COUNT CALYPSO can lead his rivals a merry dance by winning the closing Bet Direct Handicap at Southwell this afternoon.

Only eight runners go to post for the £5,600 sprint, but that is not to say it is an easy race to solve since the majority of the field have some sort of claim on previous form.

In such situations it normally pays to stick with horses holding the potential for further improvement, and Count Calypso (4.45) fits neatly into that category, having won in authoritative fashion at Wolverhampton in February.

The selection certainly didn't take any prisoners, brushing aside the challenge of Better Off with relative ease.

Unfortunately he's been clobbered with a 9lb rise in the weights for the victory, but with the brilliant Neil Callan aboard a second successive win beckons for the progressive son of King's Signet.

In the earlier six-furlong Maiden Stakes, only So Sober and The Scaffolder can be seriously fancied on the evidence of public form at least.

Backers of So Sober got their fingers burnt when the three-year-old narrowly failed to justify favouritism on his comeback outing at Lingfield, while The Scaffolder (3.15) had no answer to the on-song Pivotable over track and trip last time out.

It's hard to pick between the two, the nod just going the way of The Scaffolder, who has the benefit of Joanna Badger's invaluable 5lb apprentice's allowance.

Arena Leisure put up a meritorious £15,000 for the principal event on the card at 3.45.

The draw is almost certain to prove a major factor in the outcome, the lower the better in such a competitive heat.

Foreign Editor (2), My Tess (4), and Intricate Web (3), are all well placed to take advantage of the far-side rail.

Intricate Web (3.45) comes out top on all of my criteria for making a selection in a handicap, so has to be the tip.

Lingfield stage a mixed flat and jumping meeting, the National Hunt action getting top-billing by virtue of the £10,000 Network Connections Handicap Chase.

The clay-based ground at the course means when the ground is heavy legs often turn to jelly in this type of three-and-a-half-mile marathon.

One horse well-equipped to deal with the testing conditions is Grizzly Bear (3.30), an archetypal mud-loving steeplechaser.

He rarely runs a bad race, and has been teed up nicely for this prize with a cracking effort at Fakenham where he lost out by a whisker to Tom George's Act In Time.

Rookie handler Jamie Osborne made by his own admission a disastrous entry into the training ranks last season with only a handful of winners from a potentially powerful team.

This winter he has started to put the record straight with the likes of Malarkey (4.00), who was not extended when opening his account at Wolverhampton last month.

The four-year-old gelding has the scope to shape up into a decent middle-distance handicapper this term both on the sand and grass as the year progresses.

l Richard Guest launched into a barbed attack upon officials at Cheltenham after riding Red Striker to a cosy success at Huntingdon.

After dismounting from the winner, the rider, who is assistant to Durham trainer Norman Mason, said: ''He was in the Arkle and the Mildmay of Flete and he would have gone really well.

''We've got everything ready for Cheltenham, we produce fresh horses, spot-on, then suddenly there's sheep on the track.

''It's bad, bad management and it's cost us a lot of money.''

l Kelso yesterday called off the richest day's racing in its history due to the foot and mouth outbreak.

The track's directors have abandoned next Friday's card, which was due to feature the £35,000-added Ashleybank Investments Scottish Borders National.

Their decision was made after taking into account the latest information on the outbreak and considering the location of the course