Racing: Three Festival fancies

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The Independent Online
Tuesday: River Mandate

IF fate's sometimes rather morbid fickle finger is in working order, then River Mandate, trained by Tim Forster, is the one in the William Hill National Hunt Chase (3.55). Two years ago the 3m 1f handicap went to his stablemate Maamur, giving Andrew Thornton his first, and so far only, Cheltenham win on his first Festival ride. Last year Maamur, again with Thornton in the saddle, was killed after another runner - with horrible irony River Mandate - accidentally struck into him and damaged a leg irreparably. The 11-year-old Mandalus gelding is of course not personally to blame, but if he and Thornton could triumph it would provide a pleasing sort of symmetry. He is not an easy ride, being an idle type, but he stays extremely well, is effective on soft ground and usually jumps well, if a little deliberately. A reproduction of his best form would give him more than a squeak, and he is now at an attractive each-way price.

Wednesday: Monnaie Forte

THE retired Scottish salmon smoker James Adam will be hoping to swim with the big fish in the Mildmay of Flete Handicap Chase (5.05). Adam, a giant bearded former university prop-forward (he took a law degree at Oxford) sold out hisbusiness two years ago to indulge his passion for steeplechasing, and now trains 10 under permit at Morven, Berwickshire. He has missed only one Gold Cup since 1951 and has always dreamed of having a horse good enough for the Festival. That could be Monnaie Forte, discovered as a four-year-old at Fairyhouse sales by Andy Turnell while he was basking on a beach in (appropriately) Cape Cod and bought for 55,000gns. He had an injury-plagued hurdles career and lost his nerve after three successive falls over fences last year. But with help from Brendan Powell his confidence has returned. The ground, though, is the caveat; he is best with it good. His trainer considers him like Linford Christie in green wellies on soft.

Thursday: Jack Doyle

FOR Brian Robertson and his horse Jack Doyle, who goes in the Cathcart Chase (5.05), a day at the races is an affair of the heart. Both man and beast suffer from dicky tickers, but it appears to affect the enjoyment of neither. Jack Doyle, a handsome chestnut by Be My Native, is the first horse to carry Robertson's colours (or rather, those of his London-based company Drain Logistics) and has this season done so with spectacular success. A switch to Nigel Twiston-Davies's yard, and his interval training methods (which keep stress to a minimum), plus an operation to repair a faulty breathing mechanism, have brought about a marked improvement in his form. Jack Doyle is unbeaten in his three runs this season, including one at Cheltenham over this week's distance, and a Grade One contest at Sandown. He is suited by waiting tactics and some give in the ground, and, at the age of seven, is still likely to be on the upgrade.

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