Mad Max justifies giant reputation

Not so much an ill wind as an evil freeze, but whatever the wicked weather its good was directed at those who braved the dank chill at Newbury yesterday. A dearth of opportunities in the past three weeks meant that more potentially high-class young horses grabbed the chances offered by the Berkshire venue to present their Cheltenham Festival claims than might otherwise have been the case.

The most exciting among them is the Nicky Henderson-trained giant Mad Max, a galloping 17-hands-plus embodiment of the time-honoured notion of hurdles exploits being but a bonus before he goes chasing. So far, his record is faultless; yesterday's win was his fourth in as many runs.

The Kayf Tara seven-year-old, 4-5 favourite for his novices' contest, dominated his 15 rivals in terms of the size of both chassis and engine, despite some over-revving and a tendency to behave like a dodgem car. He was hard against Tony McCoy's hands for much of the race and then landed clumsily four-footed over the last after clattering the top bar and had to re-gather and re-balance his massive, lolloping stride.

He still had three and a half lengths to spare over Pause And Clause and Shoreacres, who had pursued him gallantly but vainly from two out. McCoy was not blind to his mount's faults, however minor, though. "He's pretty smart," he said. "But he'd be even better if he relaxed; he was travelling a bit too well for his own good. And he sometimes doesn't respect the hurdles as much as he should, but then we'll probably not see the best of his jumping until he gets to fences."

Before that, Mad Max will be pitted against the best in his division, though his target in March has yet to be confirmed. He is double the price, around 16-1, for the two-mile Supreme Novices' Hurdle, than for the longer Ballymore Properties Hurdle. "On tacky ground like today's we might want to drop in trip," said Henderson, "but on good or faster he'd want to go two and a half. We'll sit on the fence for the moment."

One thing inked in Mad Max's diary is an appointment with the Seven Barrows vet. As with many oversized horses, every millimetre of clear airway counts in getting oxygen to his lungs and although he has already had one operation to repair a faulty soft palate, McCoy felt it was time for another. "He'll need it doing again," admitted Henderson, "but it's only two weeks off, so it's no problem."

Mad Max is the result of a flash of intuition 10 years ago from his breeder, Paul Murphy, a 59-year-old from Staffordshire whose sale of two businesses enabled him to indulge his hobby. "I saw a big, strong mare win over fences at Ascot and I determined that day to buy her when she finished racing," he said. "I succeeded, and all three of her foals I've raced have won."

The mare, Carole's Crusader, won seven times for Carole Winkworth, who now has a half-share in Mad Max with Murphy. Her other successes are Carole's Legacy and Jayne's Crusader, with two more offspring in the pipeline. "One thing they have in common is their size," added Murphy. "When I look at a field of youngsters, I know which are mine from 500 yards."

Mad Max was one of three winners for Henderson and McCoy yesterday. In the opening juvenile race, Optimus Maximus confirmed the extraordinary strength in depth of the Lambourn yard's hurdlers and in the closing bumper Zazamix added to its haul in what is another specialist subject.

Henderson has the Triumph Hurdle favourite in Zaynar, and the Fred Winter Hurdle is regarded as a more realistic target for Optimus Maximus.

Away from the gloom of Britain, the world's richest racing festival gets under way today. Nearly 30 nations will compete at the Dubai Carnival, which culminates in the World Cup at the end of March. The first card features a clash between Godolphin's My Indy and Mike de Kock's Art Of War in the first round of the Maktoum Challenge.

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
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

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015