Chris McGrath: Naaqoos fluffs his lines in opening Classic rehearsal

Inside Track

Given enough time, they say that a monkey with a typewriter will randomly replicate the works of Shakespeare. Admittedly, even that would scarcely account for the way the racing fixture list sometimes seems to have been thrown together. Once a year, however, matters are taken out of the sport's hands. And this time round, as it happens, accident compares very favourably with design.

In theory, thanks to the vagaries of the vernal equinox, the Oddschecker Easter Stakes could be staged at any time between 22 March and 25 April, though apparently it would take 5.7 million years to work through the entire cycle.

Year by year, Easter is pulled hither and thither by the lunar and solar calendars, the disparities between which have exasperated astronomers ever since Meton of Athens first tried to reconcile them in the fifth century BC. The Egyptians bequeathed a solar year – 365 days, five hours, 49 minutes and 12 seconds – to the Romans, and in turn the Christians; while the Jews and Islam favoured a lunar one, some 11 days shorter. It would be pushing things to expect the race planning department to sort that one out. In falling where it does this year, however, Easter permits the big race at Kempton today to fit seamlessly into an engrossing nine-day sequence of rehearsals for the first Classics of the new season.

Those godless Gauls began the show yesterday, when Naaqoos made his reappearance at Maisons-Laffitte. Whatever other iniquities are attributed to our own bureaucrats, at least they have so far resisted avaricious demands for racing on Good Friday.

And somebody up there did not take too kindly to the participation of Naaqoos, who started long odds-on for the Prix Djebel. A Group One winner at Longchamp last autumn, Naaqoos had been strong in the market for the Stan James 2,000 Guineas, but produced a very flat trial against only half a dozen rivals here. Fairly keen to post, he made most of the running, but soon came off the bridle, and conspicuously failed to raise his game when challenged by a colt named Le Havre. The chances are that the narrow winner is himself pretty able, but Freddie Head, trainer of Naaqoos, made no bones about it. "We'll get him home, and see how he is, but I would say Newmarket is doubtful," he said. "He will improve, but I am disappointed."

Previously as short as 5-1 with Ladbrokes, Naaqoos was promptly scratched from their betting. They now have Mastercraftsman as 5-1 clear favourite, from Evasive, Rip Van Winkle and Delegator on 8-1. The latter is scheduled to resurface in the Craven Stakes, over the Guineas course and distance, on Thursday.

It must be said that proceedings at Kempton today seem unlikely to prove quite as relevant. Four years ago, admittedly, a similarly disparaging view was taken of Rebel Rebel, who went on to finish second to Footstepsinthesand in the Guineas at odds of 100-1. And many see corresponding significance in the fact that Captain Ramius, one of the two unbeaten colts in today's field, represents the same stable.

The name on the licence may have changed, Neville Callaghan handing over to his son, Simon, but the family firm retains its clinical sense of a horse's quality. More pertinent, perhaps, is the fact that Captain Ramius has himself changed hands since last season, when he won three races over seven furlongs for Mark Wallace – two round here, and a Listed contest at Dundalk.

Wallace has since emigrated to Australia, but Captain Ramius has pleased his new trainer and is evidently well fancied, despite a penalty for that success at Dundalk. He looked an awkward ride last year, however, and as a son of the sprinter Kheleyf cannot be guaranteed to relish the extra furlong in a race likely to be run at a searching pace Even if Captain Ramius is himself ridden more conservatively than in the past, a number of others in the field have responded to positive tactics and that can set things up for Saint Arch (1.50).

This colt briefly looked to be going nowhere in a handicap over course and distance a fortnight ago, but eventually worked his way through the gears and finished off very strongly. Over the years that has become a familiar trait in horses stabled with Mark Johnston, and Saint Arch has an irresistible profile as a hard-knocking, progressive animal who has so far produced far more substantial times than Captain Ramius.

Extraterrestrial (2.05) was foiled only narrowly when recommended here at 16-1 on the opening day of the turf season, and this time faces no rival as unexposed as Manassas. Meanwhile there should certainly be more to come from Scuffle (2.05), who seems to have been found an ideal opening by Roger Charlton.

Channel 4 also has cameras at Haydock, where perhaps better ground will help Young Albert (2.25) sort out his jumping, and the stoutly bred Fredo (2.55) (nap) looks sure to improve for a step up in distance.

If none of these win, however, all blame will be apportioned elsewhere. The monkey will simply be told to keep typing until he gets it right.

Mafaaz is on a mission to break barriers

With due respect to Aran Concerto, who contests a Grade One novice chase at Fairyhouse tomorrow, and his rider, Paul Carberry, somehow patched together again after another ghastly injury, there is no mistaking the most significant mission undertaken by a European horse this weekend.

After winning the inaugural Kentucky Derby Challenge at Kempton last month, Mafaaz might yet emphasise the schism developing in American racing between dirt and synthetic tracks. But there could be no better man than his trainer to show that these new horizons must be approached in a spirit of adventure. As at Santa Anita last autumn, John Gosden is proving an unerring pathfinder across a changing international landscape.

At Kempton, Mafaaz guaranteed himself a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby. By again running him on a synthetic surface in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland tonight, Gosden will not settle the obvious questions about the colt's ability to handle a very different surface at Churchill Downs. But if Mafaaz can demonstrate his eligibility locally, purely in terms of merit, then Gosden will have performed yet another service in breaking down the barriers manned by the sport's parochial rearguard.

Nap: Fredo (Haydock 2.55)

NB: Jorveybrook (Carlisle 4.30)

sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor