The local MP may not be the big wheel he once was, but the most prestigious race in his Huntingdon constituency reaches the peak of its popularity this afternoon. It has been something of a surprise that Don King has not been spotted in the Fens this week attempting to get a promotional slice of a Peterborough Chase which sees Martha's Son, Viking Flagship and One Man borne to the course by their attendants.
The meeting immediately puts a lie to the suggestion that Cheltenham in March (and possibly Liverpool the following month) is the only place to witness top-class jumping that simmers the blood.
The Peterborough is run over a compromise distance of two and a half miles. One Man would prefer a little further, while his two rivals will be getting towards the extremity of their stamina range.
There is an argument for believing that Viking Flagship, who now has the clanking breast pocket of a field marshal, has dodged the hail at so many theatres of war that he may have become shellshocked. However, as tenacity and an unbreakable spirit are at the core of his success, it would not be entirely inappropriate to voice this opinion when his choppers are anywhere near you. The 10-year-old has been counted out more times than Frank Bruno, yet on his reappearance at Exeter there was a demonstration he was not quite ready for decommissioning with a smooth defeat of stablemate Mulligan.
Viking Flagship, though, has something to find with Martha's Son on their recent encounters. Tim Forster's gelding captured the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Festival earlier this year, followed by the Melling Chase at Liverpool, where he shoulder-charged the first to give the boys a chance but still managed to sweep home. On both pillages, the Viking was among the victims.
Aintree represented only Martha's Son's second completed race since he did himself a mischief in this contest in 1995. He does though have form on the track, having won three times at Huntingdon, including this race, in 1994.
One Man, on the other hand, makes his debut at Brampton, which should not be excessively detrimental as he routinely runs well on tight courses. The King George VI Chase at Kempton and Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Festival are now the main ingredients of his programme following connections' belated recognition that their beast does not get the Gold Cup distance of 31/4 miles and 110 yards, especially at Cheltenham.
Even if One Man jumps over the rails and lands on top of his owner's car this afternoon, it will be unlikely to rile John Hales. Mr Golden Bear Toys has been having rather a remunerative time of it recently as his company has been in charge of distributing little Teletubbies. There was no paunch, however, when One Man again won the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on his seasonal debut.
The nine-year-old is at his best before a new calendar is pinned up on the wall, and the grey ONE MAN (3.10) has more than the coincidence of running in John Major's homeland to recommend him.
Elsewhere on the card, there is reason to support animals proven in this environment. Solo Gent (next best 2.10) will be better now he is returned to the arena where he has won four times. Wamdha (3.40) too has a course record of five wins, two seconds and and two thirds from nine runs and can win the race named in her honour. Oi Mother (2.40) can complete the set and a hat-trick, particularly as the Nicholson- Maguire alliance is going so well.
Worcester too gets a rare visitation from the television cameras and Big Ben Dun (3.25) can advertise his expertise on his reappearance, as he did for the only time last season. In addition, they like Eulogy (2.25) at Richard Rowe's yard. We should too.
NAP: One Man
NB: Solo Gent
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