Racing: Gris has Arkle in sights

OF THE few remaining pieces of the Cheltenham jigsaw left face- down in the box-lid, a couple turned over yesterday at Newbury and Warwick may prove to be of significance during the completion of the final picture beginning in nine days' time.

The powerful Martin Pipe-David Johnston team have won the past two runnings of the Arkle Trophy and Gris D'Estruval is likely to be given the chance to emulate Or Royal and Champleve in the two-mile novice chasers championship after his accomplished performance in the Jack O'Newbury Chase. The little chestnut five-year-old, unbeaten in six starts in his native France, barely put a hoof wrong as he beat Son Of Anshan four lengths to open his British account.

His accurate jumping was a delight to watch, a visual impression backed up by the man in the saddle, Tony McCoy, who was looking round from three out."He jumped superb and was never out of a canter," he said. Pipe's Lady Cricket, meanwhile, will go for the Champion Hurdle

McCoy notched a quick-fire hat-trick on ex-Irish Rash Remark, a Royal & SunAlliance Novice Hurdle possible, in the staying novices' hurdle and on Careysville in the three-mile novices' chase.

Though Geoffrey Johnson's eight-year-old Careysville, trained by Venetia Williams, once held an entry for the Gold Cup itself his Festival sights have been lowered. "His owner, who is nearly 90, backed the horse as a three-year-old each-way for this year's race but after he was beaten last month we thought we'd better be realistic," said the trainer. "He is, though, in a couple of the handicaps."

Castle Mane, the crack point-to-pointer from the Caroline Bailey stable which supplied Williams with her proper Gold Cup contender Teeton Mill, effortlessly took his unbeaten run to seven in the City of Warwick Hunter Chase as his dress rehearsal for the Cheltenham Foxhunters.

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