Sir Brian throws down gauntlet to southerners


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The Independent Online

The Turf community does not have to seek far to place the anguish of its most famous name in due perspective. As Frankie Dettori writhes in embarrassment over his drugs ban, a far graver disaster still gnaws at the heart of the Scottish sport. The success at Cheltenham in March of Campbell Gillies and Brindisi Breeze had confirmed their mutual base, the Kinross yard of Lucinda Russell, as a welcome new force at the top level. By midsummer, in a ghastly coincidence, horse and rider had been killed in freak accidents.

The loss of Gillies remains daily grieved by Russell, her partner Peter Scudamore and their staff – who include the young rider's sister, Rita – but they are determined to stay positive. And all who have sampled the palpable family spirit of Arlary House will duly be united by the hope that a suitably crusading quality will animate Bold Sir Brian when he mounts a long-distance raid on Sandown tomorrow.

He faces just three rivals for the Sportingbet Future Stars Chase, but these include representatives of both the dominant southern stables, while Bold Sir Brian must also prove his stamina for three miles. He took so well to fences last season that he looked poised for a four-timer when brought to a shuddering halt by a blunder at Haydock in March. He resurfaced with an impressive win at Carlisle last month, and today's demanding obstacles promise an instructive measure of his feasible ambitions now.

"A race over Sandown's fences should be a good education for him," Russell said yesterday. "He seems a totally different horse this year. He was quite precocious, always seemed one year ahead of where we thought he'd be. He jumped ever so well at Carlisle, really warmed to his task. Everything has gone perfect with him since, and I'd like to think he'd be as effective over three miles – he's got all the tools."

The owners of Brindisi Breeze have played their own part in the stable's focus on the future, investing in some hugely promising young horses, while recently J P McManus completed a deal to assume ownership of Tap Night. Russell contemplated fast-tracking this one to elite company for his chasing debut, at Sandown on Saturday, but has instead favoured a less exacting assignment at Hexham on Wednesday. Tap Night beat Captain Conan, likely favourite for tomorrow's race, over hurdles at Kelso in the spring.

Daryl Jacob was given a 10-day ban at Wincanton today, after appearing to mistake a path across the track for the winning line and momentarily easing up on Ulis De Vassy. Though only a neck down at the line, his mount barely had time to lose momentum and seemed beaten regardless. Jacob will duly count himself unfortunate to be suspended throughout the Christmas and New Year holiday programme. With Ruby Walsh likely to have commitments at Leopardstown, the Grand National-winning jockey is likely to miss several lucrative opportunities for Paul Nicholls.

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Forest Edge (3.05 Lingfield) Young sprinter who has thrived in headgear, looking unlucky not to make it four out of six when dropped in trip here last time, meeting traffic before finishing fast, and return to 6f is sure to suit.

Next best

The Big Freeze (3.15 Exeter) Few miles on the clock and better with each run since his return, cut down only on the flat by a well-treated rival at Musselburgh last time. Clearly equal to this kind of mark.

One to watch

The well-bred Tinghir (David Lanigan) Looked a useful prospect for middle distances next year when second on his debut at Kempton on Monday, green after travelling well but still pulling clear of the rest.

Where the money's going

Sea Moon is 7-2 from 4-1 with William Hill for the Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin on Sunday.