The most celebrated eminence grise of them all, Desert Orchid, who is now 17 years old, will be in a parade preceding this afternoon's Whitbread Gold Cup card at Sandown, a race he won in 1988. While Dessie is writing his autographs, another of his hue and possessing a similar vaulting flamboyance will be in preparation for the race itself.
Morceli, the gelding who could have a good shot at clearing a pole vault bar, has been confirmed as a runner in the 40th Whitbread despite worries the ground will be too fast for him. The eight-year-old's trainer, Howard Johnson, will not be in attendance, however, as his record when tuning up for big races is almost as disastrous as Emily Davison's. Instead, his wife, Susan, will be there. "I never particularly fancy them and all I want is for him to come back safe," she said yesterday. "But Howard feels that Morceli will never get the chance off a weight like this again.''
Morceli proved at Ascot earlier this month that he can win going right- handed, but he now has two more problems to solve. The good to firm surface forecast for the steeplechase track today is against him and he is going to have to run a mile further than he has managed before. Even his slam dunk jumping may not be enough this time.
The weights are headed by Jodami, who suggested he wasn't quite ready for the zimmer frame when second to Feathered Gale in the Irish National recently.
The winner, like another strongly fancied horse in General Rusty, carries more than his true handicap weight, but still manages to find himself better off with Jodami. With Arthur Moore's string performing as though they are being given a head start, Feathered Gale must go close.
If this is a day when the spirits are going to reward courage and consistency, however, it may be that YOUNG HUSTLER (nap 3.30) will add to his big-race collection. The little horse ran a spanking race in the Grand National until a cruel weight took its toll.
The race could be a trainer's championship decider with Barton Bank running for David Nicholson and James Pigg for Martin Pipe.
Victory for either would leave the other in the position journeymen fighters find themselves on a Saturday night in terms of this year's title.
The preceding contest should go to another grey, Senor El Betrutti (next best 2.50), who will enjoy the ground. Callisoe Bay will be well backed because he looks the part but, unfortunately, he doesn't act it. He's rather like the schoolboy bully who bursts into tears when a girl hits him with her pencil case.
After the National Hunt season has effectively closed the potential Derby horses will emerge immediately for the Classic Trial. Several animals here will go from Classic possibles to underachievers in the space of two minutes. Mons (4.05) disappointed on his final start last season when favourite behind Beauchamp King in the Racing Post Trophy, but he was beaten less than two lengths by the winner, who has proved he is no tram this year. He can account for Silver Dome, who will be attempting to step out from Henry Cecil's chorus line of potential Epsom horses.