Racing: Stewards puzzled by Tate's sweet win

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The Independent Online
A SIX-LENGTH victory by a 20-1 shot in the "Showcase Handicap", the Tote Hurdle at Ludlow yesterday, attracted the attention of the track's stewards.

Two Lords, trained at Kidderminster by Martin Tate, had been available at 33-1 in the morning, largely because he was 19lb out of the handicap. The seven-year-old had been the subject of a stewards' inquiry earlier in the season at Bangor when Tate was fined pounds 700. Yesterday the Ludlow stewards looked into the improved form by Two Lords, compared with his last run at Haydock in January when he was beaten 50 lengths into fourth place.

The stewards noted Tate's explanation that Two Lords was suited by the better ground. Tate said: "This was only the horse's fourth run for me. He had been breaking blood vessels, but we've managed to sort that out now. He's also been hunting and that sweetened him up as well."

On the Cheltenham Festival front, Val Ward yesterday confirmed City Hall as a runner in the Champion Hurdle.

The trainer said the grey remained in excellent form following his good second to Decoupage in the Tote Gold Trophy, when giving that winner 10lb. "I wouldn't expect him to beat Istabraq but he was runner-up in the Triumph Hurdle last year and I'd be delighted if he was placed again," Ward said. City Hall, who would be best suited by good to soft going, was a 66-1 shot with William Hill last night.

Howard Johnson said that Direct Route, one of the favourites for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, is "odds-against" running at the Festival. Bad weather has badly hampered his preparation since the gelding burst a blood vessel when well beaten behind Teeton Mill at Ascot last month.