Sue Montgomery: McCoy to buy Time for Aintree aim

Inside Track

With Ascot's high-quality jumps card the victim overnight of the sort of weather that is a dream on seasonal greetings cards but a nightmare for anyone involved in the racing industry, the day's fare has switched from being an elegant tray of mouthwatering pre-Christmas appetisers to a plate of bread and butter.

Still, for those with a hunger for just the punting side of things, Haydock, Lingfield and Wolverhampton will serve. A winning bet on a six-furlong claimer pays for just as many gifts as one on a Grade One hurdle race.

Jumpers have the stage to themselves at Haydock, where officials are cautiously optimistic the afternoon's sport will survive a morning inspection. In the absence of Ascot's Long Walk Hurdle, the day's richest obstacle race becomes the Tommy Whittle Chase, a contest which was once a credible target for Grand National horses – 11 years ago Suny Bay beat Earth Summit, for instance – but which has slipped down the glamour scale rather.

There are a few putative Aintree candidates in today's field, seeking not just a cut of the £30,000 purse, but also the hike up the ratings victory would bring. The National is becoming more difficult to get into and, although trainers traditionally complain about handicap marks being too high, there are times that the reverse is true.

Take Charlie Longsdon, who fields Palypso De Creek. The ex-French six-year-old scored nicely over hurdles at Towcester on his British debut and followed up last month with a fourth place over the National fences in the Becher Chase. To his trainer's surprise, that Aintree effort lowered him in the handicapper's eyes.

"We'd actually like him to be going the other way with the Grand National in mind," Longsdon said yesterday, "but I suppose, off his current mark, everything is in his favour for this prize. The trip and the ground should be fine, he's been running over three miles for most of his life and, although the ground will be testing, he's handled it fine in the past in France."

Famously, J P McManus and Tony McCoy have yet to win a National and one youngster who went into a few notebooks as a likely type to one day break their ducks was Can't Buy Time (Haydock 2.20), after he ran third in this race last year as a progressive, but still relatively callow, six-year-old. The gelding duly took his chance in the big one, but found it all a bit difficult and came down at the start of the second circuit.

This season he is seen as a much more likely candidate and his seasonal comeback run at Ascot last month was much better than a 10th place implied. He slipped going to the second fence, prompting a remarkable display of self-preservation from McCoy and, although the ground thus lost was too much to make up, he stayed on steadily and will be much better for the run.

If there is a Cheltenham star of the future on display at the Lancashire track it could well be Quwetwo (Haydock 12.40), who makes his much-awaited debut over fences in the opener. The giant gelding won two of his three hurdle races after his transfer to the Graham Wylie silks last term but has always been a chaser in the making. His very size and scope, though, have been problematic for his trainer, Howard Johnson.

"He's been busting for a run for a while," he said, "but the trouble has been finding the right track for him, with his long stride. Somewhere like Ayr or Newcastle would have been better – the bigger the fence, the better he jumps – but we've just got to get him out so Haydock it is. The soft ground should help, as they may just go half a stride slower."

This afternoon's most valuable race is – probably appropriately, given the all-weather Flat game's original role as a winter fallback – at Lingfield, where eight vie for the £40,000 on offer for the Listed 10-furlong centrepiece.

Hopes were once much higher for Tranquil Tiger (Lingfield 2.30), related to some of the best products of Khaled Abdullah's breeding empire, but his day job during the summer with Henry Cecil was leading his celebrity fellow-colourbearers, like Twice Over, on the gallops. On the racetrack he has found his level and earns his keep and will be a warm order on a cold afternoon to follow up last month's defeat of Presvis, since third at the top level in Hong Kong, over the same course and distance. The one for the forecast could be Suits Me.

The Long Walk Hurdle, in which Big Buck's was expected to continue Paul Nicholls' royal Saturday progress, will be added to Newbury's card on Tuesday week. Under the ill-wind heading, the transfer of the Grade One race will suit his connections fine, as the marathon champion is better going left-handed.

And, as for that six-furlong claimer, try Tamarind Hill (Lingfield 12.20), who returns to the scene of his good second earlier in the month, in the opener at Lingfield.

Mongol Derby tests outer limits of endurance across the steppes

If anyone thinks that slogging round Haydock on a cold winter's day in the mud is hard pounding, then they have clearly never heard of the Mongol Derby, one of the latest additions to the worldwide racing calendar. The race's only links with the event run at Epsom in June are the name and the fact that equids take part, and it has no standing in the eyes of any formal racing authority. But as nonetheless a contest it will test all the perceived sporting attributes of fitness, endurance and fortitude, both physical and mental.

The course is 1,000km (625 miles) across the wild, wide-open spaces of Mongolia on the small, tough Przewalski-type native horses who can, and do, cope in the wild with temperatures from -40C to 30C. Riders change mounts, supplied by local breeders, every 40km at relay pit stops attended by back-up teams, vets and welfare experts. Twelve days are allowed for completion of the race; this year's inaugural winner, South African Charles Van Wyck, did it in eight.

The race is a charity fund-raiser (the first one brought in over £70,000) open to the whole horse world and applications for just 35 places close next month. With some understatement, the organisers, The Adventurists, describe it as "one of the most ambitious equestrian events on the planet". Before starter's orders in August, riders will attend a three-day pre-race training session. The former champion jump jockey Richard Dunwoody attended and advised at this year's camp and found the Mongolian steppes much more to his taste than those of an American Smooth.

Turf account: Sue Montgomery

*Nap

Bawaardi (1.20 Wolverhampton)

Expensive yearling who was cast off cheaply by one of the big Newmarket yards and is on a low-key upward curve since having his sights focused on all-weather contests. Can hit the target after a couple of near misses.

*Next best

Wymott (Haydock 3.25)

Experience will be a huge benefit in today's conditions and this stoutly bred five-year-old has already proved himself on testing ground.

*One to watch

Wolf Moon (M Keighley) was only eighth in a competitive handicap hurdle at Cheltenham last week, but lost his chance through no fault of his own and races off a lower mark in future.

*Where the money's going

Cloudy Lane has received significant support for the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on Monday week, 20-1 from 33-1 with Paddy Power.

*Chris McGrath's Nap

Tamarind Hill (12.20 Lingfield)

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