Racing: Rubhahunish gamble is Imperial riddle

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The Independent Online
A PLUNGE on Imperial Cup outsider Rubhahunish caused his odds to tumble from 50-1 to 7-1 with William Hill yesterday. But doubts were raised last night over whether the seven-year-old will even line up at Sandown on Saturday.

Rubhahunish was trained on the Flat by Peter Chapple-Hyam. He later finished third in the 1996 Welsh Champion Hurdle but more recently has been at the stables of James Bennett. The gelding has since switched to another small yard, that of Martin Bosley, after finishing unplaced in two outings this jump season.

Ladbrokes also reported a big gamble on the horse, from 40-1 to 8-1. But the Bosley stable said they were mystified. Sara Bosley, the trainer's wife, said: "I'd love to know who's been backing him.

``We don't gamble and Martin has been invited over to France today to play golf and knows nothing about it. And Rubhahunish is not 100 per cent certain to run. We've got one horse in the yard a little off-colour and we will have to wait and see the results of a scope and a blood-test.

"He has been working very well and we were very lucky to get him. He has got ability but he has run two stinking races and I don't know how anyone seeing those can think that they are being clever by backing him," she added

Rubhahunish is 6lb out of the handicap for the for the pounds 30,000-added Imperial Cup and will only reach the handicap proper if top-weights Cadougold and Star Rage are not declared tomorrow.

Also available at 8-1 with Ladbrokes for Saturday's race is Alabang, confirmed a runner yesterday.

The seven-year-old will be attempting to end a frustrating run of placed efforts. After a promising second at Wetherby the Julie Camacho-trained gelding looked a likely future winner but in his two subsequent starts at Sandown and Kempton he failed to go through with his effort.

"Well, he runs at Sandown but I don't know how he should be ridden," the trainer's father Maurice Camacho said. "He just comes there cantering but doesn't find anything off the bridle."

Graham Bradley rode Alabang in the Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton last time when, after appearing to have the race sewn up, the combination failed to get to Shahrur on the run-in and were beaten four lengths.

"Graham rides him again on Saturday and I'll have to have a word with him as to how to ride the horse," Camacho said. "Brad seems to think we are riding him properly but I don't know, maybe he needs to be in front sooner."

If successful on Saturday Alabang may go for the pounds 50,000 bonus put up by Sunderlands bookmaking firm for the horse who wins the Imperial Cup and follows up in any race at next week's Cheltenham Festival.

"We would have to go for it although I would have considerable reservations about running a horse like Alabang too quick," he added. "His main aims after Saturday are Aintree and the Swinton [at Haydock on 2 May]."

In the ante-post market for the Cheltenham Festival, Space Trucker was the focus of attention yesterday. Coral reported laying Space Trucker to lose "more than pounds 70,000" in the Arkle Trophy (Novice) Chase and cut the Irish-trained horse's price from 16-1 to 12-1.

Space Trucker has failed to jump fences with any great fluency but warmed up for Tuesday's race with a work-out at the Curragh yesterday under big-race jockey Norman Williamson.

Jessica Harrington, the gelding's trainer, was pleased with the schooling session and hopes the ground will not be too soft at Cheltenham. "Space Trucker jumped very well," she said. "A little drier ground would be a help but at least it's the first race on the chase course and we should have the best of the ground."

A year ago Space Trucker was third in the Champion Hurdle but is unraced since occupying the same place Dardjini on soft going at Leopardstown last December.

There were no moves in the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting despite outsider Strong Promise working in pleasing fashion at Newmarket yesterday.

Chris Kinane, assistant to trainer Geoff Hubbard, said: "I rode him in a gallop with one of our other horses over nine furlongs on what was surprisingly good ground and he worked very well. So, God willing, it's all systems go for Cheltenham now."

Following an encouraging reappearance when a five-length second to One Man in Ascot's Comet Chase last month Strong Promise was beaten by Go Ballistic when odds-on at Wincanton two weeks later.

Norman Williamson felt that the seven-year-old was not fit enough at Wincanton but it is more likely that Strong Promise did not stay the trip of three miles and one furlong. If the latter is true, his stamina will certainly expire in the Gold Cup.

The Grey Monk, a more credible Gold Cup contender, will a racecourse gallop between races at Ayr today.