Sue Montgomery: Take The Breeze can recover from unkindest cut to grace Ascot's feast

Inside Track

Before the groaning board, the 10-bird roast with trimmings, of the Christmas period, comes the bonne-bouche. But this afternoon's programme at Ascot is not merely some little cheesy nibbles and Cava, it is a full-blown plate of smoked salmon and lemon-zested creme fraiche crostini, washed down with a glass or two of Pol Roger. And the addition of the Boylesports Hurdle to an already fascinating card with so many intertwining threads has added a topping of beluga to the canapés.

A groundswell of opinion from industry professionals was key to prompting the sport's authorities to save the significant Champion Hurdle trial lost at waterlogged Cheltenham a week ago. No trainer was keener for a rescheduling than Nicky Henderson, who has an extraordinary richness of hurdling talent in his yard this season but can probably live with such embarrassment.

He provides two of the small, but undeniably select, field of five for the Boylesports contest, which features a clash between his emerging young star Binocular, favourite for the Cheltenham title, and the reigning champion, Katchit. And none of today's three other contenders can be underestimated either: Binocular's stablemate Chomba Womba and the two Festival juvenile hurdle winners Celestial Halo and Crack Away Jack.

Though Ascot is a demanding track, it presents less of a test in its closing stages than Cheltenham and the horses-for-courses syndrome has ensured that Binocular will start a much warmer order this afternoon than he would have a week ago. Katchit has won five times up the Prestbury Park hill; Binocular's only defeat in his last five runs has come there.

Binocular established himself as last season's best juvenile with a rout of the Triumph Hurdle victor Celestial Halo at Aintree and did not need to engage more than third gear against inferior rivals on his seasonal debut at a similarly flat track, Haydock, last month. His hurdling was notably slick, the run will have taken the tickle from his feet and he won over today's course and two-mile distance in January.

Chomba Womba, the highest-rated jumping mare in training, has also scored at Ascot, when she had Crack Away Jack, who does not always jump as well as he might, a length behind over half a mile further last month. She is below her stablemate in the pecking order at home but owns a real turn of foot and may give him most to do today.

Only the major players will pay for Christmas by backing Binocular; for most the Ladbroke, a high-class handicap, will be the betting cracker. Henderson fields the JP McManus-owned, Tony McCoy-ridden market leader here too; Aigle D'Or, touched off at Cheltenham last month when trying to concede more than a stone to Numide. The five-year-old has been nibbled at in the Champion Hurdle market, as has the only one above him in the weights, Ashkazar, who beat all bar Crack Away Jack in the Festival's Fred Winter Hurdle.

Ashkazar, in the David Johnson silks, will be trying to re-establish the Pipe family's grip on the bookmaker's valuable prize, worth £84,495 to the winner today, and will be finely tuned for his task. After successes from Tamarinbleu, Desert Air and Acambo, the sequence was interrupted by Henderson-trained Jack The Giant 12 months ago.

Further down the ratings Take The Breeze (2.45) may be the solution to a difficult puzzle. The French-bred grey had only three rather dull runs last season after joining Paul Nicholls, but there were apparently physiological excuses for his ordinary displays. He reacted badly to being gelded and has also needed surgery to improve his breathing and looked much more the part when he reappeared after a seven-month absence to win at Sandown.

With injured three-time World Hurdle winner Inglis Drever unlikely to defend his crown, the marathon division is wide open. In the day's Grade One feature, the Long Walk Hurdle, Henderson – who has notched three-timers at the last two Saturdays on the course – again has a formidable hand. Duc De Regniere sprang to prominence when he won at Newbury three weeks ago, but not nearly as dramatically as did Punchestowns at Cheltenham when he made a mockery of top weight on his first venture in a handicap.

Given luck and health, Punchestowns is a certain star of the future over fences but is still relatively inexperienced. Duc De Regniere had the race run to suit last time and is opposed again by the three who chased him home and with a strong pace guaranteed by last year's winner, Lough Derg, Blazing Bailey (2.10) is taken to turn the tables.

Whatever happens to Binocular, Aigle D'Or and the rest, Henderson's heart, and the good wishes of the racing public, will be with Trabolgan, who will be competing for the first time since he beat L'Ami in the Hennessy Gold Cup three years ago when he turns out in the BCG Silver Cup. The 10-year-old, for whom the highest hopes were once entertained, has been plagued by injury and the result today will be secondary to his safe return to Seven Barrows.

Deep Purple earns 25-1 quote for Arkle

Deep purple made it a pre-Christmas Ascot Grade Two double yesterday as he made all the running to add the Noel Novices' Chase to his Kennel Gate Novices' Hurdle victory 12 months ago. His latest performance, after a win at Taunton three weeks ago, continued his upward mobility over fences, making his lifeless chasing debut at Wetherby the more puzzling.

"I don't know how I got him beat then," his trainer, Evan Williams, said. "It will just have to remain one of life's mysteries. But this was more like it; he had some nice horses behind who struggled to go his gallop."

Paul Moloney, in the saddle, left Deep Purple to sort himself out approaching the last and the seven-year-old cleverly adjusted his stride by running left-handed down the obstacle and taking it on an angle. He was introduced into the betting for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham at around 25-1 and may next test his credentials in next week's Wayward Lad Chase at Kempton.

The Kennel Gate Hurdle went this time to Medermit, who continued the fine form of the Alan King yard. The four-year-old did well to keep his feet after a clumsy jump three out, but responded gallantly to Choc Thornton's urgings to nose out the 3-1 favourite, Dee Ee Williams, by a short-head.

News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
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

English Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ENGLISH TEACHER REQUIRED - Humbe...

Chemistry Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: We are looking for a Qualified C...

Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are currently...

Year 1 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Year 1 Primary Supply Teachers ne...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits