Sport Horse Racing

Friday 23 March 2018

Henderson's hot streak to continue with mad max

Julian Muscat

It is stretching the point to declare that today's jumps card at Kempton, the first in England for 13 days, represents a feast after the famine. It's more like basic sustenance, yet welcome for the fact.

Recent dialogue with fellow punters has revealed an interesting fact. Most of us are far better off for the two-week cessation for the absence of opportunity. Exceptions to this rule, and who have profited accordingly, are those who have followed big-name trainers in the jumps season to date.

Saturdays have come to mean one thing: a hatful of winners for the stables of Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson. Unoriginal though it is, that looks the best way forward at Kempton this afternoon.

Of the two behemoths, Henderson may just have the edge. The Lambourn handler posted a treble in Southwell bumpers on Wednesday to demonstrate his string's fitness, and his Mad Max should make a winning start over birch in the Novices' Chase (12.55).


Mad Max has landed four of his five starts to date, his sole defeat coming in an ultra-competitive Cheltenham novices' hurdle. He has delighted connections in recent schooling sessions.

Prospects for a Henderson double rest primarily with Tasheba in the Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle (2.45). This improving sort did well to win a similar race at the minimum trip last time out and should improve for the extra distance here. A saver is also recommended on Mighty Moon, which Richard Fahey would not be sending down from North Yorkshire just to stretch his legs.

Nicholls can strike back with The Minack, which appeals strongly in the Novices' Hurdle (1.30). This one was ridden from off the pace last time, when a bad blunder at the third-last ruined his chance. The Minack came home some way behind Kennel Hill but he can reverse those placings over this shorter trip.

Le Burf earns the vote in the Live Sports Handicap Chase (3.15), but the day's best bet is Reblis in the three-mile Handicap Chase (2.05). The consistent five-year-old ran his best-ever race when collared late at Newbury last time out and should take plenty of beating.

just no need to upset the odds

As with their Brian and Ben analogy of last summer, the Racing For Change people generated a load of hot air with their recent proposal to decimalise odds in England. The removal of traditional fractions, we are told, will rid the sense of alienation young people feel when trying to place a bet.

Really? The young don't appear to feel alienated in any way when they bet on other sports at the fractions still quoted by betting shops the length and breadth of England. Indeed, it is this very rise in non-racing betting that seriously impacts on the sport's finances.

Now it may be that football punters genuinely don't know the difference between 7/4 and 15/8. In which case their willingness to bet illustrates that they care even less.

Racing's universal appeal is that it is different. It's a sport that takes plenty of understanding, and one that forsakes football's vicious tribal rivalries. Reformists who want to change the sport must not lose sight of this. Otherwise they will dilute the very essence that excites existing devotees.

As for Brian and Ben, I was never sure whether Brian was the racegoing fogey and Ben the edgy youngster, or whether it was the other way round. Were you?

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport