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Racing: Pride comes a cropper in mud

Giant-Killing was always on the cards at Naas yesterday, and Dorans Pride duly failed to beat his lower-division rivals in the Boyne Handicap Chase. But, even allowing for the conditions stacked against the horse who had started the day clear favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the manner in which he succumbed - he finished an exhausted last of five - was disappointing.

The Michael Hourigan-trained chestnut, who had missed his scheduled run in the Ericsson Chase last weekend because of a foot infection, had, in desperately heavy ground, to concede upwards of 32lb to his four opponents, none of whom could be rated in his class at level weights but who were no mugs either.

The 12st carried by Dorans Pride, not the biggest of individuals, included more than a stone of dead weight in the form of lead slabs in the saddlecloth, and for the live part of his burden, Richard Dunwoody, the writing was on the wall fairly early in the two-mile, three-furlong contest.

"He was never jumping with his usual spring," said the Ulsterman. "He couldn't get out of the ground, just didn't come up in my hands. When I went short he was slow at his fences and when I asked for a long one he made mistakes."

Dorans Pride has never been a flamboyant jumper, in the style of One Man, say, but he has always been accurate and scopey enough. But yesterday he was consistently outjumped by the bottom weight Second Schedual from the start as the pair shared the donkey work round the first circuit, setting a strong pace for the conditions but with Dunwoody no doubt mindful that the distance would have been short enough for his partner.

Five from home, with Second Schedual just in front and New Co pressing just behind, Dorans Pride lost a little ground with a slight error, but it was at the next fence, the final ditch, that his race fell apart. He hit the obstacle hard in front - and Dunwoody did well to stay in the saddle as his forward impulsion abruptly ceased - and lost more leeway with a nervous-looking balloon over the third-last.

Another dreadful blunder at the last stopped him to a walk, at which pace he crossed the line some minutes after Tommy Treacy produced the Arthur Moore-trained Manhattan Castle with a well-judged run from way off the pace to beat New Co.

It was only the third time in his 30 career outings that Dorans Pride, unbeaten in his three previous runs this term, had failed to collect prize money. Hourigan refused to blame last week's foot problem for his defeat, saying: "His programme was held up for only two days, and that is no excuse whatever.

"It's not the first time that I `ve been disappointed training horses, but he has walked away sound and seems OK. It was the first time since his bumper days that he has had to race on ground this heavy."

"Richard tells me he was the first horse beaten, and I suppose the heat is off us now. If everything is OK, we will be heading next to the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown."

Turf Club vet Maire O'Connor later reported Dorans Pride to be "in respiratory distress" and took routine samples for analysis.

Dorans Pride is now out to 7-1 with Ladbrokes - who make The Grey Monk their new 6-1 favourite - for the Gold Cup which is shaping up, almost by default, into one of the most open championships for decades. It was back in 1957 that Kerstin and Pointsman went off 6-1 joint market leaders at Cheltenham, though the winner was the 100-9 shot Linwell.

Although Dunwoody had no joy on Dorans Pride his afternoon was hardly fruitless. He rode a four-timer on Daybreak Express, Promalee, Cliffs Of Dooneen and Glebe Lad.

On the day of the third round of the FA Cup it was appropriate that there was a football connection to the first winner at Musselburgh, one of only two meetings in Britain after Newbury and Uttoxeter were called off. Trooper, owned by a syndicate of which Ally McCoist is a member, stormed away from his rivals to give McCoist small consolation for Rangers' Old Firm defeat the previous day.