Racing: Zeta's Lad can move into Desert territory: Young Hustler is the likely big-race favourite as the stars come out at Kempton and the floodlights come on at Wolverhampton. Greg Wood picks an outsider for the King George

THE presence of Desert Orchid at the head of the parade for today's King George VI Chase will prompt misty-eyed nostalgia in some spectators, but exhilarating though his performances in the late 1980s often were, only the big hitters ever won the Christmas expenses by backing him. Anything less than three figures on his successes at 1-2, 4-6 and 9-4 - not forgetting the defeat at evens in 1987 - and you wouldn't cover the trimmings, far less the turkey.

Without the grey horse, and now that The Fellow, winner of the last two runnings, is perhaps in decline, the race lacks star quality. About time, is the committed punter's response. The favourite, be it Young Hustler or The Fellow, will not be much shorter than 3-1, and finding the winner will at last be worth the effort.

But since it is competitive, it is also dangerous. All but Nevada Gold have gilt-edged form behind them and any one could win, so while an offer of 3-1 about Young Hustler might appear generous given his excellent win at Ascot just over a week ago, shrewd backers will see it for the poor value it is. Young Hustler appeared to improve in that race, despite already boasting a track record which might belong to a horse twice his age, yet he will need to improve still further to win today. It seems unlikely.

The Fellow, too, is a skinny price. He is no longer the top chaser in France, and Francois Doumen, his trainer, has resorted to blinkers as he tries to revive his enthusiasm. He, too, has crammed plenty of racing into his career, and reluctance may have taken root.

Barton Bank has impressed considerably on his two runs this season, but he was a learner last season - he took a crashing fall in the Feltham Novice Chase on this card - and broke a blood vessel in the Sun Alliance Chase at the Festival. Cross him off too and you are looking at large prices about top-class horses.

To see them winning you need faith, not imagination. Faith in Martin Pipe's ability to coax a horse to its peak on the home gallops, or in John Upson's hope that Zeta's Lad has avoided - or already recovered from - the unidentified virus in his yard. With Pipe's Rolling Ball available at 18-1, and Zeta's Lad at 25-1, the desire to believe is strong.

The latter improved throughout last season, completing a five-race winning sequence in the Racing Post Chase in February. Upson points out that his odds are not a reflection of the gelding's form, but 'a reflection of my stable's form. My horses are running terribly, and I can't get to the bottom of it at all. But as far as I know he's fine. I don't think he was right in the Hennessy (when still a creditable fourth to Cogent), I'm just hoping that he's come right since.'

If he has, 5-1 would be a better measure of Zeta's Lad's chance, so at 25-1 he is worth supporting. Rolling Ball too is overpriced. Even in the midst of a malaise of his own, Pipe's confidence about Rolling Ball before the Hennessy Gold Cup was unmistakeable. He fell at the third and left us none the wiser, but realism is one of Pipe's greatest assets and Rolling Ball would surely be running in tomorrow's Welsh National, for which he would start favourite, if his trainer thought today's mission forlorn. Zeta's Lad (2.20), with an each-way saver on Rolling Ball, could be a rewarding choice.

The Feltham Chase may boil down to a rematch between Crystal Spirit and Coulton, first and second with one and a half lengths between them at Cheltenham two weeks ago. Coulton was described by his trainer, Mick Easterby, as 'the new Desert Orchid' before his debut over fences, but to date the similarities do not extend much further than an equal number of legs. Nor is he certain to enjoy today's three-mile trip, and CRYSTAL SPIRIT (nap 1.15) can prevail again.

Lightly raced novice hurdlers are a perilous betting medium, but Native Chieftan (12.45) may be overpriced in the opener. Recent easy winner Man To Man will start favourite but may be vulnerable over today's shorter trip. Monsieur Le Cure (2.50) and Cairncastle (3.20) will also go well, while Child Of The Mist (next best 1.45) can exploit a generous slot in the weights. Some have questioned his courage, but his last two runs revealed an appetite for work and he should buckle down and win today. So long as no one tells him it's a Bank Holiday.

----------------------------------------------------------------- HOW THE MARKET HAS MOVED ----------------------------------------------------------------- Horse Opening Longest Current odds odds odds Another Coral 40-1 66-1 66-1 Barton Bank 9-4 5-1 5-1 Black Humour 6-1 8-1 7-1 Bradbury Star 6-1 8-1 9-2 Docklands Express 12-1 20-1 20-1 Nevada Gold 100-1 100-1 66-1 Rolling Ball 12-1 16-1 16-1 The Fellow 3-1 100-30 100-30 Travado 10-1 16-1 16-1 Young Hustler 6-1 6-1 3-1 Zeta's Lad 12-1 20-1 20-1 ----------------------------------------------------------------- All figures supplied from Ladbrokes' ante-post book -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photograph omitted)

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home