Racing: Summit meeting for leading Tenor

Racing is going to the dogs, all in a good cause.
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The Independent Online
HORSE meets hound at Cheltenham today. The occasion, though, is nothing to do with the promotion of the slaughter of bushy-tailed wildlife, everything to do with animal welfare. Earth Summit, hero of this year's Grand National at Aintree, and El Tenor, winner of the canine version at Hall Green, will come nose to nose in the paddock in a contrived but worthy encounter set up by the British Greyhound Racing Board.

The title of the third race on the card, the Greyhounds As Pets November Novices Chase, explains all. The aim is to publicise the need for caring homes for those who can no longer ply their trade from the traps at the likes of Wimbledon and Walthamstow. Every dog has his day (as Green Green Desert showed by winning at Cheltenham on Friday) and this afternoon 250 retired greyhounds - including the noble Tara, who saved her adopted family from a house fire by barking - will parade down the course with their new owners.

Tony McCoy, who has a fawn bitch called McCoy's Fancy in training at Crayford, would be an appropriate winner of the cause's feature race. But though his mount, Count Karmuski, made an encouraging debut over fences last month he may find a couple too good for him in the Grade Two contest, which often gives the season's first line to the best novice two-mile chasers. Last year Queen Of Spades beat Direct Route; it was also the race in which Jamie Osborne broke his wrist.

Two of today's runners are on hat-tricks. Dines notched a double at Newton Abbot and Kempton last month despite sketchy jumping, and Desert Mountain scored twice at Huntingdon, though against lowly oppostion. Preference is for Circus Star (2.15), who has won twice at Cheltenham over hurdles. He may have caught a tartar when outpointed by Nordance Prince over today's course on his first effort over the bigger obstacles but jumped soundly and his liking for Prestbury Park should stand him in good stead.

Compensation may await Chai-Yo (2.50), who unshipped his jockey when he became tangled up in a pile-up at the first in last year's Murphy's Draughtflow Hurdle. The little bay gelding has long been one of the favourites of his trainer, Jim Old, but misfortune seems to have dogged his hoofprints and his campaign last year was truncated by illness.

His luck was due to turn and it duly did at Sandown eight days ago when he barely had to come off the bridle to beat Papua with the utmost ease, his first win for nearly two years. He and Timmy Murphy will find today's competitive 16-runner handicap much tougher, but his touch of class and turn of foot may prove decisive, despite his penalty.

The last winner of the race to come back four months later and take the Champion Hurdle was Celtic Shot in 1987. But two years ago the race produced the subsequent title holder, Make A Stand, who finished fifth, and third- placed Space Trucker, who won.

Of today's runners Grey Shot, beaten only once over timber, has already been backed to take the crown after his impressive seasonal debut at Wincanton the same day at Chai-Yo won at Sandown. He deserves the utmost respect and if he can give weight to all bar last year's winner, Mr Percy, he will surely be a contender come March. He fits one of the important profiles of recent winners; six of the last 10 were second-season performers.

Upgrade, however, winner of the Triumph Hurdle, would have to buck a notable trend to succeed. Only one of 32 four-year-olds to take part since 1980 has proved successful, South Parade 10 years ago. For those looking for an each-way shot, try Ginger Fox, whose trainer, Jenny Pitman, has a retired greyhound named Fred.

Of the other televised races Bakkar (1.40), who has switched from David Nicholson to Tim Easterby, can justify his trip from Yorkshire and Capenwray (3.25) should follow up last month's win on the course.