Chris McGrath: Freshness of Mia's Boy can prove a blessing in Flat season curtain-raiser

Inside Track

If thoroughbreds were half as predictable as some of the people whose opinions they stimulate, then life would be a lot easier all round. Even the Lincoln winner would announce himself with bells and trumpets. As it is, however, the resumption of Flat racing on turf at Doncaster today renews a familiar divide. The creatures on four legs remain camouflaged by a skein of perplexing possibilities; those on two, meanwhile, are full of dark suspicions.

No doubt the two syndromes are related. But it is one thing to approach the horses themselves with a certain mistrust; quite another, to trace some endemic duplicity to their custodians. Year after year, you hear the same, trite complaint about Flat racing professionals. Where their jump racing counterparts are said to be good old boys, glad to take your call in the middle of any business or pleasure, Flat trainers are depicted as remote, secretive and arrogant. From this wholly inaccurate premise, various portentous inferences are reliably drawn, about the Levy apocalypse beckoning those who do not evince adequate respect for the dignity of gamblers.

Somehow the essentially bovine betting habits of most high-street punters seem only to guarantee them the status of sacred cow. This time, their high priests are jumping up and down because Aidan O'Brien did not issue a statement to the Stock Exchange about a winter hold-up for one of his best colts, Rip Van Winkle.

Now his status as one of the great trainers in history has not impaired O'Brien's innate humility. He remains a mild, considerate man, and it takes a good deal to provoke him. But he does seem irritated by some of the sanctimonious reproaches he has read since disclosing a perfectly manageable delay in the schedule of a colt who requires little work anyway. "I'll tell them every time a horse gets a rash under its tail," he suggested this week. "Or a pimple on its elbow."

With horses, you can easily have too much information. Indeed the true deception is to simplify the daily positives and negatives of their preparation. Everyone knows stories of big races being won by horses that have spent the previous 24 hours with a foot in a bucket of ice. It is seldom black and white. And when it is, you can rely on a man like John Quinn to let everyone know – as was his mournful duty yesterday – that Character Building is lame and will miss next Saturday's Grand National.

Quinn, of course, is one of the few trainers equally at home on the Flat or over jumps. But it is the punters – or their precious guardians, at any rate – who create other, unnecessary divisions, by increasingly assuming that the world owes them a living.

Whatever the merits of the respective cases, few would dispute that the two most uncomfortable sagas of last year concerned O'Brien's use of pacemakers, and the right of his mentor, Jim Bolger, to change his mind over plans for New Approach. Common to both, as to the storm in Rip Van Winkle's teacup, was an exaggerated sensitivity to trainers' priorities.

Of course punters always merit due consideration. But the key word is "due". Classics are not staged first and foremost as betting opportunities.

As it happens, over-simplification has also distorted the first big race of the new season, the William Hill Lincoln Handicap. Wildly amplified reports of a gallop by Expresso Star have made him one of the hottest favourites in years. Now John Gosden, his trainer, is warning that he might not even run, should the ground be too firm. And, if nothing else, that would certainly be another salutary lesson for those who suspect that the most significant information about races is always privileged.

His public career sustains the possibility that he could soon leave handicaps behind, but a drop back in distance on faster ground hardly underpins his very short odds. Swop is another aspiring to a higher level, but this kind of stampede sometimes calls for more yeoman qualities.

Admittedly, Chris Dwyer is himself professing anxiety about fast ground, but Mia's Boy (3.55) quickened smartly on pretty firm ground at York last May, and looks worth chancing at 22-1 (Coral). His overall progress can be measured by the fact that he could not even get into the consolation race last year, but he remains on a feasible mark, 2lb lower than when unlucky at the St Leger meeting. As that run came fresh after a summer break, and was his second fine effort from two visits here, he certainly looks eligible in principle.

Favourite for the consolation race is Fireside, making his first appearance since the 2,000 Guineas – and his first for Michael Jarvis. Having run so well in a big sales race on his debut, he may have the wit to deal with more experienced rivals. But the odds assume as much and Extraterrestrial (2.45) warrants perseverance after shaping well last year.

He had a nice pipe-opener on the all-weather, and likewise VITZNAU (nap 3.20). Midfield in the Lincoln last year, he has shown plenty of dash on the bridle, and can at last confirm sprinting to be his true métier. Channel 4 meanwhile begins its broadcast with the first juvenile race of the season, where Chicita Banana and Swilly Ferry are among those looking the part on paper. But with no public evidence to work with, here is one race where those flagitious curs, the Flat trainers, really do have the advantage.

Casino Drive best for Dubai gamble

Hailstones have been smashing windscreens in Dubai this week, but the real sense of apocalypse traces to the emirate's place as hub of a global economy in meltdown. They have none the less managed to scrape together $6m for today's World Cup, albeit the field may not match the prize.

Asiatic Boy was annihilated by Curlin last year but is disputing favouritism with Albertus Maximus, winner of the Dirt Mile at the Breeders' Cup last autumn and now in the hands of Kiaran McLaughlin, who saddled Invasor to win here two years ago. His stamina is unproven and it may instead be worth chancing Casino Drive.

Another fabulous prize for the Dubai Sheema Classic has again drawn the dual Arc runner-up, Youmzain, but he could not quite get involved here last year. The locally trained Eastern Anthem may surprise.

Marchand D'Or tries a new surface in the big sprint, best left to Indian Blessing, while Paco Boy needs to prove his stamina for the Dubai Duty Free, where Archipenko and especially Presvis promise tough opposition. Then there is Desert Party in the UAE Derby, though the Americans will not entertain a Kentucky Derby winner emerging from the desert until hell freezes over. Now about those hailstones ...

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Sport
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
transfers
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
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

Corporate Tax Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL ...

Relationship Manager

£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...

Marketing & PR Assistant - NW London

£15 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer

£250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer Berkshir...

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