When he looks down the greensward of the Manton gallops each morning Peter Chapple-Hyam sees one horse moving in a style which suggests he is wearing clogs. This colt is one of the worst-bred animals at the luxurious Wiltshire yard, and just about the cheapest. Revoque, however, also happens to be the champion two-year-old of Europe.
The huge bay colt has been reliable on the practice grounds this spring - struggling to keep up with the growth of the grass, and today will tell whether Revoque has carried forward the juvenile ability that allowed him to take the French treasures of the Prix de la Salamandre and Grand Criterium.
Today's Greenham Stakes at Newbury, it must be said, is hardly an auspicious trampoline for a prospective 2,000 Guineas winner. Wollow, in 1976, was the last horse to bounce on from a Greenham win to Guineas success, though Chapple-Hyam's Rodrigo De Triano triumphed over the Rowley Mile after a fourth in the 1992 Greenham.
Rodrigo De Triano, remember, used to leave a line of fire behind him when he worked on the gallops, while his great stable-companion, Dr Devious, was the forerunner for Revoque's domestic lethargy. "Rodrigo was an exceptional work horse, but Revoque's more like the Dr, who wouldn't tell you much on the gallops," Chapple-Hyam, said yesterday. "He works like him, a nothing horse. As a trainer you never know where you are with him, because he doesn't give you any clues."
A clue as large as fingerprints on a murder weapon should emerge today, however. Revoque faces the Dewhurst Stakes winner, In Command, whom he beat decisively in last August's Acomb Stakes. The latter's trainer, Barry Hills, has said his colt will come on a lot for the race, which will prime him for one of Europe's Guineas. This prompts the thought that In Command is not quite ready and, more importantly, probably not quite good enough to mix with the elite. Revoque (3.00) must toss him into the streets by the seat of his pants.
Manton is represented in the Spring Cup by Lionize, who will struggle to cope with last year's third in the race, Cadeaux Tryst (next best 3.30), while the yard's Chief Contender has it to do against Sacrament (2.30) in the John Porter Stakes.
The opener should go to Richard Rowe's Ashby Hill (2.00), who has been performing with vigour at home, though he has yet to overhaul one boarder at Ashleigh House. I'm Supposin (3.25) is reported to have recovered from his Champion Hurdle exertions, in which he finished fourth for Kevin Prendergast, and is ready to take the Scottish equivalent at Ayr.
The Future Champion Novices' Chase must go to Sparky Gayle (2.55) if the belief that he is to mature into a Gold Cup horse is to have credence, but there is less certainty about the Scottish National (Stakis Casino's sponsorship gives a flavour of the peril punters are facing).
Major Bell, the ante-post favourite, was taken out yesterday when his trainer, Alistair Whillans, found him lame, while the Grand National fourth, Buckboard Bounce, has Capt Adam Ogden (unable to use his 7lb claim) on board as Paul Carberry prefers Act The Wag.
The winner may be a horse who has been patrolling northern England and the Borders for so long that he could once have had a centurion on his back. CAB ON TARGET (nap 4.05) is considered on a good handicap mark even by his saturnine trainer, Mary Reveley.