BACKING Mad (2.30) might not be such a crazy idea in Lingfield's Littlewoods Bet Direct Handicap this afternoon.

Having won at the course over one mile, trainer Andrew Reid then experimented by trying his filly at a mile-and-a-quarter. Mad failed to add to her tally over that longer trip, so he dropped her back to seven furlongs, a ploy that nearly paid off when narrowly beaten into second spot last Wednesday.

Reid's filly probably saw a bit too much daylight that day, having to make her own pace after nothing else in the field went on.

I expect jockey John Egan will now be a tad more restrained, tucking his mount in behind the leaders, prior to challenging as the leaders bunch at the furlong pole.

David Loder's powerful Newmarket stable have been farming the all-weather circuit all winter with the likes of Conjecture (3.40), who has one course success to his name over five furlongs.

Admittedly the victory was achieved by the width of a cigarette paper, a nail-biting win which has prompted Loder to step his three-year-old up a furlong, and fit a first-time visor.

Loder perhaps believes Conjecture was dossing once he hit the front, hence the application of the headgear.

For my money, though, the extra furlong is the thing that will make the main difference to the colt, a son of the mighty Danzig, who wants for nothing as far as superior pedigree is concerned.

Nicky Henderson, currently boasting a near 30 per cent strike-rate, looks the trainer to follow at Doncaster, where he has leading chances with both Etendard Indien (1.50) and Copsale Lad (3.30).

Although Etendard Indien was incredibly impressive when scoring as he liked on his UK debut at Kempton 11 days ago, the triumph came as no surprise to form students since the classy four-year-old had previously won at Group 3 level in his native France.

The case for Copsale Lad is not quite so concrete. The gelding not only hit the deck over course and distance on his penultimate start, but also appeared a shade one-paced when easily brushed aside by Liverpool Echo last time out.

The chief threat to Copsale Lad may well emerge from Tom Fruit, a winner over hurdles at Wetherby and just the sort to make his mark now that his shrewd handler, Tim Easterby, has switched him to fences.

* Our bookie-bashing tipster, Janus (Colin Woods), was on the mark yet again at Lingfield yesterday where Chantaco obliged at 8-1.

* Both Doncaster and Ludlow face 7.30am inspections today, while Kempton's two-day meeting, which features the £100,000 Racing Post Chase on Saturday, could be threatened by snow.

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