Forpady one to stick with each-way

 

When Saturday comes is when it always used to matter for such as Roberto Mancini and Sir Alex Ferguson, until the demands and rewards of television scheduling came along. Those two football men must, this week, wait until tomorrow for the next instalment in their season. Their racing equivalents, though, know that with the exception of one occasion a year, today is the day.

For the second successive campaign Paul Nicholls, six-times and reigning champion jumps trainer, and his chief rival, Nicky Henderson, are slugging out a premier league battle every bit as intriguing as that being decided in the nation's football stadiums. Henderson has finished second for the past three seasons, in the most recent one narrowing the gap to the closest finish since Martin Pipe fended off Nicholls, then the rising star, for the last of his 15 titles seven years ago.

On Thursday, Henderson became the first to notch a century this term and he goes into today on 101 winners to Nicholls' 87, at a superior strike-rate of 29 per cent. The title, though, is decided by prize money, with Nicholls more than £350,000 ahead at this stage. That is small enough change with more than £5m to be played for over the four weekdays of the Cheltenham Festival in March. But by the end of the season in April every pound may count. And for the two most powerful stables in the country, the valuable Saturday prizes become six-pointers.

This afternoon Nicholls, based in the cosy Somerset village of Ditcheat, will deploy 12 runners at the day's three jump meetings. Henderson, whose team trains on the high Berkshire downs near Lambourn, provides 10.

In five races the two operations will go head to head, notably for the day's richest purse, the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot. The Grade One contest is worth £60,000 but there may also be some psychological advantage to be gained. There were signs yesterday, in the form of two impressive winners from three runners at Chepstow, that Nicholls' customary mid-season lull is over.

The champion has won the past three runnings of the Victor Chandler Chase, two with the now retired Master Minded and one with the ill-fated Twist Magic. Today he fields one of his rising young stars, Al Ferof, against more experienced opposition headed by, as far as the market is concerned, the Henderson inmate Finian's Rainbow.

The two horses have similar profiles, albeit a season apart. Both were classy novice hurdlers who progressed straight to fences. Though both at one point in their careers finished third in the same Grade One hurdle at Newbury, the seven-year-old Al Ferof was slightly the better over the smaller obstacles, with a Cheltenham Festival victory, is unbeaten in two runs over the larger and is one of the favourites for the Arkle Trophy. The nine-year-old Finian's Rainbow's only defeat in his first season over fences came when he was second in the Arkle and he resumed with a victory at Kempton on Boxing Day.

The older horse is putting his prospects for the senior two-mile title on the line today; he is third favourite, behind the Irish-trained pair Sizing Europe and Big Zeb, for the Champion Chase. Intriguingly, the younger may be as well; his prime target is the Festival's novice crown and, although today is very much about giving him experience it is also something of a fact-finding mission about how his raw talent might stack up in open company. It may be significant, too, that he was chosen for today's task ahead of a more streetwise stable-mate, Kauto Stone.

There are some solid enough yardsticks in the race and one of them, Forpadydeplasterer, while probably not being enough of a Tottenham or an Arsenal to think of victory, could provide the best each-way value for those wanting to bet rather than just watch. The Irish raider may be one of life's serial losers, with just two victories over fences to 11 second places. But eight of those runner-up spots came in top company and he will be suited by a strongly run stiff two miles.

Nearly all the Gold Cup horses are now locked safely away until their day of days in March, but those bound for the Grand National the following month are still performing. Weather permitting, a selection will be out at Haydock this afternoon, in the Peter Marsh Chase.

The three-mile contest will provide a gruelling examination of stamina and although the 2008 Aintree hero Mon Mome is, of course, already proven, and he has slipped down the ratings since his greatest victory, there may be more effective younger legs on the park today. Nicholls, likely to have had a penalty-kick with Celestial Halo earlier on the card, can net another with Take The Breeze.

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Travel
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
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

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

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
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week