Racing: Murphy is eased back by Cultured: After his heroics at Cheltenham, the Mackeson-winning jockey finds a less demanding partner

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The Independent Online
DECLAN MURPHY found himself with another headache as he rode Cultured at Leicester yesterday, but it was more welcome than the one which tormented him during Saturday's Mackeson Gold Cup. As he cantered behind the favourite, Royal Derbi, in the Thorpe Satchville Hurdle, he had to decide when to hit the front, and how far to win by.

Murphy chose to wait until the last flight before overtaking the outsider, Simpson, by which time Royal Derbi was long since beaten, and Cultured was not extended to hold a four-length margin at the line. The jockey, who had to pass the course doctor before racing, reported that he had spent Sunday 'in bed, resting and sleeping' following his courageous performance in the Mackeson, but was keen to establish a regular partnership with Cultured.

It should be a profitable one, as John White's gelding is already useful, and still improving. 'On soft or heavy ground, he's very decent,' the trainer said. 'The New Year Hurdle at Windsor is a race I like for him if the ground is suitable.'

Like Murphy, Steve Smith Eccles travelled to Leicester for a single ride, but while he finished unplaced on In For A Pound he should not be struggling for pocket money in the near future. Smith Eccles had recently returned from South Carolina, where he rode Declare Your Wish to victory in the dollars 100,000 Colonial Cup at Camden on Sunday.

Declare Your Wish, trained by the American champion, Janet Elliott, ensured that the recent record of British exiles was not improved. Flown, ridden by Jamie Osborne and formerly trained by Nick Henderson, was pulled up, though his jockey was sure that he would have held on to second had his mount not gone lame approaching the last.

Whatever problems may afflict Jodami and Cab On Target when they contest the Edward Hanmer Memorial Chase at Haydock tomorrow, avoiding fallen rivals is unlikely to be one of them. Only Old Road, who will race from almost 5st out of the handicap, is expected to challenge the two Gold Cup contenders, and at his own steady pace. David Wintle's chaser is guaranteed pounds 2,000 simply for completing, and the trainer said yesterday: 'He will go round in his own time, there would be no point giving him a hard race. It is better than trying to win a small chase and you never know, something might happen to one of the others.'

The feature race at Ascot on Saturday, the H & T Walker Gold Cup, will suffer from a similar shortage of numbers. Travado, last year's Arkle Trophy winner, is the only one of six entries would can run from his true handicap mark, and after his commanding reappearance success at Exeter, Nick Henderson's gelding will surely start at odds-on.

More encouraging is the list of entries for Aintree's meeting the same day, the first at the course since the Grand National fiasco in April. Twenty- eight horses have been entered for the two races over the National fences, and, not surprisingly, a new starting mechanism will be in place. The new system is expected to release the tape five times faster than before, and will be given a thorough test-run tomorrow. The starter's rostrum has also been repositioned to give him a clearer view of the first fence and the recall flagmen.

Six runners from the void National are among the entries on Saturday. Direct, Garrison Savannah, Latent Talent, Mister Ed and Wont Be Gone Long are possible runners in the Becher Chase, while Howe Street is among 11 entries for the John Parrett Memorial Chase.

(Photograph omitted)

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