Racing: Man takes the role of pretender

Click to follow
The Independent Online
REMITTANCE MAN took a further step along the swaying rope- bridge that divides champions at two and three miles when he won on his seasonal debut here yesterday. Nick Henderson's gelding has now taken all but one of his 11 starts over fences.

The eight-year-old put his foot through a slat just once yesterday, when clambering through the third-last fence, and it is perhaps a barometer of his growing standing that this error was allowed such significance. 'I suppose he had to make a mistake one day,' Henderson said.

And one day the Lambourn trainer hopes his horse will dominate National Hunt racing in much the same way as Desert Orchid, who, at 13, looked an almost fluorescent white figure in a fly-past before the race named after him.

Henderson already feels the weight of being in charge of racing's most promising property. 'It frightens me a little bit,' he said. 'There is always the great temptation for people to latch on to what they think is an outstanding horse. I, above anyone, hope they are right with this one but there's a long way to go.'

Henderson's quandary is that having given full rein to Remittance Man's bouncing extravagance to establish the horse as the nation's premier performer over two miles, he must now bottle that enthusiasm to bring the more prestigious distance of three miles within compass. Failure to do so could see a repetition of the faltering display Remittance Man produced in last season's King George VI Chase at Kempton.

'He got too carried away that day,' the trainer said. 'We've got to get him away from all that.

'He has got to cut out his exuberance early on in races - that's great over two miles but no good over three - and my job is to get him to switch off over distances.'

These instructions about relaxing the horse would have been conveyed to Richard Dunwoody, Remittance Man's regular rider, before yesterday's race, but the jockey had to bin them as Peter Scudamore, on Kings Fountain, burst away from the tapes like a startled rabbit. 'I could not put him to sleep too much as we went a really good gallop over the first four or five,' Dunwoody said. 'But I would have to say I would have no worries about him settling over three miles.'

The Ulsterman's only worrying moment yesterday came just after he had taken Kings Fountain's measure. 'He guessed a bit at the third last and it came at the same time as he was blowing up, which probably made it look worse than it really was,' he said.

Henderson appeared almost pleased at the evidence that his horse has incorporated fencing survival, as well as brilliance, into the armoury. 'He is usually so tidy and economical it was quite a surprise to see him giving a fence a clout like that. But, as you can see, he seems to have so many legs. It was like ballet the way he got out of it.'

Remittance Man and Kings Fountain now go their separate ways, the latter to Cheltenham for the Mackeson Gold Cup and the former probably to Huntingdon for the Peterborough Chase.

Henderson will then discover if his soothing tactics have worked in a return to Kempton on Boxing Day. Even further along there is a race called the Gold Cup, but, publicly at least, this event is not at the forefront of Henderson's plans. 'We're just thinking about the King George,' Henderson said. 'We only go as far as that.'

(Photograph omitted)