Racing: Seven Towers looks built to last

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With great romantic timing, Kim Bailey and Norman Williamson chose yesterday to kiss and make up following their estrangement of last year. The former dream team from Upper Lambourn will be reunited for the first time since their split, at Punchestown tomorrow, when Williamson will partner the horse on which he won the 1995 Gold Cup, Master Oats.

If the sight of Master Oats emerging from Bailey's Old Manor Stables will be a shock - he last ran over 12 months ago when runner-up to Imperial Call at Leopardstown - it will be even more arresting to see Williamson going in the other direction. Jockey and trainer appeared to have fallen out irreparably at the season's outset.

"It will be great to be back on him as I missed his runs last season when I was injured," Williamson said yesterday. "The last time I rode him was in the Grand National after he won the Gold Cup. I've schooled Master Oats and he went very well. He felt great, jumped well and I couldn't have been more pleased with him."

Martin Pipe and Richard Dunwoody also almost reached a point where they were back-to-back on a misty morning with pistols in hand, but expedience has dictated that they resume talks. Cadougold (1.15) in Chepstow's opener today should be another victory for their rapprochement.

Hooves will be thundering on some television sets for just about the whole afternoon because as well as three races from the Welsh track covered by the BBC, a further eight contests will be screened from Newcastle and Warwick by Channel 4.

Chepstow, nevertheless, seems to provide the most attractive combat, even if the performance of Pipe's possible Gold Cup runner Cyborgo comes too late for the cameras. There could be a ripple in the Blue Riband market earlier when Nahthen Lad (1.45) goes in the Fledgling Chase. The eight- year-old has performed this season as though he has forgotten to remove a wheel clamp, thus reinforcing the theory that any winner of the debilitating Royal SunAlliance Chase might as well sign up for football-ground duty with the police there and then.

However, his trainer, Jenny Pitman, proved the adage wrong when supervising Garrison Savannah to go on from novice success to the big one, and it must be said that Nahthen Lad is still held in the highest esteem at Weathercock House. He must justify that today.

This reporter was leaning on a bar last year when a shrewd contact of the Josh Gifford stable informed me that a five-year-old in the yard was among the most promising animals Findon had ever seen. With typical sagacity, the only action your correspondent took was to order another bag of pork scratchings. Boardroom Shuffle (2.15) is now unbeaten in three starts this campaign and if he collects his Grade Two assignment today he may even bypass novice events at the Festival and head for the Champion Hurdle.

At Warwick, yet another potential Gold Cup aspirant lines up when Maamur (4.30) makes his seasonal debut. Tim Forster's grey has received sporadic backing over the winter, though it must be said this has not been at the behest of his pessimistic trainer, who is shocked when he discovers that his horses have not committed mass suicide each morning.

King Pin (next best 3.55) has already been stapled with the onerous label of being Peter Beaumont's new Jodami but is progressing nicely, while an informative trial for the Arkle Trophy will be conducted in the previous race, the Kingmaker Novices' Chase. The former classy hurdler Squire Silk gets 7lb from his market rival here, but it may be that the fencing experience of Mulligan (3.20) holds sway.

There is also the touch of a match about the Eider Chase at Newcastle, which is billed as a trial for the Grand National, though its only resemblance to Liverpool is extreme distance and the fact that a leading Premiership club is housed nearby.

Those that are entered at Aintree are some way out of the handicap, though Gordon Richards's Parsons Boy has the scope to rifle up the ratings. On this occasion, he may succumb to a horse who is effective as long as he is allowed four miles to remove the damp from his spark plugs. Get on SEVEN TOWERS (nap 4.10).


1987 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96

Fate of the favourites: 1 1 4 3 A 7 1 A F 5

Winner's place in betting: 1 1 3 0 A 0 1 A 2 0

Starting-prices: 11-4 5-2 11-2 13-2 A 16-1 3-1 A 4-1 9-1

Winning ages: 13 8 8 8 A 10 9 A 12 10

Winning weight: 11.11 10.7 9.11 10.0 A 9.7 10.0 A 10.6 9.11

Profit or loss to pounds 1 stake: Favourites +pounds 3.25 Second Favourites -pounds 3.00

Percentage of winners placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd in last race: 88%

Shortest-priced winner: Star Of Screen 5-2 (1988)

Longest-priced winner: David's Duky 16-1 (1992)

Top trainers: No trainer has won this race more than once in the last 10 years

Top jockey: No jockey has won this race more than once in the last 10 years