Flintoff fit to open in Welsh test

Vaughan aims to saddle first home-trained winner of Chepstow feature since 1965

For Christmas glitz and glamour look to Kempton on Boxing Day. For the tough, get going to Chepstow two days later. On Monday, when Kauto Star and Co are safely tucked up back in their stables, the marathon slog that is the Coral Welsh National is the centrepiece and 44 years of hurt could come to an end as Tim Vaughan aims to become the first Welsh trainer since 1965 to keep the principality's most valuable race at home.

Vaughan, based near Cowbridge, is hoping that he and his charge Flintoff can emulate Denzil Jenkins and Norther. And victory would be a matter of both national and personal pride for the upwardly mobile handler, who is in only his second full season with a licence.

"I think we've showed people we can train winner," he said yesterday. "Now we want to show we can train big winners, take the operation up to the next level. As a Welshman, to do that in my country's biggest race would be just perfect."

The eight-year-old Flintoff, jointly owned by his cricketing namesake, has not run since the spring but bowled 'em over on the gallops yesterday morning. "He came up our hill three times," Vaughan said, "he looks great in his coat and seems a happy horse in himself. We had thought about giving him a preliminary run over hurdles to blow the cobwebs away, but in the end decided not to risk it.

"This prize has been the plan all along – it's his King George and Gold Cup rolled into one – and it would have been silly if he'd hurt himself. He runs well fresh, we've been keeping him sweet with a bit of hunting and we like to think we can get one fit enough to do himself justice first time up. He tends to pull out in the morning a bit stiff but soon warms to any task we set him."

Flintoff, a Flat-bred dark chestnut with rather spooky white-ringed eyes, joined Vaughan from Venetia Williams during the summer, the transfer arranged by the horse's principal owner Paul Beck. "He's fitted in well," said Vaughan of the gelding. "He's a laid-back type, doesn't do much more than he has to, very professional and straightforward. We had Adie Coleman down, who's ridden him in the past, to ride him here, and he says he feels as good as ever." A jockey has not yet been finalised for Flintoff on Monday, though Vaughan has Richard Johnson at the top of his wish list.

The Bridgend-born trainer, whose team at Pant Wilkin has already burgeoned to not far short of 100, is hoping for a wet, not white, Christmas. "The thing Flintoff does best is stays," he said. "He grinds his races out, so the softer the ground and the more gruelling the test the better. We'd like a deluge."

Flintoff, second in the Midlands Grand National on his latest run, is judged a 12-1 shot for the Welsh version. Of the 33 left in the three-and-three-quarter mile contest at yesterday's declaration stage, the Williams-trained Mon Mome, winner of the real thing at Aintree, heads the weights. The well-backed 9-2 favourite is Le Beau Bai, from Richard Lee's yard, with the Paul Nicholls candidate The Tother One second market choice.

Follow that Star: Yuletide feast in prospect

There may now be no racing for three days but after the famine, comes the feast. The King George VI Chase and Kauto Star's tilt at a record four consecutive King George VI Chases is not just the centrepiece of the weekend's table but one of the star turns of the season, but there is plenty to savour on the Kempton undercard too.

Remember last year, when Punjabi took what proved to be the most expensive fall in racing history when poised to win the Christmas Hurdle? If he had added that race to his previous success in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and subsequent Champion Hurdle triumph, he would have scooped the £1m bonus offered to any horse to take all three of Britain's two-mile Grade One contests.

On Saturday this season's Fighting Fifth winner Go Native steps up to the plate in the Kempton contest to try for the second leg of the WBX-sponsored jackpot. The Noel Meade-trained six-year-old will face a maximum of eight rivals, including Celestial Halo and Binocular, both on the Champion Hurdle redemption trail for the home side.

The already wide-open market for the Cheltenham crown is the more so for the cloud now hanging over Hurricane Fly, until this week second favourite but now sidelined with a leg injury. Three days after the Christmas Hurdle, another of the other main Irish fancies, Solwhit, will turn out for the December Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Before the senior chasing celebrities meet in the King George, some stars of the future will be on view in the Feltham Novices Chase, which will provide a first sighting in this country of Nicky Henderson's exciting French recruit Long Run.

The four-year-old is already a multiple top-level winner round France's premier jump track, Auteuil, and while his class is not in doubt, his new trainer is as interested as any to see if he can adapt to a different arena.

"They are big fences at Auteuil," Henderson said, "but the French horses have a different technique. They tend to go through the top rather than over the top and it will be important that he keeps his height up at Kempton."

Courses hope thaw will deliver in time for Christmas cards

Of the seven Boxing Day jump meetings scheduled, the first to come under serious doubt is the relatively minor one at Towcester, where prospects will be assessed during an inspection this morning. "The forecast is not encouraging," said the clerk of the course, Robert Bellamy. "We've had two inches of snow and I don't think temperatures are going to rise."

There was similar seasonal scenery at Wetherby, Sedgefield, Market Rasen, Wincanton and Huntingdon, with officials' fingers crossed that the warmer front forecast for Christmas Day materialises, though Wolverhampton has no worries about its all-weather card.

Kempton, which has been under frost covers for a week to protect the King George VI Chase fixture, is the only jump track Britain currently raceable. "We're in great shape," said the clerk of the course Barney Clifford. "I don't anticipate any problems and we're looking forward to a great two days."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

News
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday

Actress sees off speculation about her face in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
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

SEN Teaching Assistant

£70 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Teaching Assistants needed in...

Year 4 Teacher required for 2 terms

£21500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

Accounts Assistant - Sales Ledger, Sage Line 50 - St Albans

£20000 - £22000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful and w...

EBD Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?