Card can trump the fading Rainbow

 

Almost time, then, to pull up the drawbridge and count the ammunition. The Cheltenham Festival is now only three weeks away on Tuesday, and few trainers will want to leave the candidature of horses contingent on a hard race in the meantime. So while a handful will still be seeking late admission, some of the final trials of strength are staged on Saturday.

Mind you, the obsession with the Festival seems pretty eccentric when you consider how faint praise has tended to be for Finian’s Rainbow since he won one of the very biggest prizes there last year. Even on the day, his achievement in the Queen Mother Champion Chase was diluted by a suspicion that his main rival had been left in front too soon, and then lost critical momentum in bypassing the last fence.

Finian’s Rainbow did proceed to run away with another Grade One chase, at Aintree, but finished tailed off last of four on his reappearance at Ascot in November and has since had a wind operation. In the meantime, of course, he has been unceremoniously usurped by a younger stablemate, Sprinter Sacre, now such a short price for Cheltenham that only seven other horses were left in the race at the latest forfeit stage.

Moreover, the fact that their trainer, Nicky Henderson, restores him to a longer trip for his return to Ascot today implies that Finian’s Rainbow himself may yet take up an alternative entry in the Ryanair Chase or even the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup. All in all, a horse that once seemed to have established a decided preference for two miles has evidently reached something of a crossroads. With conditions again likely to prove tiring, he will have to re-invent himself pretty thoroughly to win the Betfair Ascot Chase.

Preference is for Cue Card, who by no means exhausted his right to further progress when failing to get home in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. He did quite well to get back involved there, after blundering at the first, but then faded away in what developed into a real slog over a new trip. He had previously looked better than ever when romping home on his reappearance at Exeter, and his only other defeats over fences remain behind Bobs Worth, now Gold Cup favourite, and Sprinter Sacre himself. The former beat him only in a photo, while CUE CARD (3.50) finished 22 lengths clear of the third when chasing home the latter in the Arkle Chase.

True, he must reverse King George form with Captain Chris, who beat Finian’s Rainbow in the 2011 Arkle Chase and confirmed himself back on track by running Long Run so close at Kempton. But he only toiled his way into contention as others dropped away exhausted that day, and it remains to be seen if he has recovered sufficient zest.

Somersby has always operated well round here, and shaped well when needing his first start for his new trainer, but has hitherto persistently fallen between stools in terms of both class and distance.

The top name over hurdles today is Zarkandar, who warms up for the Stan James Champion Hurdle at  Wincanton. Still beaten only once when completing over timber, finishing strongly for fifth in the Champion last year, he showed unsuspected dash to win round this sharp track on his reappearance and raised his game again to see off Grandouet at Cheltenham last time. Grandouet was set to reoppose here but has been held up by another setback, while Nicky Henderson also elected not to run Binocular on the basis that any advantage in doing so would be outweighed by his distaste for the ground. Perhaps Henderson will meanwhile contrive some rejuvenation from Khyber Kim, but it will presumably fall to the consistent Raya Star to give ZARKANDAR (3.35) his workout. 

With the Aintree weights now out, you might expect something to show its hand in the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock, but only Teaforthree seems eligible to do so. He ran a blinder when run down only by Monbeg Dude in the Welsh National, but GILES CROSS (2.55) shaped well for a long way there, after a troubled preparation, and can repeat his success in this last year.

Utopie Des Bordes, meanwhile, made it two out of two since joining Henderson at Sandown yesterday, and will now proceed to the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham – albeit she might not have held off Twigline, but for the Irish raider’s fall at the last.

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Push Me (3.30 Lingfield)

Next Best

The Bear Trap (3.15 Ascot)

Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices