Racing: Light duties for Nicholls' top two-mile team

IT WAS a race to bring a tremble to the hand and the voice, as good as anything Sandown has seen for years, and whatever the attendance figure was at the course on Saturday, 10 times that number will claim in years to come that they were there when Flagship Uberalles beat Direct Route in the Tingle Creek Chase.

And who could blame them for a little white lie? It was something that anyone would want to have been a part of, as two of the finest chasers in training went at it mercilessly up the hill. By the time they reached the post, both had mined seams of courage that had not been touched before. Punters who thought about a trip to Esher but decided to do some shopping or DIY instead may never forgive themselves.

Unlike many of life's big mistakes, though, there might yet be a way to claw something back from this one, since the first two home can be expected to do it all over again in the Queen Mother Champion Chase in March. With Call Equiname, the defending champion, also expected to take his chance, tickets for the middle day of the Festival, which generally attracts a slightly smaller crowd than those either side, may suddenly become the hottest in town.

Only these three horses are now quoted at best-price odds of less than 10-1 for the Champion Chase, with Flagship Uberalles outright favourite with two of the leading firms.

What most punters will want to know before taking a view, though, is whether Paul Nicholls prefers the champion or the young pretender, both of whom are stabled in his yard. Yesterday he could say only that both horses are well, and may have only one more run each before Cheltenham.

"Flagship Uberalles has come out of the race in cracking order, he's as tough as old boots," Nicholls said. "He won't run over Christmas as I don't want to overface him with Cheltenham very much in mind. The Emblem Chase at Kempton or the Game Spirit at Newbury in the new year are his most likely targets, and the latter is probably favourite as it's a month before the Festival and would fit in nicely."

Call Equiname, meanwhile, will probably head to the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot in January, a race he won last year, and is apparently in good health despite his poor run in the Murphy's Gold Cup last month. "His work since Cheltenham has been good so I'm ignoring that race as if he didn't run in it and training him as normal even thought the whole affair remains a mystery," Nicholls said.

Direct Route, too, seems none the worse for Saturday's race, according to Sue Johnson, wife of his trainer, Howard. It is worth remembering, though, that you can only be sure a hard race has not left its mark when the horse concerned runs close to his best in his next race. And even the best horses will be beaten eventually, as Risk Of Thunder discovered at Punchestown yesterday. The winner of all 10 of his previous races over the track's cross-country course, Risk Of Thunder, who runs in the colours of Sean Connery, could manage only second there yesterday, behind Little Len, a 50-1 chance.

Brother Of Iris, another of Saturday's winners, was the only mover in the Gold Cup market yesterday, down to 20-1 with William Hill, although Coral still offer 33-1. His owners have vouchers at 100-1, but it is still hard to see them being anything more than a novelty come the race itself.

A better bet is that Tony McCoy will overtake both John Francome and Stan Mellor in the all-time winners list well before the Festival. McCoy has four rides at Ayr today, and needs three more winners to reach 1,000 in his career. Another 39 after that will leave him adrift of only Richard Dunwoody (1,699) and Peter Scudamore (1,678), and no bookie would offer anything less than long odds-on about him overhauling both before he hangs up his boots.


Nap: Naughty Future

(Ayr 2.00)

NB: Quick March

(Ayr 3.00)

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little