Whitbread Gold Cup can compensate a Cheltenham failure

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The Independent Online
FOR those who like their racing kept neat and tidy it has been a particularly frustrating spring with a messy Grand National and the pecking order of the Classic generation left undistinguishable by grey mediocrity. The list-makers and loggers might be able to shake off a little frustration today when two of the races at Sandown could help establish who would have won the National and who will win the Derby. The requirements of curiosity and profitabilty may be answered in a single afternoon.

The defeats of Zeta's Lad in the Irish National and of Esha Ness and Party Politics in the Scottish equivalent have robbed their supporters of the evidence required to bore on the subject of how their horse would have trotted up at Aintree even if all 39 runners had taken part. Today, in the Whitbread Gold Cup, Cahervillahow and Givus A Buck represent the seven that did two laps of Aintree (finishing second and fifth respectively), while Captain Dibble, Garrison Savannah, David's Duky and Rowlandsons Jewels were part of the contingent that stopped after a circuit.

For David's Duky that was not a very difficult manoeuvre as he was already tailed-off, while Rowlandsons Jewels was slipping quickly down the field. Garrison Savannah and Captain Dibble were still going well and it is hardly fanciful to assume that they would have finished ahead of Garrison Savannah's lesser fancied stable-companion Esha Ness had they continued.

But the National was the race they were primed for and the Whitbread, over a mile shorter trip, represents an altogether different test. It also brings in some awkward adversaries: Topsham Bay, last year's winner; Docklands Express, who took the race on the disqualification of Cahervillahow in 1991; Sibton Abbey, the Hennessy winner; and The Fellow, twice the winner of the King George VI Chase, but also the beaten Gold Cup favourite.

Forget that failure at Cheltenham, where he has never shown his best form, and THE FELLOW (nap 4.05) has an obvious claim, even with top weight. Think instead of how he finished only six lengths behind Jodami in the Hennessy when giving away almost two stone.

The concession of weight may also play a crucial role in the Classic Trial, in which Tenby will be a short-priced favourite (if the ground turns soft stable-companion Placerville takes over). Tenby is expected to reinforce his position at the head of the Derby betting, but the concession of 7lb to the race-fit Majority (2.55) may be beyond him.

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