Richards only has eyes for the One

Richard Edmondson says there are no excuses today for the King George hero
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The Independent Online
They say there are four Gold Cup horses in Gordon Richards's yard, but the trainer has eyes for only one. It is something of a sadness for Richards that what he sees on the gallops each morning has yet to be replicated at National Hunt racing's defining crucible, the Cheltenham Festival.

One Man has ended up a pottering fool, rather like a dehydrated distance runner, on his previous two visits to Prestbury Park and it has been a terrible sight for Richards. At 66, he continues to ride the grey in his home work, and is constantly staggered by the beast going through the automatic gears beneath him. Others champion the causes of Unguided Missile, The Grey Monk and Addington Boy at Greystoke Castle, but the trainer believes they are just kneeling courtiers at the throne.

"It's a bit of a job placing all my horses," he said, "but the main thing seems to be finding out whether the grey horse likes Cheltenham. He's in a different league to my others at home I can tell you. He's sheer class and they wouldn't get near him. But I suppose that if the ground came up very heavy for the Gold Cup The Grey Monk could come there and very nearly run him out of it."

One Man has travelled out of the snows of Cumbria to determine if he runs in the Gold Cup at all when he makes a reconnaissance mission in the Pillar Chase at the foot of Prestbury Hill this afternoon. The previous memories may be gruesome but at least Richards has developed an argument to excuse past failures. "The two times he has been to Cheltenham I know there have been problems to explain it," he said. "[Neale] Doughty will tell you that first time he made a bad mistake down the far side [in the 1994 Sun Alliance Chase], and last time [in last season's Gold Cup] it was like blowing a candle out. The petrol ran out very quickly and if a horse doesn't get the trip you expect him to press on a little more than that."

There can be no further excuses. One Man (3.20) would be giving his three opponents barrowloads of weight in a handicap and he must not only win, but win with a flourish.

Cheltenham's first televised race contains three horses which locked horns in the Murphy's Gold Cup here in November (the only other horse in the handicap proper, Bradbury Star, can be discounted as he is beginning to run as if his mind is on a SAGA holiday).

Greystoke's representative, Addington Boy, was third to Challenger Du Luc that day, but the interesting runner is DUBLIN FLYER (nap 2.10), who went down as if he had hit a patch of black ice after four out while still coasting in the lead. The 11-year-old now reopposes on advantageous terms and comes from a yard that could send Long John Silver out to victory at the moment.

The Champion Hurdle indicator is provided by the Cleeve Hurdle, in which Large Action (2.45) is difficult to ignore, particularly as he gets the opportunity to stretch his limbs over an extended 2m5f.

At Doncaster, the feature event, the Great Yorkshire Chase, has been diluted by the absence of Avro Anson, who is being saved for the Agfa Chase at Sandown next weekend. Easby Joker, who is also entered at Cheltenham, does take part however. Run Up The Flag (next best 3.00), another from an in-form stable, that of Josh Gifford, is the safest option.

Mighty Moss will be fancied in the previous race, despite losing his seasonal unbeaten record to Agistment at Uttoxeter last time. The consensus that day seemed to be that Mr Fred Hutsby (7lb claimed) was outridden by Mr Richard Dunwoody (three championships claimed). David Nicholson, Mighty Moss's trainer, judging by his reaction when his rider returned, certainly agreed. Freddie's back this afternoon and if he has another nightmare the one to benefit will be the horse that was fifth in the 1994 St Leger, Ionio (2.25).

At Ayr, there is a reminder that racing is not the only way to flush out your bank account in the Stakis Casinos Handicap Chase. If the fates are among the crowd in the west of Scotland then Ali's Alibi (1.00), who has not been out of the first four in five runs this season, must win.

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