Sport Bobbing along: Bobs Worth and Barry Geraghty take the Lexus with ease

Gold Cup champion trounces Irish challengers to become clear favourite to retain Festival crown

Sam Waley-Cohen rides Long Run to victory in the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury

Fluent Long Run silences (some) critics

On a day when tailbacks in and out of Newbury amply testified to the appeal of a free day at the races, plenty seemed eager enough to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Sam Waley-Cohen, the Gold Cup winning amateur, seeks his first win of the season on Long Run today

Long Run team face a test of nerve

Last year, an equivalent postponement after two horses had been electrocuted in the parade ring could only alter the tone, six days later, from macabre to melancholy. This time round, the card scheduled for Newbury last Saturday was lost merely to snow and frost, and the silver linings are dazzling. For one thing, entry today is free. And the goodwill that has secured this boon extends to the sponsors' injection of extra funding, despite the loss of a weekend profile, to guarantee the Betfair Hurdle's status as the richest handicap of its type in the calendar. Before that prize is won and lost Channel 4 viewers will already have seen one of the most exciting novice chasers of recent seasons, in Sprinter Sacre, and Long Run's rehearsal for the defence of his Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Nicky Henderson's novice Captain Conan has been routed to Ireland

Ireland takes limelight as Newbury loses its Josh day

Inside Track

Josh Gifford (left), Bob Champion and Aldaniti (right), the trio whose 1981 Grand National triumph was depicted in the film Champions

Gifford, jump racing doyen, dies

The best measure of Josh Gifford is that his death yesterday robbed the jump racing community of so cherished a friend that his status as one of its greatest achievers seemed almost incidental. Though a multiple champion jockey, and trainer of one of the most loved Grand National winners, Gifford will be mourned primarily as one whose relish for life and laughter warranted a far broader indulgence than 70 years.

Kauto Star (left) was unusually not the centre of attention as all eyes were on Zarkandar during a visit to Paul Nicholls’ stables yesterday

Nicholls ready to get Zarkandar up and running

Wearing a decidedly affronted air, as he surveyed all the bustle and activity outside his stable, Kauto Star for once found himself a neglected spectator yesterday as his neighbour and former rival was instead restored as centre of attention. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, after all, and while Denman continues his recuperation from the injury that ended his career in December, he is not yet in a condition to be paraded before the race that bears his name on Saturday. Not that even Denman could be counted the most remarkable veteran posing for the cameras during a morning to promote the big Newbury card – joined, as he was, by two of the humbling servicemen who will shortly be "Walking With The Wounded" up Everest itself.

Cristal’s talent at last becomes clear

Whether or not it was the change of training ground that did it, Cristal Bonus finally justified his fancy transfer fee at Chepstow yesterday. The six-year-old showed such promise as a youngster in France that his then owners would not let him go for a bid of nearly £300,000 when they sent him to auction.

Paul Nicholls has Kauto Star in line for the Gold Cup

Rainbow may reach for stars with gold (and Kauto) at end

With 64 days to go, the countdown to the Gold Cup can officially start. The entries were made yesterday, 34 of them, and all the names that should be there are there, with no ghastly errors of omission. Kauto Star, already the first horse to regain the Cheltenham crown, can go for a unique three in five years; his great rival Long Run can try to redeem his reputation as the future of this particular branch of the sport.

Epsom's new grandstand was damaged during yesterday's high winds and had to be evacuated

Nicholls throws novice Al Ferof in at deep end

In his 20 years at Ditcheat, Paul Nicholls reckons he has never known a tempest to compare with the one that prompted him to abandon third lot yesterday. At the home of the Derby, meanwhile, staff had been evacuated after roofing and insulation was ripped off Epsom's new grandstand. And racing at Ayr was abandoned, despite somehow surviving an initial inspection – by mid-morning it turned out that broken and hanging branches on a nearby tree would prevent the RaceTech lorry taking its position, and thereby the provision of television, commentary and PA services.

Tom Queally riding Frankel goes on to win the Queen Elizabeth II

Chris McGrath: Then or now, it's never been so good

Inside Track

Market Report: 'Santa rally' gives Footsie a boost on retail optimism

"It's a Santa Rally," cried City traders. The FTSE 100 shot up more than 1 per cent, rising 59.37 points to 5566.77, on its last full day of trading before the year-end. The few equity traders at their desks this week have been doggedly seeking positive news but for much of yesterday the market remained depressingly lacklustre. Volumes were less than 3 per cent of the 90-day daily average, which gives an indication of just how quiet it was.

Will Kennedy will not be on board Time For Rupert at Newbury

Time for a fresh pair of hands to revive Rupert

While it seems by no means obvious that a change of jockey might provide the necessary impetus, it is certainly time for some kind of fresh start for a horse who arrived at the Cheltenham Festival last March as one of the hottest favourites of the week. Time For Rupert goes to Newbury today with his career at an unmistakable crossroads.

Denman beats his great rival Kauto Star

Gold Cup winner Denman is retired

Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Denman has been retired after suffering a setback in his preparation for the Lexus Chase.

Betfair hires Corbett to mend fences with City

Betfair, the beleaguered betting company, yesterday made a further move to rehabilitate its battered image in the City with the appointment of Gerald Corbett, the serial non-executive director and City veteran, as deputy chairman.

Ruby Walsh stirs the emotions by steering Kauto Star (left) to a fourth victory in the Betfair Chase

Kauto Star sparkles again to rediscover lost glory

Racing has endured some dodgy headlines of late, courtesy of contentious new rules about whipping, and may have to brace itself for more this week, courtesy of the latest round of investigation into alleged corruption. But the one element of the sport that can rise above any human grubbiness is the most important of all, the horse at the heart of it all.

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