Racing: Thriller grabs the eye

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The Independent Online
IT WAS a case of Double Thriller first and the rest nowhere at Wincanton yesterday as the giant-striding gelding entered Cheltenham Gold Cup calculations with a spectacular success.

Making his debut for Paul Nicholls, the only horse to have beaten the Gold Cup favourite, Teeton Mill, under Rules, put up an exemplary performance to win the Racing Channel Handicap Chase by a distance.

The Tote's representative, Rob Hartnett, immediately cut Double Thriller from 40-1 to 25-1 for the Gold Cup but that was gone in a matter of seconds and he was shaved a further nine points to 16-1.

"He's a serious horse and we've been very excited about him at home," Nicholls said."It will be one more run in the Jim Ford Chase here next month before he goes to Cheltenham. Since he got over a bout of coughing at Christmas we've been getting more and more enthusiastic about him as he's kept improving. But he's only won a handicap off 129 and there's a long way to go."

But when told that Double Thriller was, briefly, on offer at 25-1, Nicholls smiled broadly and said: "I think that is a very big price when you look at his form with Teeton Mill."

Nicholls could face a problem with jockey-bookings at Cheltenham as he could be three-handed in the Gold Cup with See More Business and Earthmover also expected to line-up. "Joe [Tizzard, the stable jockey] and I will talk about it closer to the day," he said.

Double Thriller was sent to Nicholls by the retired dairy farmer Reg Wilkins who came to prominence when he trained the gelding's half-brother Double Silk to complete the Cheltenham/Aintree Foxhunters' double in 1993.

The trainer Kim Bailey was not present at Bow Street Magistrates' Court yesterday when the case resumed in which he is jointly charged with a former Thames Valley Police officer, Robert Harrington, of conspiracy to burgle the property of the jockey Norman Williamson. A date was set for a pre-trial review of the case on 15 March and committal proceedings were set for 26-28 April.