Racing: Support for Lord Relic snowballs: Punters warm to cup hope

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The Independent Online
FOUR INCHES of snow were removed from the track at Lingfield yesterday to allow the all-weather course to live up to its name, but there was no such salvation for Newton Abbot. Normally that would upset few bar the ever-hungry bookmakers, but yesterday backers were denied the second race over fences of Martin Pipe's Gold Cup outsider, Lord Relic.

Nor is he much of an outsider any longer, despite spending yesterday in the relative warmth of his box. Lord Relic's chasing career so far extends to just one race, an impeccable victory at Lingfield 12 days ago, but Pipe's enthusiasm for his abilities has proved infectious and he was yesterday cut to 25-1 from 33-1 by Coral for the Gold Cup. Sporting Index offer only 20-1.

Today's remaining turf cards at Folkestone and Sedgefield - Worcester was abandoned yesterday - depend on early inspections. At Folkestone a thaw has raised the chances of racing to 50-50. Prospects are better for tomorrow. Though Leicester will inspect this afternoon, no problems are anticipated at Taunton and Sandown remains hopeful.

Conditions at the Esher track will be of particular interest to the connections and supporters of Double Silk, the Grand National favourite, who is engaged in the hunter chase. Anything less than an emphatic success there might be enough to dislodge him from the head of the market, as Moorcroft Boy yesterday shortened to 12-1 (from 14-1) with Coral, just two points behind Double Silk. Other moves after the first forfeit stage involved Garrison Savannah (16-1 from 20-1) and Topsham Bay (20-1 from 25-1).

Even if Sandown survives the weather, however, the conditions are likely to be too heavy for Remittance Man to make his first racecourse appearance for 15 months. The former two-mile champion chaser is more likely to wait for the Emblem Chase at Kempton a week later before an attempt to win his second Champion Chase at the Festival.

Most Festival betting interest yesterday surrounded Oh So Risky, who is now clear favourite for the Champion Hurdle with Hills at 11-4 (from 3-1). Fortune And Fame is 3-1, while Oh So Risky's stablemate, Muse, is on the drift at 14-1 from 12-1.

A deadline for the consortium attempting to save Chantilly racecourse from closure passed yesterday without the necessary funds being raised or a management structure established. However, the group has been granted a further three months to fulfil its obligations under a deal with the French racing authorities.