Racing: Double Oscar to take stage in final scene

Glorious Goodwood: Nicholls' sprinter could have the last laugh in the Stewards' Cup on the meeting's closing day

THE FIRST winner of the Stewards' Cup, in 1840, was a horse called Epirus, trained at Malton by John Scott and partnered by his brother William, a man deeply fond of the bottle and often so inebriated that he was unable to ride. But then you do have to take a drink to get involved in this race.

Thirty runners, most of them meshed in intricate form, tearing downhill across the six furlongs of burned Sussex earth, do not provide the most certain of betting mediums. Well, not usually anyway.

In 1997 there was a huge punt on Michael Tabor's Danetime, who was forced down to 5-1 favourite before going in. The winner's owner admitted that pounds 200,000 of the money relieved from the satchels that day went to him. And there are signs that we may get an even shorter price today. David Nicholls's Pepperdine, who won the William Hill Trophy at York last month despite a slipped saddle, might even go off as short as 3-1. That is the measure of not only his form but that of his yard.

In a previous incarnation "Dandy" Nicholls was a middle-of-the-road jockey made out of bits of middle of the road. Of his 421 wins in the saddle the most memorable was right here in this race when Soba made all the running, one of her 11 victories in the 1982 season.

As a trainer, Nicholls is a redoubtable physical presence and is much more professionally formidable. He has developed the skill to turn equine swine into pearls and it is a gift not unrecognised in the betting offices.

In the draw for the sprint, Pepperdine took the No 25 stall, which is high and, by popular consent, handsome. You cannot have a certainty in the Stewards' Cup but Pepperdine might be close if it were not for a horse who will be berthed near him today, as he is all week. For Double Oscar too is a resident in Nicholls's yard.

The six-year-old will be ridden by Nicholls's son Adrian, who already looks a more polished practitioner than his father ever was. Nicholls jnr can still claim 5lb, though it would have been hard to detect anything callow about his three winning rides at Goodwood yesterday. Adrian can now get the thrill of his young life as DOUBLE OSCAR (nap 3.50) needs to come from behind and will be weaving through lots of horseflesh late in the day.

Pat Eddery's presence here on Twice As Sharp is the highlight of the Irishman's return to the saddle after a bone-breaking fall in Austria six weeks ago.

Eddery does not, though, have a ride in the Nassau Stakes in which Godolphin's Cape Verdi and Zahrat Dubai may be chasing the grey shadow of Alborada (3.20). Sir Mark Prescott's filly won this last year, as did her relative Last Second for Prescott in 1986.

Luminant (next best 2.15) can also strike for Prescott, who may be exceedingly greedy and take the valuable nursery at Newmarket with Littlefeather (4.15). Three races from Headquarters and three from Goodwood comprise today's scoop6 Tote bet which carries over pounds 68,000 from last weekend. With Thirsk's two races thrown in on Channel 4, and five evening contests on Sky, it is a day on which a racing fan can gorge.

Above all, this is a weekend of sadness. When Endorsement runs in the Prix de Pomone at Deauville tomorrow it will mark the end of the brief, but spectacular, liaison between Henry Cecil and Kieren Fallon. It will be the end of an era, the end of an error.

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