Racing: Dibble to rout rivals

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The Independent Online
IN THE desperate rush to clear the in-tray before Christmas, the engraver entrusted with the trainer's trophy for the Welsh National could have been forgiven for adding Martin Pipe's name several days early.

It may just be that it is an ideal size and shape for flower arrangements on his mantelpiece, but whatever the reason, Pipe has been uncommonly reluctant to relinquish the prize since his first success with Bonanza Boy in 1988. This year's renewal at Chepstow tomorrow looks more like a private sweepstake than ever, with the first four horses on the racecard likely to be sporting Pipe saddlecloths.

Included in that quartet are Run For Free and Miinnehoma, the ante-post first and second favourites, but it is far from difficult to find fault with both. Run For Free beat his stablemate with ease in the Rehearsal Chase over this course last month, but looked very tired at the end of the three mile trip and cannot be relied upon to get another six furlongs tomorrow.

More worrying still, when put under pressure in the past he has shown a tendency to wander of which a Bedouin would be proud, while Miinnehoma is still struggling to adapt to the top flight after last season's novice successes. The latter recently went down to another of tomorrow's rivals, Captain Dibble (2.00), in the SGB Chase, and since Nigel Twiston-Davies's gelding is an assured stayer, he is a worthwhile bet to frustrate Pipe's onslaught. Sea Island (3.05) can offer the Wellington handler a pinch of consolation.

Royal Gait, the champion hurdler, may make his seasonal debut in Kempton's Christmas Hurdle tomorrow, but a race-fit Granville Again (2.20) can prove too strong for him. Solidasarock (2.50) should also go close.