Racing: Dobbin is lost in the country

IT WILL be of no consolation to Tony Dobbin, but if ever a jump jockey was to get confused by the configuration of a course it would be in the Sporting Index Chase, a cross-country encounter, that was held at Cheltenham yesterday, writes Richard Edmondson.

Dobbin appeared to have done the hard bit on McGregor The Third, safely negotiating the first circuit with no pathfinder to show him the way. But then, as the race hotted up and the pack closed, the young Ulsterman's compass went potty. He could have blamed McGregor, who has won this race twice before, and should therefore have been relied on to find his own way round.

On this occasion though the old horse went swerving to the outside of the main bunch and towards one avenue before his jockey realised everyone else was funnelling down another. By the time Dobbin had corrected his navigational error the field had gone. He recovered but could finish only fifth behind an Irish clean sweep led by Linden's Lotto and returned with a face as long as the race. The stewards punished the rider with a seven- day ban, which will come into force at the end of the month.

More consistently unreliable is Green Green Desert, who has been called more names than Elizabeth Taylor. However, the old scoundrel showed that talent is still mixing with waywardness inside his seven-year-old body yesterday in a handicap chase.

This itinerant racehorse, who has competed with distinction on the Flat and is now with Paul Nicholls after beginning his jumping career at Oliver Sherwood's yard, skipped pleasingly around two miles of the old course. He did not come under pressure at any stage, which was perhaps the key to his victory.

"Everything you read in the papers told you this horse had no chance," Nicholls said, "but the work he has done at home suggested he would win. I have been using him to lead the babies and he has settled in well."

n Adrian Maguire has decided not to appeal against the three-day suspension which he collected at Kelso on Wednesday for using his whip with excessive frequency.

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