Racing: Smooth return for Silk

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The Independent Online
THE LARGEST National Hunt stable in the country and one of the smallest took strides towards the major races of spring at Chepstow yesterday.

Double Silk, the Reg Wilkins-trained winner of the Foxhunters' Trophies at both Cheltenham and Aintree last year, made an impressive seasonal reappearance in winning by 25 lengths and is now as low as 16-1 second-favourite to Moorcroft Boy for the Grand National and 33-1 for the Gold Cup. 'He needed the race badly and will come on a lot for it,' Wilkins said.

In the juvenile hurdle Pipe introduced Devil's Den, whom Chester Barnes, his assistant, had claimed out of Paul Kelleway's stable for pounds 20,000 after winning at York in October. The gelding easily justified a big reputation and heavy support down to 8-11 favouritism in winning from his stable-mates Cyborgo and Love You Madly and is 10-1 with William Hill (20-1 with Coral) for Cheltenham's Triumph Hurdle.

At Prestbury Park he will meet Moorish, winner of Nottingham's opener for Adrian Maguire and John White and now 20-1 for the Triumph.

On the Champion Hurdle front there was encouraging news for those who believe Oh So Risky, runner-up to Royal Gait in 1992 and fifth to Granville Again last season, provides the best alternative to Fortune And Fame. David Elsworth's horse will reappear in the Tote Gold Trophy at Newbury on 12 February, a race in which he is set to shoulder 12st.

Merchant House, who carries the confidence of his trainer, Red Weaver, despite being a 500-1 chance for the Champion when entries were published on Monday, was the subject of a pounds 100 each-way bet with Ladbrokes and has been cut to 200-1.