Racing: Inexperience no handicap to Sybillin's Ascot hopes

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The Independent Online
IF MI5 ever needs an expert to instruct its raw recruits in the fine art of keeping a secret, it could do a lot worse than employ Jimmy FitzGerald.

FitzGerald does not so much keep his cards close to his chest as sew them into the lining of his shirt, but he is an impeccably canny judge of a horse and when he reaches for his wallet, bookmakers develop nervous tics. Only the foolish will put his decision to run Sybillin in next Saturday's Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot down to blind optimism.

Sybillin was a fine hurdler, but has tackled fences just twice, emerging victorious on both occasions. He will face some battle- hardened handicappers next weekend, but if his trainer thinks him worthy, the hint is worth

taking.

FitzGerald's principal alternative for Sybillin was Friday's PML Lightning Novice Chase, a Grade One contest. In his absence, it might appear that the sponsors should just send the winner's cheque to Wonder Man's connections and save them some petrol money, but 'predictable' novice chases have claimed more fortunes than the Wall Street Crash.

In particular, his rivals will remember the singular mess which Wonder Man made of the last fence at Kempton at the end of December. Isaac Newton's sums might have been very different had he witnessed Wonder Man's feat in staying upright that day, but luck like that does not last

forever.

With that in mind, he is worth opposing, and the value may lie with Reggae Beat, who has been impressive in winning at Catterick and Doncaster this season and is ready to step up in class.

Horses are queuing up to race after the New Year's frost-induced holiday, and the fields for most of this week's races will be prohibitively large. However, Just Moss (2.45) should be good enough at Lingfield tomorrow, and the good Flat handicapper Bean King (3.40) has a manageable task at Chepstow the following day. Run To Form (2.50) has been doing anything but on his first two outings this season, but if his fitness has now returned he is up to winning at Plumpton on Wednesday.

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