdle. "That's the difference between jumping and the Flat", said Nicholson. "This horse was third at Goodwood on the firm, but at Kempton it was too quick for him. He hated having to jump down on to it, and came back jarred up. But today he was loving it from the gun." Maguire made it a treble on Name Of Our Father in the last.

One of last season's best novice hurdlers, Boardroom Shuffle, blotted his copybook with a clumsy fall at the fourth fence in the Hurst Park Novices' Chase, in which Chief's Song gave Dunwoody a double.