Drever the toughest act to follow

Perhaps the most piquant aspect to the retirement of Inglis Drever, announced yesterday, is that he should so narrowly have missed the opportunity to measure the pretensions of his obvious heir. There is no doubting the regal bearing of Punchestowns, whose accession as the new monarch of staying hurdlers could well be hastened at Cheltenham on Saturday. Thus far, indeed, he has gone about things with rather more panache than Inglis Drever. But it would be unusual for any horse to dominate this exacting discipline without also disclosing a coarser grain, and Inglis Drever would never have surrendered his crown without an almighty scrap.

As it is, the substance of his achievements can be represented at the Festival in March only by Kasbah Bliss, the French horse who made him work so hard for that unprecedented third success in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle last year. In the meantime, Inglis Drever will abide in the esteem of all and the affection of many.

He did not go out as he deserved to be remembered, pulled up lame at Newbury in November. He had also been below his best at Aintree in April, only the third time in 21 completed starts over hurdles that he had failed to make the first two. With hindsight, Howard Johnson must wish he had persevered with his original instinct to retire him at the end of last season, when recognisably in his pomp.

The trainer has little else to regret in his supervision of a horse whose influence on his own career can scarcely be exaggerated. For it was Inglis Drever who convinced Graham Wylie that racing could become a conduit between his wealth and pleasure, and that Johnson was the man to trust with the project.

"Inglis Drever instilled in me such a passion," Wylie said yesterday. "More than any horse – probably apart from Lord Transcend – he was the one who got me seriously interested in racing. People might think Cheltenham gave me my favourite memories of him, but it was a day at Haydock in 2005 when both he and Lord Transcend won."

Inglis Drever left the door ajar by apparently recovering from his Newbury injury, but Johnson explained: "We put shoes on him the other day, rode him out, and he didn't even want the jockey to get on him. He was telling me he'd had enough. I think I've done the right thing for the public. I didn't want to go to Cheltenham against younger horses and be pulled up or get beat 20 lengths. One day we might find another like him. But we'll struggle."

Inglis Drever introduced his owner as a man agreeably lacking airs, while Johnson's bluff Geordie cadences also enriched the tale. Then there was the horse's groom, Ginni Wright, whose emotional celebrations were shared by many who learned of her battles with cancer. But the central character was always the horse. His habit of hitting a flat spot before gathering momentum implied a latent vulnerability – a pleasing sense that it did not come easily, but that he would always do his utmost.

His eventual capitulation to the fragility of his calling provides a sobering perspective on the return of Denman, at Newbury a fortnight on Saturday. Yesterday, however, his part-owner, Paul Barber, could not have spoken with greater conviction about Denman's recovery from a cardiac problem.

"I can assure you in the last couple of months he's working supremely well," he said. "He goes up the hill three times, I've seen him in the indoor school and he looks great. When I see him in the yard he's macho, his ears are back. He can't wait to go racing again."

So the stimulating possibility persists that Denman may contest the Grand National. Should the race retain a more conventional complexion it may pay to monitor the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park today.

This race announced Aintree winners in Hedgehunter and Numbersixvalverde. The latest edition is competitive too, but preference is for Hoopy, who won under a "borrowed" whip at Cheltenham in November.

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
News
people
News
i100
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
tv
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
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

Nursery Nurse - Melton Mowbray

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education are current...

PE Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary PE Teacher (maternity cover) f...

English Intervention Teacher

£23000 - £33000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: English Intervention Teac...

Teacher of Citizenship and RE

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leeds: Teacher of Citizenship and REMaternity L...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments