Racing: Hustler runs to stay trim

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HE HAS already run 12 times this season and has won seven races, yet the reason that Young Hustler comes out again today at Worcester is because idleness is causing him to put on too much weight, writes John Cobb.

The horse who on successive recent Saturdays won the Great Yorkshire Chase, the Scilly Isles Chase, the final of the Arlington Premier Chase Series and pounds 60,000 in prize-money has put on so much condition since that last win less than three weeks ago that his trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies, has decided to give him today's outing on the way to the Sun Alliance Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. The pounds 16,000 first prize on offer played a part too.

'He's so well,' his trainer said yesterday, 'we've either got to work him or run him. And he might as well run for some money.'

Young Hustler's season has been like a pantomime horse, in two halves. Before Christmas he ran seven times, the first on 5 September, and although he chalked up two wins against moderate rivals, he was trounced a couple of times, was tailed off once and unseated his rider once. Since the festivities he has won five straight races. It is the sort of improvement that Twiston-Davies may struggle to elicit from his other charges for, as he says, 'I can't put my finger on why it's happened. It's all just clicked.'

And there is no lack of confidence from Twiston Davies that it will all click again at Cheltenham, despite a line-up for the Sun Alliance that includes the David Nicholson-trained Barton Bank, Martin Pipe's Capability Brown, Gordon Richards's Whispering Steel and Cab On Target if Mary Reveley, whose stable has been troubled by snow, can get enough exercise into him to run him at Stratford on Saturday.

'Young Hustler wasn't well when Barton Bank beat him at Worcester and a lot of the others have problems with their jumping,' Twiston-Davies said.

Ladbrokes may open a book on the race by the weekend, but before daring to dabble bear in mind those who took short odds about Muse for the Champion Hurdle. The 5-1 favourite last Thursday, his defeat at Wincanton that day saw his price extended to 16-1. Yesterday he drifted to 20-1, while stablemate Oh So Risky was cut four points by Ladbrokes and William Hill, who now quote him at 12-1 and 16-1 respectively.