Racing: Distance learning for Trying Again

Britain's most exciting young steeplechaser, Simply Dashing, is due to run on Saturday. But the venue is yet to be decided - leaving two race tracks, Ascot and Haydock, anxiously awaiting news of who will have the weekend's main attraction.

Trying Again, who was well backed in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury 10 days ago but faded to be a well-beaten fifth to Suny Bay, is set to run in the Tripleprint Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday.

"Trying Again is a probable runner," David Gandolfo, who trains the nine- year-old, said yesterday. Saturday's race is over two miles and five furlongs, more than five furlongs shorter than the Hennessy. But testing ground would suit Gandolfo's horse best.

"I was pleased with him in the Hennessy as he didn't get the trip and the step down will suit him at Cheltenham. Three miles is his best distance but there aren't many races at that."

Coulton is set to carry top weight of 12 stone in the Tripleprint, for which 10 horses were confirmed at yesterday's five-day stage.

Coulton's presence - described by trainer Oliver Sherwood as "99 per cent" certain to run - will stop the weights going up which would suit Simply Dashing, next in the handicap with 11st 5lb.

However, Tim Easterby's impressive Ascot winner also holds an engagement in the Tommy Whittle Chase at Haydock on the same day and plans have yet to be finalised.

Bells Life, winner of last season's John Hughes Trophy at Aintree, reappears in the pounds 60,000-added contest, having missed his intended comeback at Chepstow last Saturday.

Sarah Hobbs, wife of trainer Philip Hobbs, explained: "He got a minor injury on his back leg coming down the gallops and although he had got over it OK he just needed a bit more time, so we decided to give Chepstow a miss.

"Glenn Tormey, who usually rides him, will probably ride on Saturday."

Whatever the fate of Bells Life in the Tripleprint, his trainer has mapped out an ambitious campaign for the eight-year-old.

"After Cheltenham he will follow the same route as Samlee [stable companion] and go for the Welsh National with the Grand National his main target," Mrs Hobbs added.

Challenger du Luc will renew rivalry with his Murphy's Gold Cup conqueror Senor El Betrutti on 3lb better terms for the three-length defeat suffered by Martin Pipe's charge.

Fine Thyme, runner-up to Simply Dashing in the First National Bank Gold Cup, is also in the Cheltenham feature but is currently 4lb out of the handicap. The Amanda Perrett-trained eight-year-old goes best on good ground or faster.

David Nicholson has two entries in the race, Kadi (10st 1lb) and Destin d'Estruval (9st 13lb) with the first named requiring soft ground. Scottish- trained Major Bell makes up the numbers.

Katie's Cracker, Mick Quinn's second runner as a trainer, was a runner- up at Southwell yesterday, beaten half a length by Cutting Anshake, who is trained and owned by old footballing partners, Mick Channon and Kevin Keegan.

"The guv'nor has turned me over," said Quinn, referring to his two-year spell as assistant trainer to Channon before recently gaining his own licence.

TRIPLEPRINT GOLD CUP: Ante-post odds (Cashman's): 11-4 Simply Dashing, 4-1 Challenger du Luc, Trying Again, 6-1 Coulton, 7-1 Senor El Betrutti, 10-1 Kadi, 12-1 Major Bell, 14-1 Fine Thyne, 16-1 Destin D'Estruval, 20- 1 Bells Life.

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