Racing: Nicholls' Call the sound alternative

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The Independent Online
WHATEVER THE result of this afternoon's re-arranged Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot, it might not be wise to suggest to James Adam that it is better late than never. Adam, who both owns and trains a small string of jumpers in Berwickshire, was ready to make the long journey south last weekend not merely with his chaser Monnaie Forte, but also a 20-1 ante- post voucher about him winning. Given that the best price available last Friday was 4-1, it could have been a very valuable piece of paper.

Yet while the race was simply postponed until today, Adam's bet has been cancelled, period. The bookmakers' rules dictate that if there is the possibility of fresh entries after the overnight declarations have been made, all bets are void and a new market formed. And of course, Adam is not the only punter who is left to wonder why the rules always seem to work in the bookies' favour. The odds compilers rarely get it wrong the first time, but with two attempts, their task could hardly be simpler.

The price against each of today's eight runners is thus as close as you will get to an accurate measure of its chance, less 15 per cent or so for the bookmaker. The search for value, then, is unlikely to be fruitful, and punters may feel drawn ever more strongly towards the favourite, Get Real, particularly as the defection of Or Royal since last Saturday will allow him to race off his true handicap mark, or at any rate, as near to it as Mick Fitzgerald's need for basic nutrition will allow.

Yet it is an urge which is still worth resisting, just as it was six days ago. Although Get Real was an impressive winner over course and distance last time out, he previously ran a strange race at Warwick, when he seemed close to collapse after passing the post having looked a sure winner two out. Consider, also, that he may be taken on for the lead by Monnaie Forte, and his price looks very thin.

The same is true of most of his rivals, though, and perhaps the only quote which could seem unusually generous when the bell sounds on the home turn this afternoon is the 14-1 chalked up against Call Equiname. Paul Nicholls's chaser is making his seasonal debut, but he has won first time up for the last two seasons, and that is generally about all he has done, since injury has tended to intervene shortly afterwards. As a result, though, Call Equiname (3.10) is relatively unexposed for a nine-year- old, and assuming all eight entries go to post, would be a fair each-way bet at double-figure odds.

The list of possible winners is rather shorter in the big novice chase, with just three going to post. The people's pick here will probably be Nipper Reed, whose trainer, Rod Simpson, has overcome all manner of mishaps in a lively career and is enjoying one of his periodic upturns in fortune.

Simpson is a very capable trainer when the fates allow, and his runner deserves to start favourite today. A fair alternative, though, is FLAGSHIP UBERALLES (nap 2.40), who did not get home behind Potentate last time but had previously made an impressive fencing debut at Exeter. He, too, is trained by Nicholls, who has not saddled many runners recently, but has maintained his excellent strike-rate none the less.

Belmore Rock (next best 3.40), an interesting 14-1 chance, will be fitter today than when a good third on his seasonal debut, while away from the cameras, the most significant action is at Kelso, where the Morebattle Hurdle will see the return to action of Deep Water. Micky Hammond's runner won the big juvenile hurdle at Aintree in April and is yet another potential live outsider for the Champion Hurdle.