Racing: For The Notebook

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The Independent Online
COLONEL YEAGER, unlike the pioneering American pilot after whom he was named, will not be breaking any sound barriers. But he is expected to run speedily at Cheltenham tomorrow.

The five-year-old is by no means Ireland's hottest fancy for the Festival's opening race, the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, but that should not deter punters from taking the 12-1 on offer with the Tote. William Hill cut his price from 10-1 to 8-1 yesterday.

The Irish have a stunning record at Cheltenham, but that success is down to strength in depth - not just down to their better-fancied horses. Frequently, Ireland's less-heralded runners beat the hot-shots.

At last year's Festival, for example, Willie Mullins's Alexander Banquet (9-1) beat Christy Roche's Joe Mac (6-4 favourite) in the Bumper. And Pat Flynn's French Ballerina (10-1) beat Mouse Morris's His Song (4-1 favourite) in the Supreme Novices'.

The trend could continue in this year's Supreme Novices'. Cardinal Hill and Joe Mac share the top slots in the ante-post betting, at around 9- 4 and 7-2 respectively.

But the one to watch out for is Colonel Yeager, trained by Martin Lynch near Geoghegan, Co Westmeath.

Owned by Captain Cathal Ryan, of the family that created Ryanair, Colonel Yeager has been flying high himself. He has had four races over hurdles, winning three times.

The sole defeat came at Leopardstown at Christmas when he was beaten one and a half lengths by Joe Mac. The latter had a 3lb pull that day, but the weights are level tomorrow. Among other reasons for believing Lynch's horse can gain revenge, is the steep uphill finish at Cheltenham.

``He's bred to stay and he's a real battler,'' Lynch said yesterday. ``I've no doubts about his stamina up that hill. He's the nearest thing to Forrest Gump I've seen in a horse. He's so disappointed when you try to pull him up after a gallop. He never wants to stop.''

Lynch confirmed that Richard Dunwoody has been booked to ride.