Racing: Thornton to herald a new dawn for Druid's

ONE of the more obvious lessons of the Grand National at Aintree nine days ago was that it is no longer a race for outsiders. If a completely unconsidered horse was ever going to win the big chase again, it would surely have been this latest renewal, which had an unusually weak field and was run in desperate conditions. Yet the punters had little trouble sorting it all out and the favourite duly came home in front.

A shame, some will say, but if the form is more reliable, few backers will complain, and anyone with winnings from Earth Summit to re-invest will approach the Irish National at Fairyhouse this afternoon with renewed confidence. This race too now seems to follow the rule that that the longer the distance, the better the chance for punters, with winners in the 1990s at even money, 6-1 (twice) and 13-2 (twice), and just one at double-figure odds. If the pattern continues today, there are perhaps no more than three horses with a serious chance, and while there is a great deal that might go wrong as this big field pounds around Fairyhouse, the claims of Miss Orchestra and Druid's Brook, the first and second favourites, are very difficult to ignore.

Miss Orchestra has a National victory to her name already this season, having beaten Kamikaze in the Midlands version at Uttoxeter last month, and her performance there, from 8lb out of the handicap, is the best bare form on offer today. Whether the intervening time is quite enough to recover from a slog through the midlands mud is a worry, however, and preference is for DRUID'S BROOK (nap 3.55), who has been well backed for this race in recent days.

Kim Bailey's season has largely been one to forget, but his string has started to run into form and one decent prize at least may find its way back to his Lambourn yard. On the face of it, Druid's Brook's run in the Grand Military Gold Cup at Sandown, when he was beaten by almost 30 lengths at odds of 11-10, is less than encouraging, but the blame lies entirely with his amateur rider, who allowed the horse to become detached.

With Andrew Thornton taking over today, a far better run can be expected, and this sound jumper, who will have no difficulty handling the ground, goes to post with every chance.

The main betting event of the afternoon in Britain is the Rosebery Handicap at Kempton, and this latest renewal looks particularly competitive. Three of last year's more progressive three-year-old handicappers, Prince Of Denial, Labeq and American Whisper, make their seasonal debuts, while Topatori and Mozambique arrive with good wins to their credit this year.

Topatori's recent success on an easy surface makes him an obvious favourite, but 5-1 is not much of a price in a field of such potential. The best bet is possibly to watch today's race and then mark down the winner as one to follow, but at the prices available this morning, it is hard to resist a small interest in Prince Of Denial (3.40) at the 10-1 offered by Stanley Racing. He improved through his three-year-old season and is still well weighted on the balance of that form.

The sprint handicap - rather like Saturday's over the same course and distance which produced a 16-1 winner ridden, of all people, by Kieren Fallon - looks impenetrable, but there are possibilities about Andreyev (2.35) in the Quail Stakes and the ever-dependable Russian Music (next best 3.05), who finished second in the Doncaster Mile first time out, in the Magnolia Stakes.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

NAP: Mister Jolson

(Kempton 4.10)

NB: Knobbleeneeze

(Newcastle 2.55)

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