Scudamore had been closing the gap on Dunwoody through the first weeks of the year, a surge that was accompanied by wise nodding from the statisticians who proclaimed the inevitability of the Martin Pipe-fuelled Scudamore going into overdrive as the season progressed. True, Scudamore has often before come from behind to take the championship, but this time he will have to grind long and hard if he is to wear down Dunwoody.
The Ulsterman's lead at the close of business yesterday was back to 21 and, for the first time since 26 January, William Hill have him as clear favourite in the race at 8-13. Scudamore is out to 6-5.
Significantly, Dunwoody's success on Barton Bank enabled his principal employer, David Nicholson, to join Pipe as the only trainers to pass pounds 500,000 in win and place prize-money collected this season.
Barton Bank will now strengthen Dunwoody's hand for the Cheltenham Festival - the next destination for two more more of yesterday's winners, Trainglot and Flakey Dove - and could not have had a more straightforward preparation.
The novice chaser, who has the Sun Alliance Chase as his target, suffered his only defeat this term at Kempton on Boxing Day when he toppled over. 'It was a bad fall at Kempton,' Nicholson said, 'and Barton Bank has had a few good schools since then. With no disrespect to the second, he had another good one here.'
Trainglot's win came in an event that Nicholson used last year to prime Thetford Forest for success in the Sun Alliance Novice Hurdle, the aim also for this year's winner who will find stiff opposition in Pipe's Lord Relic and Nicholson's Hebridean in what promises to develop into one of the best races of the meeting.
Flakey Dove will be asked to perform in Newbury's Berkshire Hurdle - 'she thrives on racing,' according to her trainer Richard Price - before an assault on the Champion Hurdle.
The quality of her opposition there will be put to the test at Wincanton today, where the 5-1 favourite for this year's race, Muse, tries to give weight away to Valfinet, whose development this season has been at much the same rate as the decline of another adversary, Kribensis.
The winner of the 1990 Champion Hurdle has been beset by injuries and a susceptibility to burst blood vessels and his trainer, Michael Stoute, will press for his retirement if he fails to show any of his old fire today.
The Jim Ford Chase even more resembles a sports' day event at a home for the old and infirm. Cool Ground, last year's Gold Cup winner, may well be about to return to form, but it will be harder for his predecessor as blue riband holder, Garrison Savannah, to rekindle his form, while the David Elsworth-trained Ghofar, and another formerly in his care, Cavvies Clown, appear spent.
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