There is great rivalry in the Valley of the Racehorse, but also a great camaraderie when one of its own repels those from outside the fortress. There will, therefore, be large Lambourn support on Monday afternoon behind Looks Like Trouble, unusually, the area's only representative in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
Not only is the gelding owned locally but he is also trained by one of the more pleasant characters in this often venal sport, Noel Chance. A name like that should give reasonable prospects at Yuletide.
Trainer and horse do have their similarities. They are by no means overnight sensations. There was little heroic about Looks Like Trouble this time last year. Just over 12 months ago Seamus Durack was bouncing up and down on his back as the pair crashed through a selection of Doncaster's fences. "Was fortunate to have a jockey in form," the Chaseform assessment read, "making so many mistakes that anybody else would probably have given up."
Chance is no meteor. He started his training career in Australia with Vic Thompson, whom he considers was a little short on olde worlde charm. "I called him Hitler," he says. Twenty years in his native Ireland yielded Chance just over 100 winners and rescue arrived only when the ice-cream man cometh. Michael Worcester, the cones manufacturer, installed Chance at Lambourn's Folly House in 1995. Two years later the payback came in the form of Mr Mulligan's Gold Cup win. The partnership was sealed by "the big orange thing with great white spots".
The team moved on to King's Farm yard and then Worcester moved on altogether. Chance now trains independently at the grandest of seats, the Saxon House yard once ruled by Fulke Walwyn. The hooves of the greats have rung out there for decades and now there is anticipation that the blazing torch is about to be lit once again by Looks Like Trouble. The seven-year-old, the youngest horse in the race, is favourite for Monday's King George, just ahead of See More Business. He is also 10-1 for the Millennium Gold Cup, and the confirmation of greatness awaits Chance.
"I didn't get [sent] a single horse out of Mr Mulligan's Gold Cup and I'm sure a lot of people thought it was a bit of a fluke," he says. "But when Looks Like Trouble won the Sun Alliance I got a lot of inquiries and a lot of horses. It's a great feeling for me that lightning has struck twice in the space of a couple of years. A lot of great trainers go through their career without having a Gold Cup winner or horses of the calibre I have been given."
The Sun Alliance at March's Festival made Looks Like Trouble. Yet it was the most unheralded of Cheltenham victories. The attention went instead to Nick Dundee, the Irish favourite who fell and almost killed himself while jousting for the lead three out. "Of course, Nick Dundee was an exceptional horse, but how many times have you seen horses coming to the last on flat tracks, apparently able to pull a roller, only to get turned over," Chance says. "I can't speak for Nick Dundee but I can tell you my own horse would have kept going right to the line."
Little was made of how much Looks Like Trouble had improved since his rodeo round at Doncaster. He had become a different horse since sessions at the Royal seat of Gatcombe Park with the top showjumper Andrew Hoy. "He used to panic when horses got round him and he used to lose it," Chance says. "But he always worked like a good horse. It was immaturity.
"Mr Mulligan has this cruising speed, like a spring gradually uncoiling and he would grind them into the ground. But the difference between this fellow and him is that this one has got a lot of pace. He works like a Flat horse at home. See More Business may have already won a King George, but I would imagine the track there holds as many terrors for him as it does our horse. We will handle it okay and if we get comprehensively turned over I'm not going to be saying that it was the track that beat us."
See More Business has the edge on form at Wetherby this season, but Looks Like Trouble is the younger horse and a fitter one since his Yorkshire debut. He was a bit overweight that day. Noel's Mr Blobby if you like. "I thought I had him pretty straight but I've seen a photograph of them going down and he looked a trifle tubby," Chance says. "You can't have them galloped off the face of the earth in the early part of the season because it's a long way to Cheltenham and March."
Looks Like Trouble is ready enough now, part of Chance's largest string since he arrived on these shores. "We have twice as many horses  now," he says. "The problem with being a salaried trainer is that people perceive there is a dominant factor there, an owner who is running the show. Nothing could have been further from the truth with Michael Worcester. He didn't interfere at all. But I'm on my own now."
Noel Chance won't be though if Looks Like Trouble continues his ascent on Monday. The favoured watering hole of the Queen's Arms at East Garston will be throbbing if the Valley's horse succeeds. The winning trainer, who celebrated his 48th birthday on Saturday, might stop for a small whisky but that will be it. While others toast his name, he will slip off in the knowledge of a job well done.Reuse content