Merry Gale doubt


RISING temperatures yesterday lifted hopes that racing's top three-mile chasers will finally do battle in the King George VI Tripleprint Chase on Saturday, 11 days later than scheduled.

A dozen horses yesterday accepted for the big race, twice postponed when frost intervened at Kempton over Christmas and now re-routed to Sandown. And, though the track is still "unraceable", course officials are quietly confident that the stage will be set on the day.

The big-race cast is a familiar one with only Egypt Mill Prince missing from the original St Stephen's line-up which includes the Gold Cup winner Master Oats and Young Hustler. Book of Music and Brief Gale, declared non-runners at Kempton, are also back in the reckoning.

The only doubt surrounds Merry Gale, whose trainer Jim Dreaper is reluctant to incur the travelling costs to England and risk another fruitless Journey. Dreaper discussed his options with owner Herb Stanley yesterday but has not reached any decision.

"There will be no decision for a day or two. The owner is keen to run and he has been left in the entries. But we have to consider the ground and other possible engagements," he said.

The final decision could influence Kim Bailey's choice of jockey for Master Oats with Merry Gale's rider Graham Bradley among the possible replacements for Jamie Osborne, who is claimed for Coulton.

The hot favourite One Man is expected to work later in the week after the freezing weather had restricted his exercise

Tony Dobbin, overlooked for the ride on One Man, is to take over from Richard Dunwoody on emerging star Unguided Missile in the Newton Handicap Chase at Haydock on Saturday.