Balding questions Oscar's stamina

 

A GLIMMER of hope for the rivals of Melbourne Cup favourite Oscar Schindler was provided yesterday by English trainer Ian Balding who raised doubts about the Irish horse's stamina.

Balding, who will saddle 20 to 1 chance Grey Shot in next Tuesday's $1.74 million race, said Oscar Schindler was undoubtedly the class runner of the race. But the combination of rain and, more so, the two miles distance of Australia's greatest horserace, would work against the favourite.

"Oscar Schindler is a very, very high class horse and is extremely well handicapped," Balding said. "But he's had a tough time lately and he might not get the trip."

No such doubts, though, exist, over Grey Shot's ability to see out the trip and if the usual Melbourne Cup day rain arrives, his chances would be further enhanced.

"It would be a big advantage to Grey Shot if it were to come up soft on Tuesday," Balding said. "He can go on any ground but he's that much better on the soft."

While all the Cup hype has cent red around Oscar Schindler, his trainer Kevin Prendergast played down his horse's apparent domination of the race.

"We're all entitled to our opinions," Prendergast said when reminded of local trainer Gai Waterhouse's claim that he was 50 lengths superior to the locals. Fifty lengths, I don't know about that," Prendergast said. "How about a neck?"

Prendergast confirmed that Oscar Schindler had recovered all of the 20 kilograms (441b) he lost on the flight from Ireland and had put a little more on.

Responding to the doubts expressed about Oscar Schindler's staying ability, Prendergast said he wasn't too concerned.

"You always have reservations when you're going a couple of extra furlongs. but if he's not ready now, he never will be."

Oscar Schindler remains a 7 to 2 favourite for the Cup, with Court Of Honour at 15 to 1 and Grey Shot 20 to 1.

Overseas entries Grey Shot, Oscar Schindler and Court Of Honour all worked yesterday morning, pleasing their trainers with their light gallops.

Balding, who arrived here in the early hours of Wednesday, said another plus for Grey Shot was that he had been prepared specifically for the Melbourne Cup and had been here a week longer than his rivals.

Peter Chapple-Hyam, trainer of Court of Honour, was also satisfied with his horse's progress, but the most praise for the Law Society gelding came from his Cup rider Simon Marshall.

"He felt terrific, very relaxed, he shows plenty of spirit and when he worked home in the straight he gave me a great feel," Marshall said after riding him yesterday.

. Tony McCoy hit the 75 winner mark for the season with a quick-fire hat-trick aboard Kailash, Celibate and Courbaril at Cheltenham yesterday. Kailash," stretched his unbeaten sequence to six with an effortless call for the Cheltenham Sponsorship Club Novices' Hurdle.

Richard Dunwoody was forced to take the afternoon off after being laid low by a stomach bug and missed a winner as he was substituted by McCoy aboard Celibate, who won the Lloyds Bowmaker Novices' Chase by two and a half lengths from Jathib.

Courbaril made it four wins from five outings since joining Pipe with a hard-earned all-the-way length and a quarter verdict over Freddie Muck in the Tim Emmanuel Handicap Hurdle.

. The Jockey Club yesterday announced its disciplinary committee is to hold an inquiry into the "jockeys' strike" at Haydock earlier this month.

But a spokesman admitted he had "no idea" of when the hearing will take place.

Jockey Club director of public affairs David Pipe said: "The disciplinary committee will hold an inquiry into possible breaches of the rules which led to the abandonment of the meeting at Haydock on October 16th.

Jockey Club investigations have been going on for fortnight into events that led to it.