Racing: Suny shadowed by old foes

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The Independent Online
THE PAST returns to haunt Suny Bay at Haydock on Saturday when Britain's top-rated steeplechaser will encounter two old adversaries that his connections would happily never see again. Lord Gyllene and Earth Summit, who have relegated the grey to the role of runner-up in the last two Grand Nationals, take him on again in the Tommy Whittle Chase at the Lancashire course.

In theory, it should be all so different this time, with Lord Gyllene having not set foot on a racecourse since that Monday evening triumph at Aintree in 1997 and Earth Summit meeting Suny Bay on hugely disadvantageous terms because this is a conditions race rather than a handicap. But on Haydock's long run-in from the last fence, who could begrudge Graham Bradley a little anxiety as he looks around for the two most durable stayers in the land.

It is familiar territory for Suny Bay, who has won three times over the course and established his position at the pinnacle of Britain's chasers with an impressive win over Escartefigue, Strath Royal, See More Business and The Grey Monk - who is likely to reoppose on Saturday - in the Edward Hanmer Chase there last month.

While Suny Bay's aim is to consolidate his status as a major candidate for the season's premier chases, Cyfor Malta will be attempting in the Tripleprint Gold Cup at Cheltenham to move up a notch or two in pursuit of the top spot.

The winner of the Murphy's Gold Cup over the old course here, Cyfor Malta is likely to renew rivalry with the runner-up that day, Simply Dashing, who is also in the Tommy Whittle. Simply Dashing is set to meet Martin Pipe's runner on 9lb better terms this time and the Nicholashayne trainer will have to think back only as far as last Saturday's Sandown defeat of Blowing Wind to realise that the handicapper has the power to interrupt the winning runs of even the most talented individuals.

Pipe will take heart from the comments yesterday of Simply Dashing's trainer, Tim Easterby, who is far from convinced that his charge will be able to make up the length by which he was beaten by Cyfor Malta in the Murphy's even on these more favourable terms.

"Simply Dashing got interfered with by a faller and got behind, but the winner might have had 9lb in hand," Easterby said. "But Simply Dashing has come out of the race very well and is in good form. Wherever he runs he will wear a visor to help him concentrate. He is ultra-game but very lazy."

Easterby's cautious estimate of Simply Dashing's chance is balanced by his more aggressive plans for the gelding. "I'm also thinking of running him in the King George." the Great Habton trainer added.

The bookmakers clearly believe that Cyfor Malta had plenty in hand of the fast-finishing Simply Dashing last time and make Pipe's horse the 5-2 favourite for Saturday's race, while Easterby's charge is as generously priced as 7-1 with Coral.

Also on trial for championship honours at the weekend are Dato Star and Grey Shot, two of the acceptors for Cheltenham's Bula Hurdle on Saturday. Both are top-priced at 14-1 for the Champion Hurdle and both have impressed over timber this season after returning from Flat campaigns.

Dato Star was a smooth winner of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle last month, while the form of Grey Shot's handicap hurdle success at Prestbury Park last time is working out particularly well.

n Australia's first female Aboriginal jockey died yesterday following a fall during a race at a rural track. Leigh-Anne Goodwin, aged 27, suffered severe head and spinal injuries when she was thrown from her mount during a race at Roma, 240 miles west of Brisbane. Goodwin's mount, Bachelor King, broke a leg and collapsed as it led the 10-horse field into a turn soon after the race's start.

n A former amateur jockey who nearly died after sipping sheep dip in mistake for whisky was yesterday in a stable condition in hospital. Raymond Shiels, 36, from Jedburgh, was offered the drink from a whisky bottle as he rode through the town with a hunt on Saturday and was offered the sheep dip from a bottle offered by a hunt supporter. Mr Shiels's family said they believe the man had made a genuine mistake, and police have classed it as "an unfortunate accident".

n Today's meeting at Sedgefield is subject to a 7.30am inspection because of frost. Tomorrow's card at Hexham is also under threat and will be inspected at 2.30pm today. Yesterday's card at Fakenham fell victim to frosty weather.