Noble Alan's energy ideal to channel into Power



All that remains is for the jockeys to insist that the humiliated generals of the British Horseracing Authority sit down and sign the revised whip regulations in a railway carriage in the Compiègne Forest.

At the very least, however, you would hope that all parties to the sport's latest armistice – which came into effect yesterday, of all days – are suitably abashed by the relative triviality of their remaining differences. That way, the crowds at Cheltenham today might even look upon Cleeve Hill as towards broad, sunlit uplands.

Its limestone ramparts remained hidden in mist and cloud as the biggest meeting of the jumps season so far opened yesterday. Down below, riders were extending only a grudging welcome to the latest round of concessions, announced by the BHA the previous day. Nobody will be satisfied, it seems, until the regulators reach the very edge of the precipice – at which point, presumably, they need take only one more "step in the right direction".

The jockeys should not be too stubborn, however, lest they forfeit the goodwill they have earned hitherto. It is true that they have made their own compromises, in adjusting to a challenging new regime. And it is also true, to that extent, that the BHA has achieved rather more than might be allowed by its various crass misjudgements over the past month. How fascinating, for instance, that there has been a radical drop in cases of interference and careless riding since jockeys have been restricted in their use of the whip.

Perhaps the dry autumn has helped, in steeplechases especially, but the fact remains that many races are daily being won and lost in more edifying fashion than might have been the case a few weeks ago. That is not to deny that some results will be different. Gradually, however, the sport is approaching the stage where attention is properly restored to its essential glories. Certainly, punters at Cheltenham today may well conclude that there is nothing wrong that a 20-1 winner in the big race won't fix.

To that end, an ambitious recommendation is made for Noble Alan (2.35) in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. Though 2lb out of the handicap, he won easily off a 1lb higher mark this time last year and has since hinted that he is capable of better still in two ventures over this kind of distance. Admittedly, he failed to complete on either occasion, but he was still tanking when falling three out in a similar race here last winter, and again when unseating two out at Market Rasen last time. He is actually a sound jumper and his energetic style looks ideally tailored to this kind of hectic environment.

Unquestionably, his two most interesting rivals are Mon Parrain and Wishfull Thinking. The former has been heavily backed to end Paul Nicholls' barren run in this race, and certainly looked better than this kind of mark during his first two starts for the champion trainer last year. But the tank ultimately ran dry on the second one, and for now he remains more about potential than achievement. Wishfull Thinking, in contrast, gave the subsequent Galway Plate winner 21lb at Punchestown in April, and had previously shown his mettle in championship company both at the Festival here and at Aintree. Only the memory of Long Run's eclipse here last year, under a similar weight, reminds us that defeat would by no means disqualify him as top-class.

The same holds true of Cue Card, despite discarding Joe Tizzard halfway through his second steeplechase yesterday. But he would have done well to intrude on such a thrilling performance from Grands Crus, a top-class hurdler who looked no less adept in his first start over fences. In a race absurdly staged in plunging dusk, the grey took a hair-raising chance at the ditch but was otherwise terribly slick under Tom Scudamore. "That was just a novicey mistake," his jockey said. "But it was pleasing to see how he attacked the remaining fences after doing that. I think racing against Big Buck's last season really made a man of him."

David Pipe, whose first-day treble evoked the way his father used to target this meeting, admitted that he had been concerned lest the horse race too freely. Grands Crus may well step back up to three miles now, perhaps at Kempton on Boxing Day, but nobody should be deceived that the notorious slog of the RSA Chase – for which his odds were widely slashed to around 4-1 – will play to his greatest strengths.

Past winners of this race include Denman and Imperial Commander, but no less a burden of precedent awaits in the novice race sponsored by this newspaper on tomorrow's card. Previous champions announced by the Independent Novices' Chase include Azertyuiop and Best Mate himself, and Nicholls has once again targeted the race with a good one in his quest for a fourth consecutive success. Al Ferof was last seen storming up the hill to win the Supreme Novices' Hurdle here at the Festival, and potentially tops the bill even on a day that ends with Dancing Rain and Snow Fairy contesting a huge prize in Japan.

You can rest assured that Nicholls will be getting a piece of the action sooner or later, whether with Mon Parrain or Al Ferof or both, but yesterday was just like old times. Martin Pipe commended his son for being bold with Grands Crus, claiming that he would have sent him to Plumpton instead, but nobody believed that of a man who won today's big race no fewer than eight times. "That was a golden era," Pipe Jnr said. "And this is a different era. We don't have so many horses now. But we can still do it, with the right ammo."

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Dorset Square (3.10 Cheltenham)

Much improved in his first season for this stable and has done well on the Flat since. Should be suited by this extra test of stamina.

Next Best

St Killian's Run (3.40 Cheltenham)

Tends to travel smoothly through his races and duly produced his best effort since changing stable when dropped in trip at Thurles last time.

One to watch

Kentford Grey Lady (Emma Lavelle) bumped into a couple of useful mares at Exeter during the week but managed an eye-catching move before flattening out into third.

Where the money's going

Steps To Freedom is widely quoted 10-1 for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle back at the Festival in March after seeing off the promising Prospect Wells at Cheltenham yesterday.

Suggested Topics
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsSchool leaver's pic YouTube video features staging of a playground gun massacre
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain