Racing: Distinct hope for Ordinary: A horse with a humble name carries John Upson's confidence at Ascot

Click to follow
IF ONE horse epitomises John Upson's record so far this season it is the one that may change his fortunes at Ascot on Saturday: Very Very Ordinary.

The Towcester trainer is going through the sort of phase that would lead many to the drinks cabinet. Of the 76 runners he has saddled this season just two have won, as an unknown force has taken his string. 'We've not got a virus, it's just something that has meant the horses aren't sparking,' he said yesterday.

A panacea may arrive at the weekend however as Upson has both Very Very Ordinary and Zeta's Lad in the Betterware Cup, the three-mile handicap chase that has replaced the SGB Chase on Ascot's pre-Christmas card. 'I wouldn't normally run two horses in the same race but one is owned by the sponsor (Andrew Cohen) and the other is owned by the sponsor's wife,' he said.

Betterware sounds like a company that ought to have Reg Holdsworth and Curly Watts on the payroll, and the true history of the company is no less prosaic. The firm was one of the great entrepreneurial stories of the 1980s, rising to multi-million pound status on the basis of selling brushes door-to-door.

If, in headline-writer speak, some sweeping up is to be done on Saturday, Upson expects it to come from the horse he abbreviates. 'If it wasn't for the ownership, I would probably run only VVO,' he said. 'He loves Ascot.

'I don't think Zeta's Lad was right in the Hennessy and what happened to him there has been happening to a lot of my horses. They come there swinging at the end of a race and then go out like a light.

'VVO ran well at Haydock and I'm sure he's all right and I'm hopeful that Zeta's Lad will be by Saturday.' Thoughts of reproducing Mark Tompkins's one-two with Staunch Friend and Halkopous in last Saturday's Bula Hurdle have not been discarded, it seems. It should be noted, though, that Upson's selected is available at several points longer odds than his stablemate Zeta's Lad in William Hill's early market.

While Nigel Twiston-Davies's Young Hustler is favourite with the same firm to capture the prize won 12 months ago by the same stable's Captain Dibble, the resurgent Martin Pipe goes for a similar double in Saturday's other big race, the Long Walk Hurdle.

Pipe, whose Vagog was the victor last year, will be represented this time by Balasani, who has Triple Witching, Sweet Duke and Shuil Ar Aghaidh to beat.

The last named, third in the Long Walk last year and the subsequent winner of the Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, is expected to make the journey from Ireland after pleasing in a gallop yesterday.

'We did a little bit of work with her this morning and she went grand,' Paddy Kiely, the mare's trainer, said. 'We'll travel, all going well.

'She had three runs last year before she went over and she's had only the one this year because of various reasons. But that was a lovely run at Punchestown (where she was second to Padashpan) and we're very hopeful.'

BETTERWARE CUP (Ascot, Saturday):

Acceptors: Capability Brown, Fighting Words, Flashthecash, Gambling Royal, Latent Talent, Mister Ed, Very Very Ordinary, Windy Ways, Young Hustler, Zeta's Lad. William Hill: 5-2 Young Hustler, 9-2 Zeta's Lad, 5-1 Gambling Royal, 13-2 Capability Brown, 7-1 Very Very Ordinary, 8-1 Fighting Words, 10-1 Latent Talent, 14-1 others.

LONG WALK HURDLE (Ascot, Saturday): Acceptors: Avro Anson, Balasani, Bollin William, Burgoyne, Deb's Ball, Mardood, Pamber Priory, Peatswood, Shuil Ar Aghaidh, Sweet Duke, Triple Witching.

The jockeys' championships, Flat and National Hunt, are at last to receive official status, with trophies to mark the leading riders' achievements and monthly prizes for exceptional performances. The Jockeys Association have brought in William Hill to sponsor the competition which will recognise all fixtures, including those at the all-weather tracks.