Racing: Dunwoody to ride I'm Supposin

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The Independent Online
THE good omens continued to accumulate around I'm Supposin yesterday when Richard Dunwoody was confirmed as the big-race rider on a horse who is now as short as 5-1 for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in exactly a fortnight's time. I'm Supposin ran away with the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton last Thursday, and the form of that performance was franked just two days later when Master Beveled finished an excellent second to Red Blazer at Haydock.

In opting to ride I'm Supposin, Richard Dunwoody has effectively turned down the chance to partner either Grey Shot or Sanmartino in the timber championship, so there can be little doubt that the message which passed down the reins last Thursday was an extremely positive one. "It has now been confirmed that Richard will ride I'm Supposin at Cheltenham, and he's very much looking forward to it," Robert Parsons, the jockey's agent, said yesterday. The jockey has just one previous victory in the race, on Kribensis in 1990.

Dunwoody may also have considered the likely going on Champion Hurdle day, which at present seems unlikely to be any slower than good. A sound surface should suit I'm Supposin, but detract from the chance of both Istabraq, who may be more of a two-and-a-half miler, and Dato Star, who has shown all his best form with plenty of give.

I'm Supposin was available at 14-1 for Cheltenham immediately after his success at Wincanton, but is now the 5-1 second favourite with Ladbrokes. The best price at present is 6-1, with Coral.

Ian Balding, the trainer of Grey Shot, had no idea yesterday who might replace Dunwoody on his Champion contender. Dunwoody has partnered Grey Shot on all three of his outings over hurdles, which have brought two victories and a 14-length defeat by French Holly in a Grade One contest at Sandown in January. "All I know is that it won't be Richard Dunwoody," Balding said. "The horse is fine, but he will only run at Cheltenham if the going is good or faster."

A further doubt emerged to cloud the Champion Hurdle picture yesterday when Ted Walsh, trainer of last year's Triumph Hurdle winner Commanche Court, warned punters that his gelding is not certain to line up for the race.

"He's in the Stayers' Hurdle as well and we will make a decision nearer the time," Walsh said. "He's rated some way behind the Champion Hurdle horses and not too many Triumph Hurdle winners go on to win the race."

Commanche Court started second-favourite for his last race, the Tote Gold Trophy at Newbury last month, but could finish only eighth. "He's all right now, he's 100 per cent," Walsh said. "I was disappointed with him at Newbury as he couldn't cope with it but one bad run doesn't make a summer and it doesn't change your plans that much."

There is a definite plan, however, for Lonesome Glory, the best chaser in the United States, who is on course for the Gold Cup after a victory on the Flat in Virginia two days ago. "He won well on Sunday and we were really pleased with him," Bruce Miller, Lonesome Glory's trainer, said yesterday. "He only won a length and a half but he never wins very far. It was a very good performance because the going was a little softer than he likes."

The 10-year-old will be stabled with Peter Chapple-Hyam during his preparation for chasing's greatest race, and will be ridden at Cheltenham - as ever, by Miller's daughter, Blythe, who will be attempting to be the first woman jockey to win a top-class steeplechase. Sunday's outing was Lonesome Glory's first since winning the Colonial Cup at Camden in November, a victory which earned him the Eclipse Award as America's best chaser for the fourth time.

"The Gold Cup is a big challenge, but he has done everything over here so we are hoping he can do something over there," Miller said. Ladbrokes, however, believe otherwise, and offer 100-1 against Lonesome Glory winning the Gold Cup.

lTHE Jockey Club will not comment until today at the earliest on the outcome of discussions held yesterday into matters arising from the Top Cees libel case.