Racing: Direct Route on winning line

DIRECT ROUTE won the Tingle Creek Chase here yesterday, but the seven-year-old's name is anything but indicative of the path he and Howard Johnson, his trainer, have trod on the way to glory. The horse, who beat Edredon Bleu, the favourite, by two and a half lengths, has conformation so far from the ideal - a dropped pelvis and a twisted foot, the result of an accident as a foal - it is a wonder he can trot in a straight line, let alone gallop.

The man, who runs cattle alongside horses on his farm at Crook, in the wild hills of Co Durham, has suffered from tinnitus since being attacked and injured by a stroppy steer and has had to cope with two grudge arson attacks on his property in the past 18 months.

So, all in all, yesterday's rather impressive victory was a welcome change of fortune, particularly as it ended a run of 23 losers for Johnson. "Direct Route did a beautiful piece of work at Carlisle last week," he said, "but I didn't say much about it because in this game you get your lights kicked in if you're too cocky."

The instructions to Norman Williamson beforehand were to wait, wait and wait again. The jockey followed them to perfection; it was patently apparent, as Direct Route loomed alongside the pace-setting Edredon Bleu at the second last fence, with his ears pricked and the reins looped, that Williamson had ample reserves at his disposal.

But it was not until the last that he asked for them and the response was immediate. "I had a great run round on the inner, he landed running over the last and that was that," said the Irishman, on the big-race winner for the second successive Saturday, after Teeton Mill in the Hennessy.

The great Tingle Creek himself, after whom the Grade One race was retitled after he won it for the third time 20 years ago, would have been proud of the way that Direct Route, rejected by three of the country's top jump handlers as a youngster because of his physical shortcomings, tackled the tricky Sandown fences.

The two-mile title is now up for grabs, following the death of One Man and the retirement of Martha's Son and Viking Flagship. Another of the old guard, Klairon Davis, came home in the ruck yesterday and, of the young pretenders, Mandys Mantino and Hill Society, third and fourth yesterday, were, like Edredon Bleu, beaten on merit. There was an excuse for Direct Route's recent Exeter conqueror Lake Kariba, however, who never really got into contention after making a nonsense of the first.

Plans for Direct Route, who yesterday earned pounds 27,000 for the men who took a chance on him, Chris Heron and Michael Thomson, include the Castleford Chase at one of his local tracks, Wetherby, over the New Year, before his build-up to Cheltenham. "He is a stuffy sort of horse who takes some getting fit," said Johnson, "and today, unlike first time out, we had him spot on his fighting weight of 483kg."

Direct Route has a liking for the Esher slopes, as a year ago he took the novice two-milers' race, the Henry VII Chase. This time round the contest marked the return to the winners' circle of Tony McCoy, who returned to action yesterday after his well-publicised 14-day ban for misuse of the whip. His mount, Dines, had enough in hand to win without his rider having to resort to the persuader to any great degree on the run-in. McCoy gave the Martin Pipe-trained six-year-old a couple of smacks to keep him about his business, but the real work towards winning had been done in the earlier stages of the race.

McCoy jumped Dines off in front and found a more than willing partner as he attacked the 13 fences in the positive, determined fashion that has brought him the last three championships.

The reception given to McCoy, who brought Dines home a length and a half clear of the equally promising Dawn Leader, left no doubt as to the racegoers' delight at having their favourite son back in the fold after his compulsory holiday, which was split between Dubai and coaching sessions on a mechanical horse at the British Racing School.

However, the jockey is aware that there is some way to go before he irons out his style problems. "I did not have to use the whip today," he said, "but when I do I am going to find it difficult to get the correct rhythm going. It is so completely different to my natural action."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Floyd Mayweather will relinquish his five world titles after beating Manny Pacquiao
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living