Prince among so few men

Some 10,500 crammed into Somerset Park yesterday to watch Ayr United and local rivals Kilmarnock draw 2-2 in the Scottish Cup. A fierce, gusting wind carried the oohs and aahs from the derby match half a mile down Whitletts Road to the racecourse, where 1,600 brave souls turned out for a hastily arranged fixture. No one left the football, but the horse crowd was soon reduced by two when, in the face of lashing rain and tiles blowing off a roof, a pair of bookmakers decided enough was enough and packed up their joints after the first contest.

They may have done themselves a favour, as odds-on shots won the next two races, and by close of play only seven remained of the ring's 18 layers who started the afternoon. The fare at Ayr was ordinary but it was the first jumping in Britain for more than a week and beggars, even if only 1,598 of them, were not about to get picky. Those professionals with least to complain about were probably the jockey Denis O'Regan and trainer Howard Johnson, who ended the old year with a double at Musselburgh and welcomed in the new with another Scottish brace.

Both hurdler Prince de Beauchene, who won for the first time in Britain having won three in France and carriesthe colours of the Johnson yard's chief patron, Graham Wylie, and chaser Companero, who races for its longest-serving owner, Mark Black, are at the start of their careers and may progress to better things. An indication of the testing conditions for horses as well as spectators was that Companero's time was 48 seconds slower than standard for three miles and a furlong.

The nine-year-old, bred with a sunny day at Epsom in June in mind rather than a bleak slog through the mud in January (his sire is the Derby and Arc hero Sinndar), showed a deal of courage and determination to reel in Quws Law, who had led springheeled over the last, by three-quarters of a length. "It actually wasn't tough enough for him," said O'Regan. "He wants softer ground and a lot further."

The Welsh National may be in Companero's sights next term. More immediately, Harmony Brig, who took a break from chasing to take the afternoon's most valuable (though with a first prize of £12,674, the term is used loosely) hurdle race, will be heading to Newcastle next month for another marathon, the Eider Chase.

It was the first start over the smallerobstacles for nearly two years for the 10-year-old, who responded to Brian Harding's driving strength by beating Theatre Belle a short-head in the last stride, with the Grand National hope Endless Power a respectable third.

"To be fair to him," said his trainer, Nicky Richards, "he was a good hurdler when he was younger, and we thought we'd give it one more try. It's a good job he did win a bit of money, though. He got a bit het-up in the lorry on the way and gave the inside a good kicking, but he's paid for the repairs."

The equivalent chase went to the well-backed Jass, who is also bound for the Eider Chase after powering home strongly to beat Gypsy George two lengths. "He jumps and stays," said his trainer, Keith Reveley, whose charge was ridden by his son James, "and the Newcastle race has been lucky for us in the past."

Today's Carlisle card has been cancelled and prospects are bleak for Fakenham and Plumpton tomorrow. There are no weather problems at Leopardstown, which stages the genuinely valuable 30-runner Pierse Hurdle (£64,000 to the winner) this afternoon.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links