Racing: Richards orders One for the road

Irrespective of whether or not you backed him, one of the most distressing sights of 1996 was surely that of One Man, the Gold Cup favourite, clambering drunkenly over the second last and slowing to an exhausted walk. The vigour with which he had cantered towards the leaders just seconds earlier disappeared so rapidly that few who were there - and least of all Gordon Richards, his trainer - would care to witness a repeat.

So it is that Richards's decision to remove One Man from the Queen Mother Champion Chase at yesterday's forfeit stage, leaving the Gold Cup as his only Festival engagement, will be seen by some as a positive sign. Surely, the reasoning goes, a trainer of his experience would not go to the Festival unless he was certain that One Man is at last ready to do himself justice around Cheltenham in March. In practice, of course, even the man who knows the horse better than anyone cannot know what enters his grey head when faced by three and a quarter miles around Prestbury Park, and the decision to run is another victory for hope over expectation.

The Champion Chase seemed a realistic alternative for One Man until his recent defeat by Strong Promise in the Comet Chase at Ascot. The growing suspicion must now be that Richards has the dubious good fortune to train the best two-and-three-quarter miler over fences, with neither the speed for the Champion Chase nor the stamina for the Gold Cup, and his odds for the latter event, unchanged at around 9-1, are a clear testament to the scepticism of both punters and bookies.

"I've not declared him for the Champion, which saves us pounds 500," Richards said yesterday. "I think he'll probably run in the Gold Cup, as I think he will have a better chance in that race. He's all right after Ascot and it was my fault that he was below form there, as I ran him too quickly. He was very flat and showed no sparkle.''

Wincanton's Kingwell Hurdle card this afternoon offers a reminder that One Man is not the only resident of Greystoke with a chance of lifting steeplechasing's greatest prize. Unguided Missile, who has been quietly supported for the race in recent weeks, lines up for the Jim Ford Chase, a fascinating event which requires him to give 6lb to a field which includes Coome Hill, himself a very serious Gold Cup candidate, and Maamur, whose aspirations are more directed towards the Grand National at Aintree.

Unguided Missile will be Richards' first runner at the west country track in 33 years with a licence. "I rode there," he said, "but it was about 50 years ago, just after the War, and I can't remember if I had any winners." It will be a long return trip indeed if Unguided Missile leaves empty- handed, but his stamina is distinctly suspect beyond three miles, and it is very difficult to see him conceding the weight to Coome Hill (2.35).

If recent statistics can be believed, meanwhile, victory is the last thing that anyone with championship ambitions should be hoping for. In the last decade, not a single Jim Ford winner has even made the frame in the Gold Cup.

A rather better guide to Festival prospects in recent years has been the Kingwell Hurdle, which has been won by two subsequent Champion Hurdle winners (Kribensis and Alderbrook) in the last six runnings. But not this afternoon, it seems, since Zabadi and Just Little are the only runners who rate even a passing mention in the ante-post betting. Of the two, Just Little - going well when falling two out in the Cheltenham handicap hurdle won by Space Trucker last November - is by far the most interesting.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open