Racing: The answer is Blowing in the Wind

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The Independent Online
BLOWING WIND put himself in line for a pounds 50,000 bonus at Cheltenham with a consummately easy victory in the Imperial Cup here yesterday. Carrying top-weight in the competitive two-mile handicap hurdle, the Martin Pipe- trained five-year-old - subject of a considerable ante-post gamble - jumped the final hurdle in fourth place with Tony McCoy exuding confidence and streaked up the hill past the leaders as soon as the man in the saddle gave the office. At the line he had four lengths to spare over Sadler's Realm, to whom he was conceding 23lb.

Yesterday's sponsors, the bookmaking firm Sunderlands, have, since 1991, offered the bonus to the connections of a horse winning both the Imperial Cup and any race at this week's Festival. The only one to collect so far has been the Pipe charge Olympian, who took the 1992 Coral Cup four days after scoring at Sandown.

This year's hero is entered in both that race and the County Hurdle, the final race on Thursday, with connections leaning towards the latter. Pipe said: "He will certainly go for one, assuming he comes out of today in good shape. He's a super little horse, and did it exceptionally well under a perfect ride from Tony. He'll get a 7lb penalty for either race but he won so easily today I don't think it will worry him."

Nahrawali was a fast- finishing third and Hoh Express fourth in the traditional Cheltenham week curtain-raiser. The other gamble of the race, Rubahunish, was sixth after a clumsy jump at the last.

Blowing Wind, bought out of a French claimer for only pounds 15,000 last autumn, finished an eyecatching third to Dato Star and Collier Bay in the Champion Hurdle trial at Haydock last time out, giving them both weight. He started 5-1 favourite yesterday, and his win means that his owner Peter Deal -whose reigning hurdles champion Make A Stand is unable to defend his title because of injury - will, after all, go to the Festival with a live hope.

Forty-five minutes later all eyes were on Gold Cup candidate Suny Bay as he underwent a public big-race workout. The grey, ridden by Graham Bradley, jumped the three railway fences and the three in the straight accompanied by Couldnt Be Better, but had to be pushed out to stay in front of his stablemate up the hill.

Trainer Charlie Brooks said: "Brad was pleased, and the horse didn't blow much. But my gut feeling is that he will be a better horse in a couple of weeks." Suny Bay's target after Cheltenham is the Grand National, in which he was runner-up last year.

Bradley was fined pounds 350 for taking part in the school; his commitment to Suny Bay meant he did not have time to get ready to partner Mons Warrior in the final race, and the course stewards took a dim view.

The well-being of Champion Hurdle challenger I'm Supposin was advertised indirectly with victories for his stablemates Montroe and Eulogy. Their trainer Richard Rowe echoed comments by Pipe when he said: "It's always good to have winners in the build up to Cheltenham. It puts everyone in the yard in the right frame of mind and we can go there with confidence."

With start of the British turf season on the Flat only 11 days away, racing's prodigal son Walter Swinburn was back on home turf yesterday. The jockey has not race-ridden here for nearly a year because of problems with his health and weight, but started easing back to the job recently in Dubai and seems on target for the Lincoln meeting.

One of his first mounts there will be Musical Pursuit, trained by Jeremy Noseda, in the Doncaster Mile on Thursday week, and, on the Newmarket gallops yesterday morning, he partnered the four-year-old in a piece of work with Michael Bell's live Lincoln hope Solar Storm.

The first Pattern race of the European season, the Group Tree Prix Exbury at Saint-Cloud, went to Loup Sauvage. The Andre Fabre-trained four-year-old, second to Pilsudski in the Champion Stakes, had a comfortable neck to spare over Astarabad in the 10-furlong contest and is on course for the Dubai World Cup in 13 days' time.

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