Racing: War victory is a timely warning: Outsiders fight out the finish at Fairyhouse yesterday, a result suggesting caution to Aintree punters. Richard Edmondson reports

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The Independent Online
FOLLOWING the arrival of rain and running plans, The Fellow, Double Silk and Master Oats seem to be the only horses talked about for the Grand National, and many see Aintree as a three-horse race. Well, it is not, and the Irish equivalent at Fairyhouse yesterday showed just why.

A marathon journey on soft ground at the end of the season should spell danger for punters, and so it was in Ireland as Son Of War, a grey 12-1 shot, put several better fancied horses to the sword. The three shortest priced runners, High Peak, Belvederian and Deep Bramble, could not muster a finisher between them.

If an award for gallantry had been available it would have gone to the front-running Nuaffe, who brought himself to a standstill with erroneous jumping on two occasions and knocked out what stuffing remained in his body with a tired leap at the last. Still, he managed to drag his weary body over the line, but not before Son Of War had finished more purposefully on his outside. The stablemates Ebony Jane, last year's winner, and Captain Brandy, both of whom could reappear at Aintree, were third and fourth.

Son Of War may also take on Becher's Brook and the rest, but not until he has had another summer on his back. 'He looks the type for Aintree,' Peter McCreery, who was recording the best win of his training career, said. 'The owners are not very keen on the idea, but I hope to persuade them it is worth having a go next year.'

McCreery and his jockey, Frank Woods, certainly had a pedigree for the race. The trainer's late father, also Peter, prepared the 1985 runner-up Seskin Bridge, while Woods's father, Paddy, was the winning rider in 1963 on Last Link and again two years later aboard another from Tom Dreaper's yard, Splash.

There was little distinction, however, produced by the horses that attracted money in the ring yesterday. High Peak, whose owner, J P McManus, is about to move to Switzerland as they let you keep more of your money there, was sent off at 9- 4 but, according to Charlie Swan, was 'never travelling or jumping', which is a bit of a handicap in jumps racing. He was pulled up, as was Deep Bramble, while Belvederian slithered to ground with Jamie Osborne two out.

Britain's two challengers at least finished. In fact, Baltic Brown was among the pathfinders for much of the journey until tiring back into the pack and proximity to Glenbrook D'Or, who could never get into the race.

In Britain, on a day ravaged by bad weather, the main action took place at Kempton, where River Deep, who has been the bridesmaid almost as many times as Elizabeth Taylor's best friend, broke his duck in the opener. Coral sniffed an opportunity here, and introduced the colt into their Derby betting at 66-1. Paul Cole, his trainer, hardly put punters off. 'He has been beaten several times so this will do his confidence good,' the Whatcombe man said. 'He idles in front and he should improve on faster ground.'

The ground also helped Wootton Rivers in the Listed Magnolia Stakes. The horse also helped his trainer, Peter Chapple-Hyam, to get over the loss of his smashing colt Stonehatch, who was destroyed after breaking his pelvis on the Manton gallops at the weekend.

(Photograph omitted)

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