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Racing: Toiseach to provide feast for Fanshawe

THE SPORT of jumping almost killed James Fanshawe, who broke his neck while riding a point-to-pointer at Cottenham. This predominantly Flat trainer has never allowed himself to get mad about the injury. He prefers to get even.

The master of Pegasus stables in Newmarket has only ever dabbled in National Hunt racing, but the results have been spectacular. Kribensis may have had Michael Stoute's name appended to his when he won the Triumph Hurdle, but much of the buffing and polishing had been done by Stoute's assistant, Fanshawe.

In 1992, Fanshawe himself was depicted in gold lettering when Royal Gait won the Champion Hurdle and, ever since, the trainer has achieved notably over obstacles. Bold Gait, half his winter team, won at Newbury yesterday, and the other 50 per cent takes to the same track today when The Toiseach contests the Hennessy Gold Cup.

During the Flat turf campaign, over which he recorded a level pounds 1 stake profit of pounds 68, Fanshawe made great play of a physique which could be easily accommodated in a scabbard. The trainer's skeleton advertisement, with the addition of spectacles, looked like a cross between The Saint logo and the bag of bones that used to be propped up in the corner of a biology classroom.

There was nothing skinny about The Toiseach in his reappearance at Ascot, where he beat Cool Dawn in a race the Gold Cup winner had collected the previous campaign. The seven-year-old can now find himself better in this afternoon, as he was 9lb out of the handicap on his seasonal debut.

The Toiseach gets lumps of weight from the horse at the top of the list, Coome Hill, whose rider, Jamie Osborne, has also partnered Fanshawe's representative in the past. "I've ridden The Toiseach and he's a good horse, but he wouldn't be in the class of Coome Hill," the jockey says. "People seem to think mine is an old plodder, but he's got gears you know. He always has a breather in the middle of the race, but if he's close enough jumping the last ditch they'll be in trouble as he'll switch into his overdrive."

Coome Hill won the Hennessy two years ago for Osborne but has since suffered breathing and leg problems. A soft-palate operation seems to have repaired him by the judgement of recent gallops. "I went down to ride the horse work and Walter [Dennis, his trainer] took him to a mountain," Osborne says. "It wasn't a hill. It was a mountain. And the ground was terrible.

"I looked up into the clouds and said to Walter `Jesus, you wouldn't want to be going up here quickly if you wanted to make it to the top'. `No', he said, `not for the first time at least'. We went up three times and a horse had to be jumped in at half-way to keep him going. He had to have a blow after that, but I could tell his breathing was all right."

The former hunter-chaser Teeton Mill, has a starkly similar profile to Coome Hill in his winning year. Like Dennis's gnasher, he too tuned up by winning Wincanton's Badger Beer Chase and now attempts to humble the old pros. The suspicion remains though that those he beat on his seasonal debut were unreliable.

Ireland's Boss Doyle is worth considering, as is Mary Reveley's Seven Towers, as the Charlie Hall Chase they contested at Wetherby is beginning to look a really good race. But this year's Hennessy is a race that one trainer may be able to feel in his bones, especially as they lie very close to the surface of his skin. Go for Fanshawe. Go for THE TOISEACH (nap 2.20).

There is much to like about Decoupage (next best 1.15), who looks the best at the weights of those which ran in the handicap hurdle on the Sunday of Cheltenham's Murphy's meeting. Everything, bar the price, will be likeable too about Marello (1.45).

At Haydock, the first horse to collect punters' interest should be Tennessee Twist (2.10), who won well at Cheltenham two weeks ago. Play up the winnings on No Retreat (2.40), a winning novice chaser in New Zealand, who went in with a flourish on his British debut.

David Evans has taken advantage of Tony McCoy being able to ride at Fairyhouse tomorrow by booking the champion jockey for Master Beveled, who takes on Istabraq in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle. McCoy, who is serving a 14-day ban, can ride in Ireland as there is no racing in Britain tomorrow.

Today's Newcastle card and

yesterday's results, page 25


Nap: The Toiseach

(Newbury 2.20)

NB: Decoupage

(Newbury 1.15)