Racing: Mogul survives Waterloo chaos: Paul Hayward reports on how the Champion Hurdle trial at Haydock yesterday lost its sense of direction

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The Independent Online
A GROUNDSMAN's error in turning too many pages of his racecard transformed yesterday's Waterloo Hurdle at Haydock into an exposition of slapstick in which a two-and-a-half mile race was run over four miles - and in two stages. The official, who was saved the indignity of being named, mistakenly dolled off the second flight of hurdles in the belief that a steeplechase was the next race up, thereby producing chaotic scenes of swerving horses, arm-waving trainers and neck-swivelling riders.

Assuming that A Question of Sport's what-happened-next department have not been forced into creating their own clips, Haydock will be severely reprimanded for failing to safeguard their own Champion Hurdle trial against the kind of confusion which produces wails of bitter cynicism in betting shops. The four runners had travelled nearly a mile and a half before Richard Dunwoody, on the favourite, Mighty Mogul, convinced his fellow travellers that the race was bound to be declared void unless they pulled their mounts to a halt and sought official instructions.

This they did while David Nicholson, Mighty Mogul's trainer, stomped down the course to speak to Dunwoody and be-suited functionaries shouted into walkie-talkies in search of a policy. They decided to turn the Waterloo Hurdle into a Tour de Haydock, and stage two - the restarted section of the race - was duly won by Mighty Mogul.

Just as well, because if Ambuscade, a horse blessed with abundant stamina, had ground his way past Mighty Mogul at the end of the extended journey then punters would have been entitled to ask whether starting prices should have been returned on a race that so ill-fitted its original specifications. 'The favourite won, so the result turned out as you would have expected', Paul Clarkson of Haydock said last night, while Don Payne of William Hill bookmakers said: 'If the stewards are satisfied that it was run within the rules of racing, then we treat it as a legitimate event.'

Not surprisingly, bookmakers did not alter Mighty Mogul's price (10-1) for his divisional championship at the Cheltenham Festival and he remains an immensely promising hurdler, despite the disorder which enveloped this trial. Stiffer tests will now be set in the Spa Hurdle and Bishop's Cleeve Hurdle - both at Cheltenham - and as Nicholson says, with a splodge of irony, 'at least we know he stays'.

The same is unquestionably true of Twin Oaks, who provided Dunwoody with win No. 801 (Mighty Mogul was the 800th) in the Tommy Whittle Chase. Eight times Twin Oaks has won round Haydock, a fact which was evidently forgotten by his regular jockey, Neale Doughty, who had switched to the runner-up, Pat's Jester. 'It's a pity they can't run the King George and Gold Cup at Haydock as Twin Oaks is a different horse round here,' Nicky Richards, the trainer Gordon's son, said, omitting to include the Grand National, of which Twin Oaks once looked a certain future winner.

Twin Oaks was not among 20 entries confirmed yesterday for the new Desert Orchid-less King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, but included on the list of contestants were last year's first and second - The Fellow and Docklands Express - plus Bradbury Star, Kings Fountain, Miinnehoma, Tipping Tim and Pat's Jester, though that one was removed from the betting by Coral after his failure at Haydock.

Even without Desert Orchid and Remittance Man, the King George is thick with quality, and The Fellow's French trainer, Francois Doumen, is aggrieved that Remittance Man should have eclipsed his half-bred steeplechaser in the pre-match analyses. 'The Fellow beat Remittance Man easily in last year's King George', Doumen said yesterday. 'Everyone says Remittance Man improved a lot afterwards but what about The Fellow? He progressed just as much so the result should have been the same this year.'

Bradbury Star's rider, Declan Murphy, is the fastest-rising jockey outside the top rank of Dunwoody, Peter Scudamore, Adrian Maguire and Peter Niven, and yesterday Murphy's now legendary devotion to the task was further rewarded when Michael Stoute booked him to ride Kribensis, the 1990 champion hurdler, in the Bula Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday.

Kribensis's slow recovery from a serious leg injury - this is his first race since March - will not be helped by any ill-placed traffic cones.

(Photograph omitted)