Racing: Rare case of Anzum is as Anzum does

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The Independent Online
STAYING HURDLERS are, perhaps, the poor relations of the jumping world, without the flamboyance of those who excel over shorter distances or the glamour of their equivalents over fences. But for sheer ruggedness they have no equal. To run a marathon and skim over obstacles without the respite in the air granted to steeplechasers takes a singular horse indeed.

And Anzum does, and Anzum is. Alan King, his trainer, and Richard Johnson, his jockey, were united in their admiration for the bay eight-year-old after his performance in the Long Walk Hurdle over nearly three and a quarter miles here yesterday. The contest, the divisional mid-season decider, had been billed as, and proved, a showdown between Anzum, the surprise winner of the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham, and Deano's Beeno, so impressive at Newbury last month.

Anzum had been only third on that occasion, but as the field of six set off it was clear a different set of tactics was to be employed. As Tony McCoy launched Deano's Beeno into his trail-blazing role, Johnson gave Anzum a slap from the gate and kept the leader right in his sights. And the pace was relentless, so much so that after just half a mile the rest were playing only for places.

Johnson was in drive position, just to to keep tabs, fully a mile out, but Anzum kept responding. Extreme distances and a stiff track suit him just fine; before the straight McCoy had begun to push and slap and Johnson knew, this time, the day was his. "I knew if I could keep him within five lengths on the turn in I'd beat him," he said, "he was travelling as well as he's ever done and although you have to work hard on him, he gives you everything."

Anzum was 17 lengths clear of an exhausted Deano's Beeno at the line and for King, who was assistant to the now-retired trainer David Nicholson when their charge upset hotpots Le Coudray and Lady Rebecca at Cheltenham, the result was a justification. "He never really got the credit he deserved for that," he said, "but today he has proved he is top class, and tough with it. The only misgiving I had was that he and Deano's had gone off too quickly - I don't think I've ever seen a race run at such a pace - but I knew three out that we'd got him."

The partnership-owned Anzum continued the phenomenal start that King, 33, has made to his career since taking over from Nicholson earlier this month. Here alone yesterday he notched two victories - Toto Toscato won the opener - and saw Spendid beaten a short-head. "Not too many knives out yet," he said, "but it helps that they're running so well. I keep thinking I'll wake up." The young Scotsman reported that Go Ballistic, the yard's King George VI Chase candidate, worked in more than satisfactory fashion yesterday morning.

If McCoy and Martin Pipe had to settle for second place in the day's feature, there was no way that was going to apply in the preceding Tote Silver Cup Handicap Chase. The champion jockey was at his best on Tresor De Mai, forcing the French-bred's nose in front of Spendid's in the last stride.

The runner-up did not have luck on his side - he was slightly impeded when Fard Du Moulin Mas came down in front two out - but, as Pipe, the part-owner with the Dublin businessman Joe Moran, said, the bookies pay out on the result, not what might have been.

McCoy rode an exemplary race on Tresor De Mai, a classy two-mile novice stepping up in trip and having his first race since a heavy fall at Cheltenham last month. "He was a bit shy over the first two", he said, "but then he warmed up. Coming to the last he wasn't quite on stride, but I couldn't throw an unconfident horse at it, so I had to let him pop. He lost some momentum but he's brave as you like in a finish."

Those looking for a rising star to follow into the new millennium could do worse than hitch along with Monsignor. The Irish-bred five-year-old may have caused a surprise outside his own stable when he won the Cheltenham bumper in March at 50-1, but his talent is now in the public domain and he made it two out of two over obstacles with a tremendously easy odds- on victory in the Kennel Gate Novices' Hurdle.

Malcolm Denmark's young chestnut had his rivals in trouble in the Grade Two contest as soon as Norman Williamson pressed the go button off the final bend. But, despite Monsignor's burgeoning talents over hurdles, his trainer, Mark Pitman, is counting the days until he jumps fences. "Norman says he rides like a very good two-mile horse and will be a machine when we step him up to two and a half. But he's really a steeplechaser. Anything before that is a bonus."