Racing: Kenny on course for marathon

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AS SURELY as Boxing Day follows Christmas, so the glamour of the King George at Kempton is followed by the grit of the Welsh National. It will take almost nine minutes for the field to thud their way around and around Chepstow next Tuesday, and if the weather forecast is even half-way accurate, the going will be desperate. Only the bravest need apply.

Twenty-two horses whose trainers think they have what it takes were left after the latest declaration stage yesterday, including Earth Summit, the only horse in training to have won all three domestic Nationals. He will carry top weight, while Young Kenny, the Scottish National winner last season, will have just 2lb less in his saddle.

Despite the size of his burden, Young Kenny is just a point from favouritism with the race's sponsors, Coral. He is a 5-1 chance, with only Fiddling The Facts, who fell at Becher's when favourite for the Grand National in April, ahead of him on 4-1. Henry Daly's Edmond, who won at Chepstow earlier this month, has attracted plenty of money in recent days and is down to 6-1, with 8-1 and upwards available about the rest.

"All's well with him and the plan is for him to run," Peter Beaumont, Young Kenny's trainer, said yesterday. "I was quite happy with the way he ran at Newbury [when fifth in the Hennessy]. I didn't expect any more of him, but there wasn't another suitable race for him at the time. Soft ground at Chepstow will be ideal and I've always had this race in mind for him."

Paul Nicholls, who runs two in the King George, has options in the Welsh National as well, with Flaked Oats and Earthmover among the declarations. "I'd like to run them both and Flaked Oats is a definite runner," he said yesterday, "but if it came up bottomless, Earthmover might go to Cheltenham the following Friday. It looks a hot contest. It would be nice to win it as a trainer as well [he rode Playschool to victory 12 years ago], but I wouldn't say it's a race I'm especially aiming for - you just want to win anything worth a lot of money."

Star Traveller, a stablemate of Edmond, is another entry who will go to Cheltenham instead if the ground is too testing. Martin Pipe, meanwhile, who has won five of the last nine runnings of the race, has just two entries left and with 20-1 offered against Rash Remark, apparently the best of them, this may not be his year.

The fields for the other main events of the Christmas period are also taking shape, with Paul Carberry confirmed yesterday as the rider of Florida Pearl in the Ericsson Chase at Leopardstown on Tuesday. Carberry gets the ride ahead of Ruby Walsh, the Irish champion and the stable jockey of Willie Mullins, Florida Pearl's trainer. He is expected to keep the ride in the Gold Cup.

Walsh has not ridden since fracturing a leg in a fall in the Czech Republic in October, but he had hoped to be declared fit in time for Christmas. "Ruby couldn't give me a commitment this morning and we had to make our own arrangements," Mullins said yesterday. "It's disappointing for the lad, but if he's not 100 per cent, the advice has to be that he should give it a little longer. Ruby has never ridden Florida Pearl in a race and it'll be difficult to get Paul off now. Florida Pearl is probably going to have one race after the Ericsson before Cheltenham and it probably wouldn't make sense to change jockeys anyway."

Florida Pearl is one of 11 entries for the Ericsson Chase, although one of his potential rivals, Looks Like Trouble, has been declared only as a precaution against the abandonment of the King George.